Master gardeners give back by nourishing community

Master gardeners give back by nourishing their community.
Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 6:07 AM EDT
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Cornell Cooperative Extension’s master gardener program is nationwide, in every county. It teaches gardeners, provides for the community -- and more.

WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - “This is a Cornell Cooperatie Extension garden for growing produce that we donate to the Urban Mission’s food bank,” master gardener Laura Oakes said. “We have a whole litany of different vegetables, everything from tomatoes, kohlrabi. We have herbs, different fruits. I’m working on strawberries right now.”

For the past six years, volunteers have been seeding, weeding, planting, and plucking hundreds of pounds of produce for the Watertown community.

“Each year we improve, and my goal is we want to raise 2,000 pounds this year, which is a lot,” Mission Garden founder Dennis Crowley said, “but so far, we’re doing really well.”

That’s because these aren’t just any gardeners. They’re master gardeners.

“The master gardener is a fairly intensive course that’s been developed by the Cornell Cooperative Extension,” Carmelita Britton said. “As a master gardener you are expected to give back. Yes, we want you to use that information for your own private garden, but the expectation is that you give back to your community.”

The program also invites Fort Drum soldiers to volunteer so they can pursue careers in agriculture after the Army.

“I’ve always been interested in agriculture, and I happened to stumble upon a flyer from the farm ops,” said Spc. Alicia Ortiz. “There’s a lot of different opportunities out here so it’s an amazing program.”

“The mission is to bring knowledge to the community so the community can have more resources to feed and to nourish in their own ways,” Britton said.

Nourishing the mind, nourishing the environment, and nourishing those who may not otherwise have access to fresh produce.

“I just get satisfaction out of helping people and seeing people eat healthy,” Crowley said.

Cornell Cooperative offers the master gardener program every few years, if you’re interested in joining. If you’re interested in enjoying some of those delicious fruits and veggies, contact the Watertown Urban Mission, where fresh food arrives daily.

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