Expanding Experiences for Education through the Victory2020 Garden Community Course
E.Cannon, Marion County. C. Mulvaney, Marion County. E. Harlow, Columbia County. M. Hunter, Marion County. T. Silvasy, Orange County., L. Duncan, Sumter County. H. Janney, Columbia County, H. Corbitt, Columbia County. A. Marek, Marion County. M. Bailey, Marion County. W. Wilber, State Specialist. G. Sachs, District Specialist.
Situation: Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Extension professionals adapted program delivery to address current issues. To address food insecurity concerns and improve holistic wellbeing, the Victory2020 Garden Community was developed. This program reached customers through innovative educational experiences. Methods: Through utilizing the University of Florida’s online learning management system, Canvas, a free self-guided eight-module course was developed for participants to learn about gardening. Modules contained educational components in the form of a video series and supplemental materials connected to current events for home application through activities. Finally, the participant would engage in quizzes to test their knowledge and skills gained. Results: 2,400 participants joined the Victory2020 Garden Community, representing over 40 US states, two US territories, and five countries. Survey respondents (n=285) reported the following: Their first ‘serious experience’ with gardening and growing food at home (70%), increased gardening knowledge (88%), consumed more fresh produce (73%), increased use of food safety techniques (82%), mental health improved (76%), physical activity improved (80%), saved money on fruits and vegetables (57%), reduced stress level (79%), an interest in future gardening (98%), and 3,000 pounds of food was grown from over 40 vegetable and fruit crops. Conclusion: The program created an environment for agents to serve customers digitally during the pandemic. The program created a collaborative global network of intergenerational, novice, and experienced gardeners that reached over 225,000 impressions to individuals and families. This program provided innovative educational experiences that covered gardening, food processing, historical importance, and career paths. The course continues to be available for the public and serves as a way for people to receive science-based information at their own pace, allowing for further research that could help to understand extensions’ long-lasting benefits of locally relevant programming during a crisis.