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Leon County Extension Launches “Adopt-a-Garden” Volunteer Program

Volunteers after lots of hard work mulching and adding compost to eight raised beds at The Shelter garden.

Volunteers after lots of hard work mulching and adding compost to eight raised beds at The Shelter garden.

Have you ever been interested in volunteering at a school or community garden? Are you involved with a garden that could use some help? Well, UF/IFAS Leon County Extension recently started an Adopt-a-Garden program for volunteers to “adopt” a school or community garden for volunteer credit. Volunteers can teach hands-on gardening techniques, conduct educational talks and present displays at garden workdays, assist with garden planning and networking, encourage gardeners to work together, and help with any other activity that adds to the vitality of the garden. The program focuses on garden education and outreach as the primary objectives.

Volunteers hard at work planting fall vegetables in The Shelter garden.

The first major project of the Adopt-a-Garden program has been very exciting, with UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Master Gardeners “adopting” the new homeless shelter at the Kearney Center in Leon County. Master Gardeners lead the way in the organization and construction of eight raised bed vegetable gardens located on site directly behind The Shelter facility. They were awarded a community garden mini-grant from Leon County, which helped to cover garden supplies.

The Leon County Master Gardeners have received assistance from UF/IFAS Extension Agents, Florida State’s College of Social Work, and many other members of the community in gathering supplies and donations, recruiting volunteers, communicating with The Shelter staff, building and filling the raised beds, planting the garden, and maintaining the garden.

The gardening materials for The Shelter garden were generously supplied at no coast or at discounted costs by Lowe’s Home Improvement, Britt’s Dump Truck Services, Tallahassee Nurseries, Native Nurseries, Asplundh, and the FSU College of Social Work.

Shelter resident watering freshly planted lettuce.

Shelter resident watering freshly planted lettuce.

Leon County Extension and Leon County’s Office of Resource Stewardship will conduct shelter resident and staff garden trainings to ensure the garden is maintained and successful going forward. Extension’s Family Nutrition Program is currently offering nutrition education classes to shelter residents as well.

This project will allow shelter residents to get hands-on experience working in a vegetable garden, learn about different vegetable varieties, and taste their harvest, as vegetables that are grown in the garden go directly to The Shelter kitchen for meal preparation. The garden was officially dedicated as the Wendy Crook Memorial Garden by Leon County Government, with the dedication event reported by local television station ABC 27 WTXL. The article and video clip can be viewed here.

Along with the Wendy Crook Memorial Garden, other school and community gardens have been “adopted” by volunteers. If you are in the Leon County area and are interested in becoming a volunteer with the Adopt-a-Garden program, you can find out more information at the Leon County Adopt-a-Garden website or contact Extension Agent Molly Jameson, at Volunteers are encouraged to team up on garden projects and all levels of gardening experience are welcome.

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