This month's Spotlight Master Gardener, Valerie Kimmel-Oliva had a personal goal to complete three UCCE programs in one year which she did (fall to spring 2017-2018). She is a UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Master Gardener, a Master Food Preserver and a UC California Naturalist! Completing all three programs helped her achieve a better understanding of global environmental issues, desert ecosystems, sustainable gardening, plant care, and growing food.
Valerie has attended and participated in the "Agriculture in the Classroom" online conferences several times (a few with our very own UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Coordinator, Maggie O'Neil!) The conference mission is to raise awareness and understanding of agriculture among California's educators and students. The concepts presented at the conference are helpful to Valerie in the classroom. She also shares resources from the conferences with her fellow teachers and interns to teach their own students.
Valerie has been a Master Gardener since 2017, but her interest in sustainable gardening extends back many years before. Her interest in sustainability started with learning about recycling programs. Her efforts in teaching kids about the environment just snowballed from there. With a strong belief that kids are our docents for the future, Valerie teaches them how to garden appropriately. Because of what they have learned in Valerie's classes, some started their own home gardens.
Valerie has been involved with school-site and community gardens for about fifteen years. While teaching special needs students from the inner city of Richmond, California, she took on the task of re-establishing the school's neglected garden. She later joined the board for a city community garden as the teacher representative. While in the Bay Area, she also trained in the Watershed Program.
Valerie returned to the high desert in 2011. As a Special Education teacher in the Apple Valley Unified School District, she facilitated the school garden restoration at Desert Knolls Elementary School. Valerie and her students' hard work paid off in growing a wonderful garden of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. She believes that kids learn about science and math through their gardening experiences. Measuring a garden bed, figuring out how many plants to grow, amount of soil and water needed is required within the scope of hands-on science and math-based learning.
There are a lot of socio-economically disadvantaged children living in the desert communities where Valerie teaches. She teaches students who may not have adequate nutrition and all the other comorbid things that go with that. When a child grows something, he or she gets an incredible feeling of, I got something from basically nothing. Valerie believes that is a real moment of surprise for children (and for adults too.)
Valerie has worked hard to facilitate recycling practices at the schools she has taught. In 2016, Desert Knolls Elementary School was also selected as the School of the Year for Recycling at the annual Recycling and Recovery State Convention and won the Town of Apple Valley “Green Award” that same year. "It was quite an honor, as we have been establishing our program through sustainable practices. I learned many of the practices after attending MEEC-Mojave Environmental Consortium-sponsored workshops. Composting, energy, and gardens in every classroom, to name a few," Valerie said about receiving the award on behalf of the school and her students' hard work.
Valerie taught the district STEP program, grades 1-6, and was an advisor for the GATE after-school programs. She volunteered her time to take students on field trips to support service-learning and STEM activities. MEEC has provided transportation services funding for her to take students on field trips to organic farms and recycling recovery enters. She has taken students to the YELC-Youth Environmental Leadership Conference, the Showcase event, and the Annual Solar Oven Competition. She has had winning teams for several years in solar oven competitions.
In 2016, she was honored to be selected by the MEEC board as the MEEC-Mojave Environmental Education Consortium Teacher of the Year in recognition of her dedication and hard work in fostering environmental awareness in the classroom. Valerie said, “It was a turning point in my professional career and personal development!”
Valerie's dedication leads her to continue her students' environmental learning by virtual outreach. In her Google Classroom, she has a Garden Corner where she shares information with her students and their families about gardening activities that they can do at home. She shares California Teachers Agriculture in the Classroom Program fruits and vegetable cards with her students. She is working on indoor garden activities that she can take back to her classroom to share with her students and their families when COVID restrictions are lifted. She has an herb garden kit with lights and plans to get a hydroponics kit with Betta fish. She had started a similar project at Yucca Loma Elementary School with her K-2 class before in-class instruction temporarily ceased.
Being a Master Gardener has helped Valerie expand her gardening knowledge and interests. She loves everything about gardening from pest control to the importance of trees. One of her favorite gardening activities is experimenting with methods to grow new things in the desert. She likes to grow flowers from bulbs. For the past six years has been experimenting with different types of bulbs to see which ones grow best in the desert. The most unusual thing she has grown is Loofahs. She grew so many that she and her daughter packaged them in spa gift baskets to give to friends.
Valerie said, “The Master Gardener program is a great community to learn, network, volunteer, and share meaningful experiences with people who have common interests. The learning is ongoing, and everyone comes with different levels of expertise or strengths. It is a great way to help share what you learn and do with others in your community.”
UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners are proud of Valerie Kimmel-Oliva's commitment to promoting environmental awareness and positive change within schools and communities. We celebrate her many successes and are honored to have her as a member of our community!
UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener, Meredith Hergenrader says that one of the best parts of volunteering at Master Gardener events is the camaraderie of gardeners sharing gardening tips and tricks with each other. She has been an active UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener volunteer and sharing her gardening knowledge in many Master Gardener events since her graduation in 2016 and resides in the high desert.
Before the cancellation of regularly scheduled monthly events at the Hesperia Library due to COVID restrictions, the San Bernardino County Master Gardeners and UC San Bernardino County Master Food Preservers gave presentations on various gardening topics at the library. Meredith gave presentations on integrated pest management (IPM). With a strong belief in IPM, she does not use chemicals on any of her property. She uses natural and cost-effective ways to get rid of pests. Meredith has also volunteered at local farmers' markets in Wrightwood and Phelan, answering attendees' gardening questions.
One of the most significant things that Meredith learned through being a member of the Master Gardener program is the importance of being water-wise. She says that with water resources becoming increasingly limited, we need to make the best use of the water available with an eye towards future sustainability. The Master Gardener program teaches us ways to do that. One of the methods is by planning our gardens around the needs of plants. Meredith says, “We should use plants that naturally grow in the space they are planted, and by using native plants.”
She advises everyone, especially if you consider using graywater in your garden, to be aware of ingredients in detergents and soaps you use. She makes her own cleaning agents like dish soap and clothing detergent. She does not use fabric softeners or products that are scented and don't easily biodegrade. With better technology, fabrics, and laundry products, fabric softeners are no longer necessary. Instead, Meredith occasionally adds vinegar to the rinse cycle as a softener.
Meredith believes that if you see something that needs to be fixed, “be the solution” and do something about it. She and a group of Master Gardeners and other volunteers were motivated to do something after seeing the vegetation at the Phelan Post Office being removed because of the rising cost of upkeep. She approached the postmaster with the idea of using natives and other plants that would not need much water. She received his approval to proceed with the project and quickly started to work.
It was a large space, so Meredith tackled the job in three sections. Meredith and other volunteers provided native and other drought-tolerant plants for the first area. In the second area, she planted succulents and cactus that she dug up from her own property.
Meredith would like to thank Wendy Walsh Walker for her wonderful donations of a California Flannelbush and Penstemon spectabilis. The California Flannelbush is a fast-growing evergreen shrub that can grow 20 feet high by 20 feet wide and is one of the most spectacular of the native California shrubs. Meredith said: “The team has been fortunate to have Wendy as an advisor for the project. She has studied California native plants and natural history all her adult life. She worked for the Riverside Corona Resource Conservation District, doing habitat restoration for four years before moving to Transition Habitat Conservancy.”
The maintenance worker at the post office was concerned about having to water the plants. Meredith explained that only native and other water-wise plants were used, and once they were established, they would require minimal water. She watered the plants for the first year but has not watered them for the past year, and they are still alive and well.
Last summer, the post office grounds had become overgrown with weeds. The maintenance staff did not have time to maintain the grounds. Because of COVID, they were being utilized to clean inside the post office full-time. Funds at the post office were too low to hire more staff.
Around the time the post office was becoming overgrown with weeds, Meredith received a call “out
of the blue” from UCCE Master Gardener trainee Debi Dossey. Debi asked if Meredith had been responsible for replanting at the post office two years ago and if she was interested in being part of a team of volunteers to clean up the post office grounds. Meredith saw the need and immediately said yes.
A team of volunteers worked early on Saturdays, late on Sundays, and in their free time for several months. Most of the work was done with hand tools. However, they used Weed Eaters to finish work around the pine trees. Meredith wants to acknowledge Debi Dossey for spearheading the clean-up effort at the post office, getting approval from the postmaster, and providing encouragement to her and the other volunteers.
All the volunteers were motivated by a spirit of civic duty. Darlene House (another UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener), Amanda Plunkett (owner of BeeRooted, an environmental service “dedicated to promoting healthy environments for honeybees and humans through live bee relocation services, education, and products”), Debbie McAfee (Phelan resident), Barbara Hamilton (Hesperia resident), as well as many other volunteers from local high desert areas participated. Congratulations to you all for a job well done supporting your local community
Meredith is a life-long learner with a desire to acquire ongoing knowledge about gardening, IPM, and protecting the environment. She has extended her gardening knowledge by taking classes at Victor Valley College Agriculture and Natural Resource (AGNR) Department. She is currently taking courses for her own self-knowledge (while toying with the idea of possibly getting an advanced degree in Botany in the future.) She has taken an IPM class, is currently taking a class on identifying 100 non-native plants by their Latin names, and in February, will be taking a class on native plants.
Meredith was recently asked by one of her professors at the AGNR Department to start a seed library at the college. She has wanted to create a seed bank in the high desert, so she agreed. Meredith already has some thoughts about how she will organize the seed library utilizing onsite resources and volunteers. There are greenhouses wherethe library can be set up to bring in seeds that can be traded. There is even an onsite lab where the seeds can be cleaned, dried, and stored. She is looking forward to getting started on the seed library as soon as COVID quarantine restrictions are lifted!
Learning about Meredith's extensive knowledge of holistic health and living a fully holistic lifestyle has been eye-opening and inspirational! In her 20's, she adopted an organic lifestyle and has grown everything organically ever since. Early on, she read a book called "Back to Eden" by Jethro Kloss about herbs, how to use herbs, eat well, and avoid toxins. After reading the book, she concluded that there is probably an answer to almost any problem by using plants.
Meredith has a passion for educating people about keeping a pure seed supply and avoiding pesticides. She has never seen any logical reasons for using a lot of chemicals in our day-to-day lives. She has given talks in the high desert, promoting healthy choices, and encouraging people to lead organic lifestyles.
Meredith has an extensive property that includes a goat farm, rabbits, horses, and herb, vegetable, and flower gardens. Over several years, she has removed most of the invasive vegetation on her property while encouraging native plants to take over.
Every year the native plants reseed and have slowly taken over the invasive plants. The native plant areas need little water. However, Meredith installed a drip system to use during the hot summers in the high desert. She enlisted the help of her grandson and granddaughter and their friends to haul way truckloads of weeds. Another generation of farmers in the making!
Meredith's life-long love of farming began on her grandparents' farm in Nebraska. Like many people during that time, they had a farm growing their own vegetables, planting fruit trees, and raising chickens. They canned what they grew and preserved eggs by the water glassing method. Keeping eggs by water glassing is a long-standing historical method that works well for long-term egg storage. Meredith learned to operate farm equipment and helped her grandparents with their farm.
Meredith's fascination with seed saving started with rows of unlabeled jars of seeds on shelves in her grandparents' basement in Nebraska. Her grandmother taught her everything that she knew about farming and seed saving. Meredith learned how to operate farm equipment and plowed areas on the farm. She and her grandmother planted the collected seeds in the cultivated areas. When she was only 10 years old, she produced a large flower garden in Nebraska and won her first garden award (from the Spanish American War Auxiliary that her grandmother was a member of.)
One of the many things I hear Master Gardeners say that they like about being in the group is meeting life-long friends with common interests. It must have been "serendipity" that Meredith met UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Dana Marchica-Herring. She was attending a San Bernardino County Master Gardener composting class presented by Dana in Wrightwood. After the class was over, she and Dana "hit it off," talking about their mutual gardening interests. Dana encouraged Meredith to apply to the Master Gardener program. Dana moved and she and Meredith did not see each other for over 20 years, but Meredith always remembered Dana's encouragement and applied and was accepted into the Master Gardener program years later. After all those years of not seeing each other, Meredith and Dana “ran into each other” giving talks at a Whole Life Celebration in Wrightwood. Dana was representing the San Bernardino County Master Gardeners and Meredith was giving a talk on GMOs. As Meredith likes to say, their friendship came full circle.
Meredith encourages people to think about becoming a Master Gardener by saying, “it is easier than it looks.” Having an interest in gardening and a little gardening experience is a good start. The desire to help others become better gardeners is necessary, but it is also the most fun! She says that becoming a Master Gardener is a commitment, but there are many resources available through the Master Gardener Program that provide ongoing training.
The motto of Meredith's Valhalla Farm is, “A wee small farm with lots of animals, gardens, and penchant for independence.” I think it epitomizes the spirit of Meredith!
The UCCE San Bernardino Master Gardeners thank Meredith for her enthusiasm, diverse gardening knowledge, and dedication to creating a more sustainable future!
UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Master Gardeners Jillian Kowalczuk and Adam Wagner's passion and enthusiasm for gardening, agriculture, and the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program made for a lively and fascinating interview recently! They want people to know that the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program can benefit anyone. There are so many opportunities to try different areas of gardening that the hard part is deciding which one you want to pursue! Whatever your skills and strengths, you can utilize them in the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program.
There are also opportunities to develop new skills and strengths. As long as the criteria meet the mission of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, there is support for creating new ideas. You can pursue gardening interests in any direction you want from working with your local community gardens to presenting at workshops to helping out on the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Helpline!
Being part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program has opened up a lot of different doors and avenues of perception for Adam and Jillian. People from all areas of life, age groups, and experiences become UCCE Master Gardeners. Being part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, Adam and Jillian have realized that there are many different ways of approaching the same gardening ideas. Ideas from UCCE Master Gardeners from different geographic areas are shared with the gardening community. UCCE Master Gardener members learn that gardening practices work differently in different parts of the world.
Being part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program has helped enhance and sharpen skills not just for employment, but for all areas of life. It has helped them learn public speaking, formulating new ideas, communicating and working well with others, and how to use technology applications like VMS.
Adam and Jillian's pet project as part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program is the Yucaipa seed library that they started as a satellite of the Chino Basin Water Conservation District seed library. They are proud of what they have accomplished through the seed library and have enjoyed making it the success that it has become. Though the seed library is temporarily shut down due to COVID 19 restrictions, they are ensuring that the work they started at the Yucaipa seed library continues through the support of the local community. Jillian received permission from the UCCE to donate the seeds to a group that she and Adam started called Seeds of Yucaipa. Seeds of Yucaipa was started with the Oasis Botanical Sanctuary in Yucaipa and Unity Church of Yucaipa to help facilitate getting the donated seeds out to the local community With COVID 19 restrictions currently in place, they believe people need access to gardening resources such as seeds, soil, and pots now more than ever.
Adam and Jillian also inspire and help other UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener to achieve their goals. UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Whitney Coker liked what they were doing with the Seeds of Yucaipa Project. She asked them for advice on how to start a similar project in Rialto. Jillian was able to get some seeds for the Rialto project. With so many UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener learning tools and presentations currently available online, people can learn from home, get the seeds and supplies from the Seeds of Yucaipa project and start their own garden!
The UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program offers opportunities that you don't get elsewhere. Jillian and Adam have participated in educational opportunities that they feel would not have been available to them had they not been part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program. They participated in the Qualified Water Efficient Landscaping (QWEL) for the Chino Basin Water Conservation District, a major partner of UCCE. The QWEL program is an affordable, local training providing 20 hours of education on principles of proper plant selection for the local climate, irrigation system design and maintenance, and irrigation system programming and operation to landscape professionals.
Adam and Jillian also had the opportunity through the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program to go to South Coast Research and Extension Center (South Coast REC) for integrated pest management (IPM). South Coast REC is one of nine UC ANR Research and Extension Centers. It was established by the University of California in 1956 as a representative site for agricultural and horticultural research in California's south coastal plain-temperate climatic zone. South Coast REC programs focus on a variety of agriculture and natural resource topics, including crop and landscape pest management, irrigation management, plant disease, rootstock development, and alternative weed control methods.
In 2019, Adam and Jillian contributed their gardening skills to a kitchen garden project at the Asistencia community garden project, 26930 Barton Road in Redlands, California. The kitchen garden is a small garden at the Asistencia used for growing edibles such as herbs and small vegetables. They worked on the Asistencia kitchen garden through Rotten Apple Farms, a ‘hobby' farm they founded in Yucaipa, California, to provide farm-fresh produce to the public while preventing waste. They participated in the project by installing the irrigation and planting trees. As UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners, they contributed their gardening expertise and advice to the project. More than 50 volunteers from the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, the Redlands Conservancy, the University of Redlands, and the Redlands High School AVID program also contributed to the project. They helped dig holes, pick-ax the adobe clay soil, prep new soil, remove old pipes, build water wells, and plant 110 plants in the 900 square foot area. Jillian and Adam agreed that it was a great learning experience to participate in a historical landmark garden project!
Building sustainable gardening communities and educating the public are two of Adam's and Jillian's greatest passions. They participated as UCCE San Bernardino Master Gardeners in the planning and development meetings for Huerta del Valle's “New Farmer Training Program.” The mission of Huerta del Valle is to cultivate an organization of community members to grow their own organic crops. Building lasting skills and developing strong relationships within the region are just a few of the goals of Huerta del Valle. Sixty-two 20' x 10' family plots are available to rent for one year. Huerta del Valle provides seeds, tools, water, compost, and small plants if available for the plots. The participating gardeners receive the support of experienced gardeners to help them succeed in producing a lot of food to consume or share as they please. They also taught gardening classes at Huerta del Valle.
Arthur Levine, left, programs manager for Huerta del Valle, leads an Inland Empire Resource Conservation District farmers' workshop in Chino Sept. 20, 2019. In the front row are Adam Wagner and Jillian Kowalczuk of Rotten Apple Farms. (Photo by Crystal Valenzuela, Inland Empire Resource Conservation District)
Most of Adam and Jillian's activities together revolve around gardening, farming, and agriculture. Through their different gardening experiences, they have learned from each other. Jillian started getting involved in gardening about 5 years ago with succulents. After that, she dove right into different kinds of gardening, developing an interest in sustainable gardening along the way.
Adam has a diverse background, having enjoyed gardening for most of his life. Living in different areas of the United States, he observed how nature worked around agriculture. His gardening experiences while living in Nebraska were much different than his gardening experiences in the Coachella Valley. He said that in Nebraska, you could just throw out seeds, and they grew, however, Coachella Valley desert gardening was much different. It was a culture shock to him that cultivation in Nebraska did not require irrigation. Coachella Valley desert gardening was much more labor-intensive. Through a change in perception, Adam worked on developing more efficient ways of growing. He developed gardening processes which enabled him to focus on areas of gardening that he really enjoyed.
Adam's gardening experience has evolved over many years. Learning about one area of gardening that interested him naturally led to learning about other areas of gardening that interested him. Working for a hydroponics company, he learned about indoor gardening and how climates can be controlled. Learning about indoor gardening evolved into an interest in greenhouse growing. Working at a local garden nursery, he learned about planter beds, compost teas, bacteria, fungus, and how everything all works together.
One of Jillian's most memorable gardening experiences was attending Armed to Farm, a week-long intensive training event in Davis, California. Offered through the National Center for Appropriate Technology, NCAT has partnered with several sustainable agriculture organizations to train military veterans interested in sustainable agriculture careers. Some of the goals of Armed to Farm are to train veterans and their partners to operate sustainable crop and livestock enterprises and to provide technical assistance to participants as they start and improve their farming operations.
Jillian has always been interested in Agriculture and related subjects. When she saw a trend that Viticulture was expanding in the Yucaipa area, she thought it would be an exciting subject to learn more about. She enrolled in a 2-year Applied Associate of Science program for Viticulture. Jillian's training as part of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program gave her an excellent framework for her Viticulture classes. Her study of soils in the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program has helped in her study of Viticulture soils. Jillian is looking forward to getting her degree in Viticulture. She also has a keen interest in getting ISA Arborist certification. Her goal is to eventually be certified to work in vineyards and orchards.
In November 2019, Jillian was awarded the honor of being picked out of a list of 21 applicants to serve on the American Viticulture Area Planning Committee (AVAPC) for the City of Yucaipa. The AVAPC was established to assist in the planning effort regarding the American Viticultural Area in Yucaipa. Jillian was chosen as one of three members at large "as she is pursuing a degree in viticulture, and that would be a great benefit to the committee," said Yucaipa Mayor Pro Tem Allen. Yucaipa Councilmember Riddell ended with, "I'd like to say that we really had a large and outstanding group of well-qualified candidates too."
Adam and Jillian's advice to anyone hesitant to get started in gardening is to take classes in whatever gardening area you're interested in, become a UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener, take courses and learn from each other! If you're a gardener, you're going to make some mistakes. Don't feel intimidated because making gardening mistakes are a great learning experience for the future!
In the two short years since they graduated from the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener training program, Jillian and Adam have become involved in nearly every aspect of the UCCE Master Gardener program. Wherever they see a need, their enthusiasm compels them to jump in and help. They are great presenters, and regularly present at UCCE Master Gardener events. I asked them how they got the courage to do their first gardening presentation. They told me they had not even graduated from the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program yet, but presenters were needed to do County presentations. They saw that their help was needed and decided to just go for it!
Jillian shared with me that even though she had been a recruiter and instructor in the military, she does experience some anxiety before presenting. She stressed that giving presentations is more comfortable when she is offering a topic that she is passionate about, and that co-presenting with Adam gives her courage. Becoming involved in the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program, sharing gardening activities and interests with Adam and serving the community inspires and motivates her to take action.
Jillian and Adam presenting together at UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener class, "Healthy Soils."
Adam and Jillian teaching "Basics of Building Irrigation" at the Huerta del Valle New Farmer Training program.
Jillian and Adam are passionate and enthusiastic enough about gardening to do whatever it takes to achieve the mission and goals of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener. They stressed that having the support of the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener program as well as local community members who donate seeds to the Yucaipa seed library enables them to accomplish their goals. Gloriselda Garcia, manager of the Green Valley Senior Village Apartments, has been incredibly supportive of them. She has allowed them to run the community garden, facilitate the Yucaipa Community Garden Club, and set up the Yucaipa seed library at the site.
Thanks to the City of Yucaipa's donation of a plot at the Yucaipa Community Garden to Adam and Jillian, they have been able to conduct gardening classes and demonstrations on-site. They also regularly give gardening presentations at the City of Yucaipa Library and are grateful that the library allows the UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver programs the use of their conference room for presentations. They're looking forward to being able to hold more classes and demonstrations when COVID 19 restrictions are lifted.
Yucaipa Community Garden at the Green Valley Village Senior Apartments, 34955 Yucaipa Blvd, Yucaipa.
Adam and Jillian have a love of collecting seeds and sharing them with the public. Recently, they made a donation to the Yucaipa Community Foundation, who has joined with That's My Brick!® to raise money for the Yucaipa Performing Arts Center. Personalized pavers will be located on the pathway along the Uptown Park in front of the Yucaipa Performing Arts Center next to Yucaipa Boulevard.
Jillian and Adam's support will help enhance the quality of life for their community by investing in the education, development, and presentation of excellence in art. It seems fitting that their personalized paver will say, “Adam and Jillian - Love Starts with a Seed.”
I met with Bob and Sharon Yocum recently on a beautiful, clear Southern California winter morning at the Crafton Hills College garden in Yucaipa, California. With the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains in the distance, it was a perfect way to spend a Saturday morning viewing the garden at the College that they have been instrumental in developing and helping to grow. I learned more about their mutual love of gardening and helping others, as well as their extensive knowledge of gardening. Bob is a 20-year Master Gardener. Sharon has extensive gardening knowledge also, and recently decided to “make it official” by becoming a Master Gardener trainee.
Like many Master Gardeners, Bob has a life-time love of growing things. He first learned about the benefits of having a vegetable garden from his grandmother and grandfather. Through working in his grandparent's garden, the necessity of growing one's own food became deeply ingrained in Bob. The family garden was not only a source of sustenance, but also of beauty that was shared with others. His grandmother had a flower garden and Bob shared the family's joy of gardening by taking flowers to his teachers.
When I met Bob, he told me, “when things are grown with love, they grow better.” I realized very quickly that those are words that Bob and Sharon live by. They have combined their mutual love of gardening and growing food with helping people from around the world. They have inspired others by teaching them about the benefits of sustainable gardening and feeding them nutritious food. Family vacations, free weekends and even Bob's birthday weekend were spent at Sommer Haven Ranch in Lancaster, California helping start a garden and teaching gardening classes. Their focus was to help the community learn about sustainable gardening practices, start their own gardens, and learn how to cook what they grew - a true Farm to Table experience. Gardening students from all over the world attended the classes to learn about sustainable gardening practices that they took back to their individual countries. The international attendees learned new gardening practices and techniques from Bob and Sharon. Bob is very quick to point out that he and Sharon also learned new gardening techniques from attendees who came from such places as Nigeria, the Philippines and Uganda. He is extremely generous in sharing his gardening knowledge with others so “they can be successful, come back and teach him new things”. Students had the opportunity to receive certificates after they completed the classes. One of the requirements to receive the certificate was for the student to start their own community garden, making the classes “the gift that keeps on giving”.
At Sommer Haven Ranch, gardeners always grew more than they needed, not just for themselves but to give away to others. They shared knowledge, resources and labor with one another. If a fellow gardener needed help, everyone pitched in to help with whatever was needed to ensure the success of the gardens and the community.
Master Gardeners reach people of varying levels of gardening experience and physical capabilities. Bob and Sharon learned about Loma Linda University Medical Center East Campus which provides physical medicine and rehabilitation, among other specialties at the facility. Bob and other Master Gardeners helped with the design and building of a 4x8 table at the facility, that could be raised or lowered via a pulley system making it wheelchair accessible. The table made the gardening workspace easily accessible, proving Bob's belief “that everyone has something to contribute.”
Talking with Professor Janine Ledoux, I learned about food insecurity, the concept of not knowing when or where your next meal is coming from. For Janine, Bob and Sharon food insecurity is not a concept, it is a reality in today's world that they have decided to do something about. As volunteers of the Blessing Center when it was open in Redlands, they collected and distributed food donated by local organizations, as well as from local gardens to be given away to those in need. When the Blessing Center closed, they became involved in collecting donated food to be shared at monthly community dinners at the Family Services Association of Redlands.
Bob and Sharon instilled a love of gardening and helping feed those in need in their 4 children. Their family has become involved with a Central California organization called Gleanings for the Hungry, working as part of a team that makes and ships dried fruit and soup mix. Tons of California cull fruit is thrown away annually. Gleanings for the Hungry takes fruit such as peaches that may have gone unused, then dries and ships it all over the world helping feed the poor and needy.
I came away from my time spent with Bob and Sharon humbled by their philosophy that if you have a meal with, or wash dishes with someone after a meal, you find out a lot about them – what kind of person they are, the essence of who they are. I may not have washed dishes with Bob and Sharon, but through the few hours I spent with them, I got to know them better, and am proud to be part of the Master Gardener community with them.
Bob and Sharon have seen a lot of evolution in the Master Gardener program over the 20 years that Bob has been a Master Gardener. It is apparent that they are very proud to have been part of the program for so many years. The friendships they have developed with fellow Master Gardeners are deeply personal and important to them. They view their fellow Master Gardeners as family. As Bob told me, “Master Gardeners are there when you need them.”
Photographer: Sharon Yocum
Author: Debbie LeDoux, Master Gardener trainee.
- Author: Michele Martinez
From the outset, Christy was not shy about getting her hands dirty. In the training, she says, “I did my presentation on vermicomposting. Then I gave the worm presentation at the Herbivore Festival at Crafton Hills College.” With a strong interest in community gardening, Christy soon joined Highland's Giving Garden located at Highland Congregational Church. Founded in 2016 by Tracy Powell, the group includes Master Gardener, Jerry Poupard, and his wife, Robin. “Highland's Giving Garden has 24 raised beds," says Christy. “Twelve are rented by community members and 10% of our harvest must be donated to someone.” Produce from the other 12 beds goes to the food banks in Redlands and San Bernardino. "We also have a small orchard," Christy adds, "and all that produce also goes to the food banks.”
Through the online community, Christy got involved with a plant-trader's group. Connecting with Inland Empire Plant Traders on Facebook, Christy meets up with the group every other month. “People bring different plants to give away,” she says. “Some bring other things, like jam to trade. One lady brings eggs. We save our egg cartons for her.” Through this network, Christy's learned to grow sugar cane (”It grows year-round!”), and she's learning about new plants shared by members, like Asian Pennywort (Centella asiatica), originally from Vietnam. “The lady uses it in salads and green drinks.”
Learning is an important part of Christy's life as a gardener. This year she was accepted in Huerta del Valle's pilot New Farmer Training Program (NFTP). The seven-month course explores regenerative farming, food equity, community-building, and a full spectrum of urban farm management topics through presentations, field trips, and hands-on activities. Students who complete the training will be eligible to apply to Huerta's Farm Incubator Program, where they'll have the opportunity to receive subsidized access to land, equipment, and technical assistance as they launch projects under Huerta del Valle's supervision and mentorship.
Master Gardeners find opportunities to work with partnering organizations, like the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD), where we have dozens of shared projects. Christy explains, “I was in the first cohort of the Riverside Food Rescue & Waste Prevention Ambassador Program. We met five times and learned about various aspects of food rescue and waste prevention. At the end of the classes we had to do a community project and volunteer hours. I volunteered with Gleaners for Good. We collected citrus from community members and delivered it mostly to Feeding America Riverside/San Bernardino And I gave a vermicomposting talk at the Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District (RCRCD)."
Whether you are new to Master Gardeners, or a seasoned veteran, you surely want to make a difference. Why not take a page from Christy Gray's playbook? Find the heart of community through its gardens - and the people who tend them. Below is a list of community garden projects across the County, compiled by Robin Rowe of Master Gardeners. Thanks Christy, for the inspiration.
Community Gardens in San Bernardino County (February, 2019)
Huerta del Valle, 831 Belmont St. Ontario 91761. Huerta del Valle Contact: (English) email@example.com or (Spanish) firstname.lastname@example.org (note that, in addition to the Huerta del Valle organization, there are several other non-profits that have plots at this site and sponsor programming).
Earth to Fork Garden (Caramel Connections Foundation) has a plot at Huerta del Valle. Grows produce to give to the community. Sponsors Saturday morning talks for the community on gardening, nutrition and cooking topics. Contact: Elizabeth McSwain (909) 697-9017, CCFevents2018@gmail.com
Montclair Community Garden, 9500-9574 Ramona Ave. Montclair 91763. Contact: City of Montclair 909-626-8571
Incredible Edibles, 740 W. 26th St., Upland. Contact: Mary Petit 909-262-1855
Rolling Ridge Elementary School, Chino Hills. Contact: Marissa_Lovato@chino.k12.ca.us, Stacy_Colby@chino.k12.ca.us , Anne_Whyte@chino.k12.ca.us. 909-628-9375.
Cucamonga Christian Fellowship, 11376 Fifth Street, Rancho Cucamonga. MG Contact: Michael Painter, email@example.com
***Community Garden at Anne Shirells Park in San Bernardino is being developed by the Akoma Unity Center partnering with the city Parks and Rec Dept. Contact: Micah@akomaunitycenter.org 909-217-7956 (MG Valerie Dobesh has been working with them).
***Benjamin E. Jones Community Resource Center, Located at 2972 California St. San Bernardino, CA. Contact: Pastor Paul Jones (909) 296-1233 www.BEJCRC.org is planning a community garden with raised beds to open this spring. (MG Valerie Dobesh has been working with them).
Riverside /San Bernardino County Indian Health Inc. has a Community Garden at 11980 Mt. Vernon Ave, Grand Terrace. Contact: Valerie Dobesh
San Bernardino Community Garden at 6th and Pedley St, San Bernardino
Veterans Exploration Garden, Speicher Memorial Park, 2501 Pacific Street, San Bernardino. Contact: Richard Valdez at DAVcal.org
City of Rialto Community Gardens. Contact: 909-421-7222 (MGs Tim and Lynn Brown Summers)
- At Grace Lutheran Church, 539 N. Acacia Ave., Rialto
- At Bud Bender Park, 235 N. Lilac Ave., Rialto
Highland's Giving Garden, 3606 Atlantic Ave. Highland, 92346. http://www.highlandsgivinggarden.org Contact:Tracey Powell, 909-518-5056 (MGs Jerry Poupard and Christy L. Gray)
City of Redlands 3 Gardens run by the Community Center:
Smiley Garden, 1210 W. Cypress, Redlands
Clement Garden, 501 E. Pennsylvania, Redlands
Lugonia Garden, East of Texas St between Lugonia and Pennsylvania
Yucaipa Community Garden, at the Green Valley Village Senior Apartments, 34955 Yucaipa Blvd, Yucaipa. (MGs: Jillian Kowalczuk and Adam Wagner)
Loma Linda Community Garden on Van Leuven (largely vacant… needs someone to take an interest)
Victoria SDA Church, 1860 Mountain View Ave. Loma Linda. Contact: Tom 909-556-8801
Seeds of Hope School Garden, Redlands High School. Contact: MG Connie Kevari
Peggy Christian Memorial Garden, 1102 Chestnut Ave, Redlands. Contact Paul Dickau, Helping Hands Pantry, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phelan Community Center, Sheep Creek Road, MG Michelle Hannon. 760-912-5779
Physician Health Cooperative Corp. 16245 Desert Knoll Drive, Victorville. 760-955-9555. Contact: Kim Ammerman, MG Trainee and Administrator at PHCC.
School Garden at Desert Knolls Elementary School. Contact: Valerie Kimmel-Oliva
School Garden at Phelan Elementary School. (Doug Arnold knows of this)
Rim of the World Rec and Park District Community Garden at Mountain Communities Senior/Community Center, 675 Grandview Drive, Twin Peaks 909-337-7275
Big Bear Community Garden Project has 2 gardens:
“China Gardens” at 42050 Fox Farm Road, Beg Bear Lake
“The Ranch Community Garden” on Lakewood in Erwin Lake Contact: 909-866-9700 or bbvcgp.weebly.com
*** Gardens being built and to be finished spring 2019/span>