- Author: Lauren Snowden
Congratulations to the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County for winning second place in the Search for Excellence (SFE) competition. The SFE is an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the tremendous talents of UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state. A panel of judges reviewed and scored fourteen county submissions about mission-focused educational and innovative projects performed over the past three years. Contra Costa County's Gardening with Underserved Communities project took second place and scored the highest out of all submissions in the area of consistency with the UC Master Gardener Program's Mission.
Gardening with Underserved Communities
Gardens can bring people together regardless of their race, color, age, sex, disability, or religion. The UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County wanted to meet people where they are in their communities across the county; and ensure they had access to quality sustainable gardening information and resources from the University. Collaborating with Contra Costa Health Services, the County Department of Behavioral Health, Bi-Bett Corporation, Eden Housing, and the Veteran's Affair campus the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County created a series of gardening lessons for outreach at senior centers, residential treatment centers, and at the local Veterans Administration campus.
UC Master Gardener volunteers developed a series of gardening lessons aimed to serve a diverse community of individuals with limited mobility, mental health conditions (including addiction and PTSD), or language barriers. Volunteers carefully identified key gardening topics and the best delivery options to suit a variety of learning styles. All of the gardening lessons combine interactive lessons with hands-on learning. Some of the lesson topics covered include vegetable gardening, soil health, composting, best practices to support pollinators, and how to manage pests in the garden.
Together with its diverse network of community partners, the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County has supported more than 2,000 individuals in their gardening efforts since the project started in 2017. Participants have gone on to apply their knowledge in their own gardens, volunteered at a local community garden, or pursued additional training.
Testimonials from participants demonstrate how much of an impact this project has on participant's mental health, and personal well-being. One participant remarked “I feel like I am learning something that I can take with me to the outside world. I am learning things that I can do at home and occupy my mind.” Garden-based learning programs like create a positive learning experience for participants like this person, “There are so many things I never knew. I thought you just planted a few seeds, watered it and watched it grow. I didn't know there is a whole science behind gardening…I also like that, in the end, you have things to take to your kitchen table.”
Virtual UC Master Gardener Mini Conference Sept. 29 - Oct. 1
Join us LIVE online for 2020 UC Master Gardener Virtual Conference, where you can learn more about this project directly from the volunteers involved. The conference is free and open to the general public, all levels of gardeners are welcome! Sessions will stream LIVE, Sept. 29 – Oct. 1 to the UC Master Gardener Program's YouTube channel and Facebook page. Registration is not required, just pick and choose what sessions you would like to attend. All session are being recorded and posted on YouTube but we hope you can join in LIVE.
Pssst! UC Master Gardener volunteers can earn continuing education hours for attending, click here for more information.
The UC Master Gardener Program provides the public with UC research-based information about home horticulture, sustainable landscaping, and pest management practices. It is administered by local UCCE county-based offices that are the principal outreach and public service arms of the University's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The UC Master Gardener Program is an example of an effective partnership between the UC Division and passionate volunteers. In exchange for training from the University of California, UCCE Master Gardener volunteers engage the public with timely gardening-related trainings and workshops. With programs based in 51 California counties and 6,297 active members, UCCE Master Gardener volunteers donated 328,540 hours last year and have donated more than 5 million hours since the program inception in 1980.