- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
ANR Staff Assembly's ANR GROWS program was so successful in 2020, they plan to offer it again this year, according to Marvin Flores, Staff Assembly chair for 2020-21.
“The ANR Grows program was birthed out of an NPR radio program discussing Victory Gardens during WWII and food insecurity in California,” Flores said. “During the time of Covid-19, many folks were working from home and needed projects to invest their energy into.”
Staff Assembly members curtailed travel due to COVID-19 restrictions and decided to allocate a portion of their unused travel funds to the UCANR Grows Program.
ANR employees can get reimbursed up to $50 for soil, seeds, transplants, compost and gardening supplies. To participate, fill out the form at ucanr.edu/sites/anrstaff/files/346146.pdf. ANR Staff Assembly is accepting receipts from Jan. 15 to May 15.
Jessica Conde-Rebholtz, Sue Lake,Jasmin DeToro and Kathryn Stein collaborated with Flores to structure and implement the program.
“I am overjoyed that the 2020 ANR Grows program was able to reach 114 recipients; astonishingly, such a small investment helped so many during this difficult time,” Flores said.
A few ANR staff members who got growing with the seed money from ANR Staff Assembly shared some of their thoughts and photos of their gardens with Flores.
“I was so inspired by reading the testimonials from the ANR Grows program. Especially those that discussed getting their whole family involved in the garden, how their garden provided clean, great-tasting veggies, a quiet space to think, and some therapeutic healing.
"I was also impressed by how many first-time gardeners were inspired by the ANR Grows Program to get out and try out their green thumbs.”
Some of the comments and photos sent to Flores are shared below.
Jenel Vincze, program administrative assistant in Santa Clara County: “I received a reimbursement this past year for some veggies to plant in a garden, but had a heck of a time with something that kept eating the leaves off of all of the plants. I really appreciate UC ANR for giving me the opportunity to try my hand at gardening during this strange year.”
Shulamit Shroder, UCCE community education specialist 2 in Kern County: My partner and I planted tomatoes, peppers, beans and zucchini. This was his first time having a backyard garden and he was blown away by the taste of freshly picked, homegrown tomatoes.”
Michael Zwahlen, safety and facilities assistant: “My kids and I really got busy last spring and planted lots of vegetables in both our front yard and backyard. The pumpkins were the most successful as well as string beans and sunflowers. I got my kids out there weekly with me preparing the soil, planting the seeds, pulling weeds and watering frequently. We also grew tomatoes, squash and corn.”
Ryan Keiffer, agricultural technician for UCCE Mendocino County: “I was a recipient of ANR Grows and had great success in my shishito peppers this year. Sun Gold tomatoes graced many salads, pastas, and on top of cottage cheese all summer.”
Katie Churchill, administrative officer and financial manager for UCCE Capitol Corridor: “I really appreciate the ANR Grows project! It allowed me to begin a project I probably would not have started on my own, and I enjoyed having something ‘new' to do at home while getting rewarded with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Additionally, my favorite was working with the UC Master Food Preservers of Solano and Yolo Counties for advice on how to safely pickle okra. With their instruction, I made four jars of pickled okra, which my family loves and we've already devoured three of the jars!”
Minerva Gonzalez, lab assistant III in Kern County: “Our garden this year provided us with plenty of vegetables and fruits. For the first time, we added a butterfly and hummingbird habitat.”
Emily Dimond, community education specialist II for the CalFresh Healthy Living Program in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties: “Thanks to the ANR Grows award, I was able to purchase tomato and basil seedlings and a bit of fertilizer to work on my garden. I made a tasty, fresh caprese salad with our harvest to share with my family. Thank you for helping me jump-start my garden and share delicious meals!”
Elaine Silver, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC nutrition educator for San Mateo-San Francisco counties: Because of the funds I received from UCANR, I was able to grow beautiful heads of cabbage! These pictures show how big they got! My dog loved being in the garden with me too!
Stephanie Rill, UCCE entomology research associate in Kern County: “My daughter and I spent many hours in the garden planting, tending and harvesting. We have continued now with a fall garden and are still harvesting bell peppers from the spring. The funds helped us develop a drip system for the garden that helped so much this year.”
Dana Brady, climate-smart agriculture community education specialist in Glenn County: “I received a GROWS reimbursement this past spring and it helped kick start our garden – we went to the local Ace and bought some starter plants, tomato cages and some compost. From there we caught the gardening bug and kept expanding our garden into two raised troughs and 4 beds on the ground!”
Nicole Vital of the Nutrition Policy Institute: “I can't express how thankful I was this year to have the luxury of being able to supplement my meals with homegrown veggies. The ANR GROWS program encouraged me to broaden my garden to include much more than herbs. My family enjoyed a bountiful harvest of eggplants, beans, daikon, celery, tomatoes, tomatillos, cucumber, squash, and bell peppers. Working in the garden provided me with an outlet for stress from being pregnant during a pandemic in addition to moderate exercise, helping keep both my mind and body healthy during a difficult time. “
Gwen Conville, illustrator at Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center: “Very gratifying to get food from essentially nothing and know exactly where it came from and watch veggies mature. It wasn't all success, but gave me such an increased appreciation of farmers, especially small organic farmers. Anyone who eats should experience the same; there'd be less food waste if we realized how difficult it is to make food. Vegetables are a bargain. I don't know how growers make a profit on their products.
Tammy Majcherek, community education specialist II for Orange County at South Coast Research & Extension Center: “Being able to create this small garden was a really nice diversion during this unusual time period with the added benefit of some fresh food.”