Community Service Awards

1st Place Winner

Garden For Good

Reno County Extension Master Gardeners

The Garden for Good, started in 2011, as a 1.6 acre community garden located inside the boundaries of the Kansas Department of Corrections, Hutchinson Correctional Facility-East Unit in Reno County, Kansas. These inmate gardeners are a culturally diverse group of men ranging in ages from 23 to 72. The majority of produce from the community garden is donated to local organizations that provide for the underprivileged. Produce is also sold to other inmates at the facility with the proceeds going to support the garden and to provide monetary donations to charitable organizations. In 2019 and 2020, over 42,000 pounds of fresh produce and more than $8000 were donated to organizations serving those in need. Each year, new garden participants must attend gardening classes taught by Kansas State Research & Extension (KSRE) Reno County Extension Master Gardener volunteers. The 90 minute lessons are held weekly from early February through late October and are based on the Kansas Master Gardener Program curriculum. Class members must also help in the community garden as well as maintain a student garden plot as part of their training. Once they have completed training, the students are then considered full fledged gardeners as well as KSRE-Reno County Master Gardeners. An average of 10 to 12 new class members are trained each year. There are about 40 actives gardeners in the program. In the Garden for Good, these gardeners not only learn lifelong skills but come to know the satisfaction of serving others.

2nd Place Winner

Concord United Methodist Church Community Gardens

Knox County Master Gardeners

CUMC Community Garden was started in 2014 on a former house lot (70’ x 90’). In 2017 a second garden was added (60’ x 90’). In 2020 12,515 pounds of organically grown produce was donated to 12 food pantries. A total of 50,115 pounds of produce has been donated since 2014.

The project is led by a MG who is a member of the church. Garden volunteers include members of the congregation, residents of the neighborhood, and MGs who mentor and advise the volunteers. Members of the church and neighborhood are invited each year to adopt raised beds with the agreement that 10% of their produce will be donated. The detailed notes made during the startup and development of the gardens are available to any organization planning a community garden. The documentation addresses basic needs and planning guides for a group starting a small, medium, or large garden. In 2014, MGs were significantly outnumbered by other volunteers. Over the years, some volunteers have become MGs and now there are 20+ MGs and 25+ other volunteers who tend to the garden in three work sessions each week. A flower ministry began in 2019 led by a MG with 4 volunteers. In 2020 the Flower ministry cut over 3200 stems which were given to a church program for adults with dementia (CADES) and homebound church members. The gardens are home to 14 significant scout projects: Eagle Scout, Girl Scout Gold, and Girl Scout Silver awards have been earned.

2nd Place Winner

Seed Exchange At Blandy

Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardener Program

The Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardener Program hosts the Seed Exchange at Blandy at the State Arboretum of Virginia’s Blandy Experimental Farm in cooperation with the Foundation of the State Arboretum of Virginia. 2020 marked the 10th time the event was held. It typically is scheduled for the last Saturday in January to coincide with National Seed Swap Day. The event is free and open to gardeners of all levels, from true novices to experts. Marketing for the event is through a combination of press releases to local media, the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardener Association Facebook page and website, e-mail to our distribution list, and outreach from the State Arboretum.

The goal of the event is to provide a setting to informally share seeds (as well as cuttings or summer bulbs), swap garden-related books, and learn from Extension Master Gardeners and each other. Everyone who participates goes home with something because even if they don’t bring seeds to swap, they can still take up to 5 packets of seeds. We have enough to share because before the event, Extension Master Gardeners meet several times to clean and package seeds from our own gardens and seek donations from commercial suppliers. The event includes several vendors with garden-related items for sale as well as a food vendor. The event has grown from less than 100 participants in the early years to nearly 500 in 2020.

3rd Place Winner

Treatment Court & Opportunity House Garden

Penn State Master Gardeners of Berks County

The Treatment Court Opportunity House Demonstration Garden is an initiative that supports the Penn State Master Gardener’s mission to educate the community on sustainable horticulture through unbiased best practices. Further, the program yields the very pragmatic benefit of providing fresh garden grown produce to a diverse, homeless community in what is effectively a food desert, urban Reading, PA. Treatment Court was devised by a local judge as a means for DUI probationers to meet their community service requirements. Penn State Master Gardeners of Berks County partnered with the Treatment Court program to deliver vegetable and small fruit gardening education to the probationers. Training was delivered hands-on, experientially and included the topics of soil testing, direct seed sowing, and transplanting. Probationers, under guidance, provided the care that ultimately took uncared plots through to lush, productive berry and vegetable gardens. After the initial year of Treatment Court, the Master Gardeners were invited to expand to twenty-three roughly 5’ X 12’ garden beds and to partner with the Opportunity House homeless shelter. The gardens are located at a visible, high traffic community in an economically depressed section of Reading. The visibility led to opportunities to interact with members of the local community and explain the nature of our mission as Master Gardeners to educate and our partnership with Treatment Court and Opportunity House.