Almost 800 people who live in the Portland area volunteer their time as trained Master Gardeners. They join 2,700 others from across Oregon who learned the value and the means of gardening sustainably from the OSU Extension Service and its 70-hour Master Gardener curriculum. In return, they share their gardening expertise in a widening circle of community service and sharing.
Teaching others has become a transition point for Jen Aron, and her Master Gardener volunteer work reflects her interest in growing food in the urban environment. She became a Master Gardener a year ago and this spring began teaching children about growing food at Zenger Farm, a non-profit urban farm owned by the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services.
This year she was appointed garden coordinator for the City Hall Better Together Garden. She organized and educated volunteers to help replace the front lawn of Portland’s City Hall with a vegetable garden whose harvest will be donated to the Elm Court Loaves and Fishes Center.
Through much trial and error over many growing seasons, some people who grow their own food eventually learn how to start seeds, encourage their growth, and harvest their crops at just the right time. Jay Ewing became a Master Gardener in 2008 to help speed the learning process.
“I wasn’t sure that what I heard from friends and neighbors was right or if I was even on the right track,” he laughed, “and the feedback cycle is so long!” Now, as he answers questions from others as a Master Gardener volunteer, he’s confident that the information he shares is the best available.
Ewing has logged twice the number of volunteer hours that the Master Gardener training requires, helping people with their gardening questions at public markets and gardens around Southeast Portland. He designed and built a large worm bin for Zenger Farm and does some of the heavy lifting and hauling gravel at Leach Botanical Garden.
A long-time OSU Master Gardener, Pamela Garten likes nothing better than growing the food that she eats. She also enjoys helping others who have shared her pursuits but not necessarily her successes.
Pam teaches workshops on how to plan a garden with realistic goals in mind. Most important for many of her students is her advice on how to get out to the garden at the right time and harvest the fruits of their labor.
These and other Master Gardener volunteers contribute thousands of hours of service, worth more than $2 million each year, helping people grow their own food and creating sustainable landscapes in communities throughout Portland and all of Oregon.