Making a difference

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Solving problems in our communities

Issue: Local Food

Young girl with a basket of fresh-picked lettuce.

Food security continues to be an issue in American’s lives. Food security means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. According to the USDA, an estimated 11.1% of U.S. households were food insecure in 2018. About 56% of food insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs, SNAP, WIC and the National School Lunch Program.

Research indicates food banks play a key role in reducing food insecurity, particularly when nutrient rich foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables are available to hungry families. Additionally, families who grow their own food are more likely to eat fresh produce than families who do not.

Response:

The WSU Master Gardener program teaches food gardening to communities across the state in an effort to close the food security gap and to support the consumption of healthy food. In 2019:

  • 4300 adults learned about vegetable gardening, growing small fruits and tree fruits.
  • 1500 youth learned about vegetable gardening, growing small fruits and tree fruits.
  • Volunteers organized and taught in 68 school gardens.
  • Volunteers taught in 91 community and food bank gardens.
  • 57,500 pounds of produce was donated to local food banks.

Impacts of teaching food gardening for the health of Washington residents.

Snohomish County Master Gardeners have taught a 6-week series of classes on Growing Groceries for years. A couple who had never gardened before learned to grow their own food after attending the courses. They grew 250 pounds of tomatoes, 200 pounds of squash, and various varieties of artichokes, beans, greens, potatoes, corn, onions, leeks, and copious amounts of berries. They gave produce to neighbors and food banks once they filled their own pantry.

In Yakima County, Master Gardeners help to support the food supply chain by engaging with at risk youth who are in the Juvenile Justice Center. Youth learn to grow their own food at the salsa vegetable garden on the campus. They also learn about the importance of pollinators and creating pollinator habitat. Growing food gives purpose to youth who are otherwise pathless.

In San Juan County, Master Gardeners taught low income families to grow their own food. Families learned about site selection and soil types, were encouraged to grow vegetables that their family likes to eat and about ideas for getting their children to eat fresh vegetables. Hands-on activities included transplanting starts, fertilizing, weeding, slug control and watering. Surveys showed the families learned specific techniques for successful food gardening.

2 0 1 9 by the numbers.

  • 4100 certified volunteers serve Washington State communities.
  • 760 new volunteers trained.
  • 333300 volunteer hours served.
  • 48000 continuing education hours earned.
  • 4500 plant and insect diagnostic clinics served 79500 citizens.
  • 3700 residents learned about water quality and water conservation.
  • 4300 residents learned how to grow their own food.
  • 1300 residents learned about pesticide use and safety.
  • 313600 residents received research based gardening and environmental stewardship education.

Issue: Pollinator Health

Honeybee gathering pollen on a blue borage flower.

Bees are the world’s primary pollinators. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, honeybees are responsible for pollinating one third of our nation’s food supply or one in every three bites of food we eat. It is estimated that honeybees account for $15 billion in added crop value. Bees are also responsible for pollinating 90% of wild plants, making them an invaluable part of our ecosystems.

Globally, bees are declining at an alarming rate. According to Ohio State Insights, commercial beekeepers in the United States have been reporting bee colony loss rates at 30% each winter since 2006. The Center for Biological Diversity says, more than half of the native bee species are declining; nearly 1 in 4 is imperiled and 40% of insect pollinators are highly threatened.

WSU Master Gardeners are in a unique position to mitigate the decline of pollinators. As such they have increased their educational outreach efforts around pollinator importance and actions people can take to reduce loss.

Response:

The Washington State University Master Gardener volunteers taught about the importance of pollinators and provided information for how home gardeners can impact the health of bees. In 2018:

  • 1,477 adults learned about the importance of pollinators.
  • 2,683 youth learned about the importance of pollinators.
  • 2,097 classes on protecting pollinators were taught across Washington.
  • 1,223 workshops on protecting pollinators were provided by Master Gardener volunteers.
  • Volunteers answered 900 questions about protecting pollinators.
  • 2,475 residents learned about safe use of pesticides, which supports pollinator health.

Impacts of teaching about the importance of pollinators.

In Clark County, WSU Master Gardeners have a focused educational outreach effort to home gardeners to mitigate the decline of pollinators. Through the implementation of a Pollinator Posse, volunteers have taught resident gardeners about the importance of pollinators, challenges pollinators face and the role that home gardeners play in protecting them. Volunteers, working in small teams, facilitated interactive discussions about how homeowners can help pollinators by creating supportive environs. Discussions included learning about threats to pollinator survival and specific actions gardeners can take to protect them. Each event culminated with the design and installation of a pollinator garden.

In Asotin and Garfield Counties, volunteers focused on youth outreach to spread the word about the importance of pollinators. Following Washington State Common Core learning standards, WSU Master Gardeners taught lessons that focused on nutrition, scientific methods, and gardening practices. Students completed guided observations and experiments that demonstrated how animals, plants and the environment interact with each other to produce the foods we eat. 98% of the almost 2,400 youth taught learned about the importance of pollinators and what can be done to protect them.

In Chelan/Douglas Counties an ongoing partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the campus of the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery affords volunteers the opportunity to have a pollinator education garden. Each year youth from across our state who participate in Salmon Fest learn about salmon also learn about the importance of pollinators. Nearly 2000 adults and youth visited the pollinator garden and the pollinator station at Salmon Fest to learn about why providing habitat for pollinators is important.

2 0 1 8 by the numbers.

  • 3,780 Certified volunteers.
  • 580 new volunteers trained.
  • 26,000 hours learning to be a WSU Master Gardener.
  • Volunteers gave 253,500 hours of their time to WSU and the communities served.
  • Volunteers earned 47,200 hours of continuing education.
  • 3,680 plant clinics offered across the state answered 11,600 questions.
  • 4,160 residents learned about pollinators.
  • 4,750 residents learned about vegetable gardening.