How Extension Master Gardeners Put Fresh Produce on the Tables of Many

EMGVs in Columbia Co., Wisconsin teaching about growing vegetables from seed.
EMGVs in Columbia Co., Wisconsin teaching about growing vegetables from seed.

Extension Master Gardener Volunteers (EMGVs) throughout the US and Canada, EMGVs make direct donations to food pantries and other organizations, participate in community gardens, and work in their local communities to help families gain knowledge and skills to grow some of their own food.

EMGVs benefit countless people during these difficult economic times, as they help put food on the table. Hunger and food insecurity are real problems for many families, and the local face of hunger isn’t just the homeless. Most of those accessing free food programs are people on fixed incomes, the working poor, or the newly unemployed, a group that has grown dramatically in the last few years. Nationwide, millions of people live in households that do not have access at all times to enough food for an active healthy life.

Fresh Produce Donated by the Thousands

Nationally, Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have been estimated to contribute over 685,000 pounds of produce to local food banks in 26 states.

St. Croix Valley (Wisconsin) Extension Master Gardener Volunteers weigh produce to be donated to area food pantries.
St. Croix Valley (Wisconsin) Extension Master Gardener Volunteers weigh produce to be donated to area food pantries.

Extension Master Gardener Volunteers work together with neighboring counties, associations, local government, and other partners to deliver these kinds of results.  Here are some examples at the local level in Wisconsin, where county MG associations have donated an amazing amount of fresh produce:

  • Racine-Kenosha MG Association’s Garden of Giving provided over 10,000 pounds of produce for area food pantries.
  • St. Croix Valley EMGVs raised almost 5,000 pounds of produce in the New Richmond Community Garden, while MGs of the North (Oneida Co.) donated 4,500 pounds of produce.
  • Southeast Wisconsin MGA, maintaining four gardens, produced over 4,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables for Waukesha and Milwaukee Co. food pantries.
  • North Country MGA (Burnett, Sawyer and Washburn counties) also donated over 4,000 pounds of produce from the Spooner Agriculture Research Station Display Garden, as well as additional produce from other area gardens.

Matching food pantries to food surplus

In most counties there is an existing system of food pantries and excess food distribution systems that EMGVs have linked to and encourage others to tap into. But large amounts of garden produce are left unharvested every year when people grow more than they can possibly use and they are unaware of where they can donate it. Many locations for donating excess produce are not easy to find, as they don’t have their own website or have a yellow page listing.

The Campaign is a nationwide effort to educate, encourage and enable gardeners with extra produce to easily donate to a local food pantry, bank, shelves, closet or cupboard. This website lists food pantries in a central nationwide directory so that gardeners can share their fresh produce and, garden-by-garden, help diminish hunger in America.  Visit to find or register your local food pantry!

Community Gardens Thrive with EMG Support

Picking a salad for dinner in the Washington Co. Community Gardens in West Bend, Wisconsin.
Picking a salad for dinner in the Washington Co. Community Gardens in West Bend, Wisconsin.

With the economy and growing awareness of healthy eating, more people than ever are growing their own food. All across the nation, community gardens encourage individuals to become more self-sufficient by producing some of their own food, and numerous EMGVs are involved with creating, developing and maintaining many of these community gardens. For example, EMGVs maintain the Washington Co. (Wisconsin) Community Gardens in West Bend, where people can rent plots in order to have their own gardens. The success of the gardens is measured both in pounds of produce and personal stories. Many gardeners gain from physical exercise, experience a greater degree of emotional and psychological well-being, or are helped to make the difficult transition to life in a new city. In 2009 over 3,000 pound of produce was grown, with approximately 700 pounds donated to the local food pantry. In another part of Wisconsin, the Waupaca Community Garden, planted on property owned by the Waupaca School District, is used as an outdoor class room for a number of disciplines, but also produced several tons of food that was distributed to a food pantry, weekly community meal program, veterans assisted living, and more.

Finding a Community Garden Near You

Looking for the nearest community garden near you? The American Community Gardening Association, provides support and information to those engaged in community gardening. You can find your nearest community garden on the website, connect with other gardeners, and find lots of information on organizing a community garden, growing vegetables, and more.

Gardening Education Builds Self Confidence and Sustainability

EMGVs help plant vegetables in a community garden.
EMGVs help plant in a community garden.

As tough economic times continue to pinch people’s budgets, learning ways to grow produce, conserve water and eat healthier will help people get through difficult times.  Since growing and donating produce only fulfills an immediate need, Extension Master Gardener Volunteers also tend to become involved in educational efforts focused on food security and adequate nutrition.

This spring EMGVs are offering more seminars for the general public on basic gardening and growing vegetables than ever before.  The focus of many questions EMGVs are answering at Farmer’s Markets, on horticulture hot-lines, or other venues are related to growing food.

Last year the Portage Co. (Wisconsin) MG Association deviated from the normal “garden walk” program showcasing local ornamental gardens, and invited people to visit private vegetable gardens instead. Guests were given tours of the gardens to help everyone from beginners to experienced gardeners learn more about the crops they grow. Featured gardening techniques included conventional and organic, raised beds, square-foot, and ridge planting. The atmosphere was informal and visitors were encouraged to share their gardening experiences and ask questions of the hosts and EMGVs.

In southern Wisconsin, Rock Prairie EMGVs decided that it wasn’t enough to just grow and donate vegetables. In order to educate on uses for fresh produce, nutritional information and safe handling methods, as well as to provide better access to fresh, local produce to low income families and seniors, they teamed up with Rock Co. UW-Extension nutrition educators to create direct farm markets at area WIC clinics and senior centers, utilizing the vegetables grown by the Rock Co. jail inmates participating in the RECAP program. Last year six markets conducted on 32 days reached 580 clients. In addition to purchasing vegetables, individuals were instructed on WIC/Senior Fresh Produce Voucher usage, presented recipes, preparation and preserving methods, were introduced to new vegetables and encouraged to utilize other community sources.

What are EMGVs doing to help fight hunger in your community?

Let us know by submitting a comment by clicking on the comments link under this post

– Susan Mahr
Wisconsin Master Gardener Program Coordinator

Visit the Wisconsin Master Gardener website at

The Extension Master Gardener Program is Blogging

Extension Master Gardeners, an exciting new opportunity is now available for your use! The National Consumer Horticulture/Master Gardener State Coordinators Committee in cooperation with eXtension has released this Master Gardener Blog.

Yes! This blog is for Master Gardeners across the USA and Canada to share information and engage with each other.

The official launch date is May 1, 2010, and Master Gardener Coordinators from across the country will be sharing blog posts on project ideas or a topic of interest with the national Extension Master Gardener community. Through the blog, Extension Master Gardeners will be able to comment and share surrounding these blog topics.  Once the Master Gardener Coordinators get accustomed to sharing via the Extension Master Gardener blog, we hope to provide opportunities for Master Gardeners to submit blog posts in conjunction with their State Master Gardener Coordinator.

Vermont Master Gardeners
Vermont Master Gardeners (shown here) share and learn about their projects, just as other Master Gardeners will now be able to share projects via the Extension Master Gardener Blog.

Master Gardener Can Talk ‘Shop’ Nationwide

So why is this blog such a great new opportunity?   Well- many of you already blog about gardening and plants. You share your favorite plant sources, what grows well in your area and how your garden is doing. This new blog has a different but equally appealing focus: Master Gardener projects. You can cross talk with other volunteers from as far away as Toronto, Canada or Anchorage, Alaska or Miami, Florida.

With close to 100,000 Master Gardeners in this country (see the EMG Survey) – wouldn’t it be nice to talk “shop” with other volunteers just like you?

Master Gardeners will be able to share:

  • Project successes and learning points
  • Resources you have used for your projects (helpful partners or sponsors)
  • Curriculum you used or developed
  • How you funded or marketed your programs.

Other volunteers are anxious to hear what really worked and what did not. Wouldn’t it be cool to learn from your peers and not have to “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to good ideas and their implementation?

We Can Announce Events and Educational Opportunities

Besides being a great tool for networking- we can use this site to announce educational information for Master Gardeners- such as national webinars or state or regional events.

Minnesota Master Gardeners utilize researched-based gardening information to build this rain garden. Sharing these types of projects and information via the Extension Master Gardener blog will help others learn, too.

Sharing Master Gardener Program Value

The advantages of this new blog are tremendous! The blog will allow you to form friendships based on your common Master Gardener interests and allows for communication regardless of distance. It will demonstrate different viewpoints and allow users to get feedback from others who do the same type of volunteer work.

This collaboration will not only strengthen your local projects –it could…

  • Lead to cross-state and regional cooperation on projects.
  • Become a great personal learning tool and will highlight projects that emphasize the research done by our different land grant universities.
  • Help us market Master Gardeners as the general public finds our blog and realizes just what kind of volunteer work Master Gardeners are really doing.
  • Show others the impact our projects are making on our local communities.
  • Reach audiences who may not attend our current programs or read our newspaper articles- but who may enjoy the internet and blogging.

What a great way to “strut our stuff” and receive publicity for what we do!

So, are you ready to blog?  Other Master Gardeners are just waiting to learn about what volunteers are doing in your state!

Monica David
University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Coordinator
Chair, Consumer Hort National Committee

Extension Master Gardener Blog Policy

Table of Contents

  • Reserved Rights
  • Credits

  • Purpose and Goals of the Extension Master Gardener Blog

    1. Reach out and engage the national Extension Master Gardener community
    2. Share Extension Master Gardener volunteer projects, experiences, and opportunities
    3. Make more visible the Extension Master Gardener program as it supports the general gardening public

    In addition to these goals, see the blog post: The Extension Master Gardener Program is Blogging!

    We encourage those in the Extension Master Gardener community to share and join in conversation through this blog by submitting comments related to Extension Master Gardener blog topics. We ask that blog participants share with courtesy and respect for others to uphold the purpose for founding the blog. Specific questions about the blog policy can be seen below.

    We hope you’ll join your national Extension Master Gardener community in this exciting opportunity!

    Extension Master Gardener Blog Administration

    The Extension Master Gardener blog is administered by the network of Extension Master Gardener Coordinators and Consumer Horticulture Community of Practice, led by the Consumer Horticulture National Committee from your Land Grant University and Cooperative Extension network.

    eXtension’s Terms of Use apply to all blog comments and posts. In addition to providing user guidelines, these terms allow the reproduction and use of any content contributed to the site (see User Submissions).

    Posting Policy

    Extension Master Gardener Coordinators and guest contributors will create, coordinate, post blog entries, and manage or facilitate discussion through this blog’s commenting features.

    Master Gardeners are invited to submit blog posts through their state/local coordinator or extension professional. Questions? Contact your state Master Gardener Coordinator or  Karen Jeannette @

    Blog posts can be retracted by the author, or be removed or prohibited by blog administrators for any reason that is deemed appropriate.

    Commenting Policy

    This blog is open to comments to Master Gardeners and the general public who uphold the Extension Master Gardener Blogging Code of Conduct and the eXtension’s Terms of Use; particularly the public use section.

    A discussion topic can be closed for further comment entries at the sole discretion of the administrator. This may particularly be the case when the blog topic loses timely relevance, or the blog administrators need to divert resources to managing other blog posts.

    Keeping Comments on Blog Topic

    Comment Approval and Moderation

    Commentators must provide a valid e-mail address when they submit their comments. This e-mail address is used solely for comment verification in the blog content management system and is not visible to other blog viewers.

    Comments will be automatically or efficiently approved by a comment moderator as long as they meet the Extension Master Gardener (EMG) Blogging Code of Conduct (below).

    EMG Blogging Code of Conduct

    Follow eXtension Terms of Use

    Note and follow eXtension Terms of Use, particularly the public use section, as it applies to this blog.

    Post or comments that breach these terms of use may result in a course of action deemed appropriate by blog administrators. Course of action may include blog administrators suggesting more constructive use of comments, removal of inappropriate blog entries, user being blocked or banned, or other actions outlined in the eXtension Terms of Use.

    These decisions are not appealable and lie solely within the discretion of the Extension Master Gardener Blog administrators.

    Respect for Others

    The eXtension Terms of Use, Public Areas section outlines a number of actions that are considered disrespectful, and ultimately considered a breach of use.

    Any bloggers or commentators who make derogatory or inappropriate comments regarding race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, or do not show respect for others online will be banned from blogging or commenting on the blog.

    Respect for Self

    • Put your best foot forward… Digital information can be copied and pasted into multiple digital formats, which can be transferred elsewhere. Before your leave a comment, think carefully about how others will perceive it.
    • Don’t provide confidential, personal or legally sensitive information in comments.

    Blog Etiquette

    To achieve positive goals for the Extension Master Gardener blog, please note the following guidelines or best practices for using this blog, or through other forms of online communication.

    Promote Constructive Conversations

    • Agree to disagree. If you disagree with what someone has said online, practice your best communication skills to politely express that disagreement online.
    • Avoid sarcastic comments, teasing or joking comments. Readers cannot see you are kidding them and your comments could be misconstrued. If you are not sure how your ideas and comments will be taken, ask someone to read them before sending them.
    • Ranting online is unacceptable. It’s the equivalent of having a tantrum, something most of us wouldn’t do face to face.
    • Do not type in all capital letters, as IT’S CONSIDERED SHOUTING ONLINE. If you need to emphasize a word or words, uses asterisks around the topic, i.e. I thought those vegetables were *not* recommended for our area.

    Master Gardener State Guidelines

    Master Gardeners: Consult and follow your state Master Gardener Volunteer Manual and policies. Apply the accepted standards of behavior for your State Master Gardener program. These standards of behavior are often found in the Code of Conduct Policy or volunteer agreement for your Master Gardener program or Cooperative Extension program.

    Derogatory or inappropriate comments made by Master Gardeners may be subject to disciplinary action at the discretion of the state program director in accordance with state Master Gardener Program policies.

    In addition to the notes above:

    • Master Gardeners should only provide non-biased, research-based horticultural information to the public.
    • Master Gardeners should not endorse any specific product or place of business.

    Reserved Rights

    The Extension Master Gardener Blog policy reserves the right to be changed at any time at the discretion of the Consumer Horticulture National Committee.


    1. Hyatt, Michael. Thomas Nelson Corporate Blogging Guidelines, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Accessed April 25, 2010.
    2. Hyatt,Michael. 5 Reasons Why Your Company Doesn’t Need a Social Media Policy, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Accessed, April 25, 2010.
    3. Riedel, Matthew, “Email Nettiquette”, Rutgers University Accessed, April 25, 2010.
    4. “Nettiquette: Rules of the Road and Ethics”, Information Technology and Curriculum Resources, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Nursing
    5. Minnesota State Master Gardener Manual. 2009.
    6. Nebraska State Master Gardener Manual. 2009.