Master Gardeners Extend Knowledge to Communities

MADISON — Lorre Kolb: Master Gardener Volunteers, learning about plants and making a difference in their communities. We’re visiting today with Mike Maddox, Director of Wisconsin Master Gardener Program, University of Wisconsin-Extension, and I’m Lorre Kolb. Mike, what is the Master Gardener Volunteer Program?

Mike Maddox: The Master Gardener Program is a program in which we’re training community members, interested in gardening, some of the foundational topics that any horticulturist would need to know. But, in return for this learning, we’ve asked for them to go out into their communities and help us extend that knowledge to other community members.

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Lorre Kolb: So, what is the connection between Master Gardeners and UW-Extension?

Mike Maddox: Well, the Master Gardener Program is a UW-Extension program. It has a 40-year history connected with Extension. It started with an Extension educator in Washington state, in which he trained individuals to help him answer questions, because the amount of new questions they had coming in from the developing suburbs at the time was more than what his role was able to do. It came into Wisconsin in the late 70s, early 80s, primarily to train individuals to help respond to the growing number of questions coming in from the public. But, it has evolved over that time to very active participation in the communities. They are using gardening to make some sort of difference in their communities.

Lorre Kolb: How do communities benefit from Master Gardener Volunteers?

Mike Maddox: To understand the role Master Gardeners are now playing in their communities, we also have to start with the role plants have in our communities. Research now shows there are economic, environmental, and health benefits of having plants in the places we live, work, and play. So, community gardens, urban forestry, downtown beautification projects – all this plays a role in making our communities healthy, happy places to live. Master Gardeners are now playing a lot of that role in providing that greening. They’re coming in and are the forces to do that school community garden or taking charge in making your city like a tree city USA and all the benefits that come with an urban forest. They also have that traditional role of helping respond to the questions that come in, helping people make informed, educated decisions – making the right plant for the right place kind of choices. So, hopefully reducing the number of invasive species we’re introducing to the environment. They’re having conversations with people on how many trees to put in, or where to plant them, or how to plant them correctly so you get the long term environmental benefits.

Lorre Kolb: If someone wants to become a Master Gardener Volunteer, what should they do?

Mike Maddox: You should start by visiting your local county UW-Extension office. Training consists of about 36 hours and as part of that you are expected to return a minimum of 24 hours of volunteer service in your community on select projects.

Lorre Kolb: We’ve been visiting today with Mike Maddox, Director of Wisconsin Master Gardener Program, University of Wisconsin-Extension, and I’m Lorre Kolb.

— Mike Maddox, Director of Wisconsin, Master Gardener Program and Lorre Kolb, UW-Extensio

Source:  Morning Ag Clips, June 19, 2017

Calderón Recipient of Increasing Study Abroad Grant

Dr. Claudia Calderón, assistant faculty associate in the Department of Horticulture, received a $25,000 grant from the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund to develop a new study abroad program in Guatemala. The Innovation Fund aims to increase study abroad opportunities between the U.S. and the rest of the western hemisphere. Dr. Calderón’s proposal, developed in partnership with the Universidad Rafael Landivar in Guatemala, outlines an innovative model of study abroad between the two universities and will include a faculty-led field study, service-learning and international internships. In addition, the Morgridge Center for Public Service awarded Claudia $4,500 to support the community-based learning component of the course proposal.

The three-credit course, Community Based Learning and Sustainable Food Systems, will include service-learning projects involving local community partners to promote participatory approaches to environmental stewardship while international internships will reinforce academic learning through practical applications of world issues pertaining to food systems. An analogous program will be coordinated through Universidad Rafael Landivar. Dr. Calderón is currently the Program Leader/Instructor for UW Tropical Horticulture in Costa Rica and Panama, a two-week program offered during winter break which provides a framework for discussion of issues related to tropical horticulture, such as sustainability, cropping systems, climate change, food security, global health, nutrition and traditional medicine.

Press Release

Allen Garden Ready for Its Closeup

Framed by emerging spring blooms at UW-Madison's Allen Centennial Garden, freshman Rachel Smaby enjoys the area's return to more seasonal temperatures during a break among the botanical exhibits. Photo by John Hart, Wisconsin State Journal

Every gardener counts the days to spring. At Allen Centennial Garden on the UW-Madison campus, they have been counting the plants, too.

As interns work on an online plant databank, which should be ready by mid-summer, the garden’s new director, Ben Futa, is looking at a schedule that includes therapy dogs, slow food, 3,000 new bulbs and an updated Master Plan. A key point of that plan is that the garden should not grow beyond its 27 separate exhibit areas, but should mature. Education and public engagement will be a focus, in keeping with the hiring of an education coordinator, Elin Meliska.

The garden — it is singular — at Babcock and Observatory Drives may be the most accessible classroom on campus, with the most diverse syllabus. Even on a recent chilly Sunday, the walkers in the 2.5 acres surrounding the vintage 1896 Agriculture Dean’s House ranged from an old man and his dog to curious children to students from the nearby Lakeshore dormitories.

A visitor in the next week or so will be treated to a colorful result of a student project from last fall, when 3,000 Chionodoxa, Scilla, narcissus, hyacinth, and muscari bulbs were planted in the “English garden” area.

Futa, an Indiana native starting his second year as director, said that while several student interns and a new education coordinator are at work, there is a full schedule of events on tap for the garden this spring.

The garden, named after Oscar and Ethel Allen, who were prominent faculty, was dedicated in 1989, the 100th anniversary of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Current visitors will find two new serene landscape design projects underway, both winners of a student team contest. April 27 is already booked solid for an “open-mike” night featuring horticulture-related events. Therapy dogs will host a meet-and-pet event, “Dogs on Call,” May 4; and there’s a Slow Food UW Cafe on May 6.

Mid-summer should see completion of a unique online plant database, Futa said.

“It’s a world-class garden,” he noted, “with a wonderful group of volunteers. The community is craving and ready for these new programs.”

In February, an intern-planned event, “Luminous,” featured six luminary exhibits, bonfires and hot chocolate. It drew 3,000 visitors, when no more than 300 were expected.

“The bones of this garden are extremely strong,” Futa said. “We’re gearing up to an update of our master plan, re-evaluating everything.”

The garden is open daily from dawn to dusk. Parking is free at the Observatory Drive ramp and Tripp Circle after 4:30 p.m. Monday–Friday, and all day Saturday and Sunday.

Story Reprinted from Wisconsin State Journal – George Hesselberg

For the Love of Plants

Students from all backgrounds are invited to a class that explores, questions and celebrates our connections to the vegetable kingdom.

Irwin Goldman PhD’91, professor and chair of the Department of Horticulture, is an eminent researcher in vegetable breeding and genetics, with a particular interest in carrot, onion and table beet. His lab has bred numerous cultivars that have been used to make commercial hybrids grown by farmers all around the world. He and his laboratory currently hold more than 75 active germplasm licenses, some of which are handled through Irwin_Goldman-2-683x1024the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

But in spite of Goldman’s prowess in both research and administration—he has served CALS as an associate dean and a vice dean, and as interim dean some five years ago—teaching remains one of his greatest passions. “Our most important job in serving the public is to make sure our students can obtain what they came to the university to get: a top-notch education,” says Goldman. “I see this as one of the primary reasons for being placed here by the people of Wisconsin.” He brings that devotion to the many kinds of students he teaches: from the graduate students under his research wing and the horticulture majors he advises to undergraduates and other learners who may not be science majors at all.

And students clearly benefit from his dedication. Claudia Roen BS’15, until recently a student assistant in the CALS communication office, was a senior biology major last fall when she took Goldman’s class, “Plants and Human Wellbeing.” She found it so enlightening that she was moved to conduct the following interview to learn more about both a fascinating subject—and what excites Goldman about teaching it.

What inspired you to teach Plants and Human Wellbeing?

I have been desperate to teach this class for probably 10 years, and I love this material, but it hadn’t previously fit into any of the courses I was teaching. I remember very clearly one January day over winter break sitting at my
dining room table reading about the spice trade—and thinking, if I don’t just say I’m going to do this and put
this class together, it won’t happen.

At that moment I began to write a syllabus and presented it to the department with the hope of teaching it the following fall. That was a few Januarys ago.

What do you hope students will take away from this course?

The whole point is connecting to plants and plant-derived materials and asking, where does this come from? How does it serve us? It’s a way of thinking about the world. If you approach the world that way, it’s part of being an educated person.

For example, one topic covered in the course is aspirin. There are natural compounds in plants that serendipitously have these health-improving effects on humans. What did we do with that information? There’s an industry created around it, and what does that look like? We can apply these questions to a number of plants used in pharmaceuticals.

Or in another lecture we discussed the tale of Johnny Appleseed and the history of the apple in America. Afterward we sampled more than a dozen apple varieties. Partly it’s a gimmick, but for people who have only ever eaten a Red Delicious, it may be surprising to try something very different.

When I was 18 or 19 I lacked exposure to a lot of things. One of my professors brought in mate. In Argentina it’s like drinking coffee, but to me at the time, it was so exotic. I feel that if I can supplement the lessons with things to eat, things to try and taste, I can provide some exposure to the diversity of what’s out there.

Have you found that there is one topic in particular that seems to excite or engage the students?

The treatment of human beings in the production of food that we consider to be delicacies is probably the most important to them, and it’s the single most recurring topic that students write about in their reflection papers. And that’s a good sign—the fact that they have begun to think critically about food production in ways that may change their behavior or make them think differently about the world.

A good example is the lecture on chocolate, which I think for many students is the first time they had heard about chocolate production and the negative working conditions, essentially slavery, associated with it. It is remarkable to listen to a worker from the cacao plantations who toils all day to produce chocolate for the Western world but who has never tasted chocolate. We discussed chocolate cultivation and its importance in our society, sampled several varieties of chocolate, and watched a video that featured cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast—which produces more cocoa than any country in the world—tasting chocolate for the first time after a lifetime of harvesting the crop.

Has teaching the class provided any surprising or unexpected lessons?

Regarding students, probably the most surprising thing for me is the tenderness—and I have to use that word—that people feel for plant materials. When you get them alone or uninhibited, it brings them to tears. At the end of the semester students are asked to present to the class something they’ve made from plant materials. Students have presented food, musical instruments, body lotions and more. They are deeply connected to certain things, and that comes across when they’re talking about something that is important to them, some dish that their mother makes. There’s something there that is very profound.

What kinds of students take the course?

I’ve had students from a wide range of backgrounds. People from Letters and Science, people from all over campus and beyond. I’ve had a handful of returning adult students, and I also had some senior auditors who were taking it because they thought it was an interesting subject that they could sit in on. It was a much wider array of students than I would typically have in a normal horticulture class.

People connect to this subject in different ways. Some people are interested in aromatherapy, or they’re interested in gardens—it’s a catch-all for all things that connect to plant materials.

How do you see this course as a reflection of the goals and the values of CALS?

A big part of our college’s mission has always been to make science and scientific knowledge accessible to a broad audience, and this course certainly accomplishes that. No prerequisites are required; it’s open to anyone who wants to explore the topic. Obviously a deeper understanding of how food is made and where it comes from is an integral part of CALS. CALS contains the whole spectrum, from the soil that we grow things in all the way to policy and legislation around food and everything in between—the genetics and the biochemistry involved in breeding and growing. I love that about CALS.

And the connection between plants and human wellbeing is a recurring theme across that spectrum.

What we study and teach in CALS often connects to outcomes that impact humans, and one of the most fundamental impacts we should consider is their wellbeing. In fact, I find that it may often guide some of our most important projects.

What are your hopes for the course, and where do you see it headed?

Up to now the course has been listed as a 375, meaning it’s an experimental course. When I presented the idea to the Department of Horticulture, I pledged to teach it for two years as an experimental course and if it worked out, I’d ask to make it a permanent number. Now I’m pleased to say that this course has been given the permanent number Horticulture 350, and it will be taught every fall semester.

Ultimately, I would like to make it available online or through some other medium—as a MOOC, perhaps—because I do think students and a wide range of other learners could get something out of this even if they weren’t in the room. I want to make it available to as many people as possible.

Master Gardener Program in Wisconsin

The latest issue of Grow: Wisconsin’s Magazine for the Life Sciences provides insight into Wisconsin’s Master Gardener program through the eyes of current volunteer Jane de Broux in the featured article “Gardening for the People”.

The Master Gardener program is housed within the Department of Horticulture in Moore Hall under the direction of Mike Maddox and Susan Mahr.

Jim Nienhuis, Sowing Seeds of Hope

NienhuisJim Nienhuis, a CALS professor of horticulture, spends a lot of time conducting research in Central America, a place he has cared about deeply since serving there as a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1970s. He’s never stopped thinking about how to address the region’s most pressing problems. Among them: the striking number of single mothers among the rural poor.

Often, too, they have small parcels of land—and thus a means of support by intensively growing vegetables both to sell at local markets and to feed their families. Women’s agricultural cooperatives—groups that allow these farmers to share resources and experience, ranging from shared tools to increased bargaining power at the market—were formed to help them in those efforts.

The problem: quality seeds are often beyond their means. Multinational seed companies looking to make a profit prefer to sell to large-scale producers—and at up to 15 cents per seed, women hoping to grow crops for market simply cannot afford them. And inexpensive local seeds are highly susceptible to plant diseases that substantially decrease yields.

That’s where Nienhuis could help.

With funding from USAID, three years ago he began a program called “Seeds of Hope” to teach women in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua to raise their own seeds. As a plant breeder, Nienhuis helped develop open-pollinated varieties of disease-resistant tomatoes and peppers that women could save from their own crops and replant the following year.

The program is making a difference. “The women have really liked the new seed varieties for their rapid growth and high demand in the market,” says Doris Hernandez of CARE El Salvador, who works with the women. Each year Nienhuis conducts at least one training program in Central America that brings all the women together. And each year the program brings the women to the CALS campus. Workshops have covered everything from small business management and greenhouse production to business technology and seed storage.

Last summer, for example, they learned how to better save seeds with clay “drying beads” that are mixed with seeds to absorb moisture. In humid Central America, their use means much higher rates of unspoiled seed for the next planting season. Seeds of Hope supplied beads to each cooperative.

Having access to seeds and training has boosted the women’s confidence. Not only do they raise and sell vegetables, they have taken their businesses in new directions. Many of them, for example, now raise seedlings on an increasingly large scale to sell to other local farmers’ cooperatives.

“They continue to surprise me with their ingenuity,” says Nienhuis. With the new skills and international networks they have developed from Seeds of Hope, women’s cooperatives scattered across Central America are positioned for growing success.

Source:  Grow: Wisconsin’s Magazine for the Life Sciences Cathy Day, author.

Jim Nienhuis, Sowing Seeds of Hope

NienhuisJim Nienhuis, a CALS professor of horticulture, spends a lot of time conducting research in Central America, a place he has cared about deeply since serving there as a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1970s. He’s never stopped thinking about how to address the region’s most pressing problems. Among them: the striking number of single mothers among the rural poor.

Often, too, they have small parcels of land—and thus a means of support by intensively growing vegetables both to sell at local markets and to feed their families. Women’s agricultural cooperatives—groups that allow these farmers to share resources and experience, ranging from shared tools to increased bargaining power at the market—were formed to help them in those efforts.

The problem: quality seeds are often beyond their means. Multinational seed companies looking to make a profit prefer to sell to large-scale producers—and at up to 15 cents per seed, women hoping to grow crops for market simply cannot afford them. And inexpensive local seeds are highly susceptible to plant diseases that substantially decrease yields.

That’s where Nienhuis could help.

With funding from USAID, three years ago he began a program called “Seeds of Hope” to teach women in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua to raise their own seeds. As a plant breeder, Nienhuis helped develop open-pollinated varieties of disease-resistant tomatoes and peppers that women could save from their own crops and replant the following year.

The program is making a difference. “The women have really liked the new seed varieties for their rapid growth and high demand in the market,” says Doris Hernandez of CARE El Salvador, who works with the women. Each year Nienhuis conducts at least one training program in Central America that brings all the women together. And each year the program brings the women to the CALS campus. Workshops have covered everything from small business management and greenhouse production to business technology and seed storage.

Last summer, for example, they learned how to better save seeds with clay “drying beads” that are mixed with seeds to absorb moisture. In humid Central America, their use means much higher rates of unspoiled seed for the next planting season. Seeds of Hope supplied beads to each cooperative.

Having access to seeds and training has boosted the women’s confidence. Not only do they raise and sell vegetables, they have taken their businesses in new directions. Many of them, for example, now raise seedlings on an increasingly large scale to sell to other local farmers’ cooperatives.

“They continue to surprise me with their ingenuity,” says Nienhuis. With the new skills and international networks they have developed from Seeds of Hope, women’s cooperatives scattered across Central America are positioned for growing success.

Source:  Grow: Wisconsin’s Magazine for the Life Sciences Cathy Day, author.