Ozark Outdoors

Master Gardeners of Greene County fill seed packets for “Grow Well Missouri”

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Master Gardeners pack seeds for distribution in the Grow Well Missouri program, now in its fourth year.

Master Gardeners pack seeds for distribution in the Grow Well Missouri program, now in its fourth year.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Twenty-five Greene County Master Gardeners spent the afternoon of on March 24 packing seed as part of the “Grow Well Missouri” program. Master Gardeners plan to assist local food pantries with providing vegetable gardening supplies to those in need.

“Along with providing plant material and seeds, Master Gardeners of Greene County will provide educational programs on how to grow healthy and fresh food,” explains Missy Sanford, a member of the Master Gardeners of Greene County.

About 90 percent of food bank participants in the program are expected to grow the produce and share their garden surplus with families and friends.

Grow Well Logo“The Master Gardener vegetable garden will also be donating their produce, and all members have been asked to donate surplus food from their own gardens,” said Kelly McGowan, a horticulture educator with University of Missouri Extension.

Master Gardeners are also working with the Greene County Library District to package the donated seeds and then the library will distribute these in food desert communities in the county through the bookmobile program.

“Grow Well Missouri” is a University of Missouri Extension program that aims to initiate food gardening programs at food pantries that reach out to pantry customers. The program offers a selection of seeds educational materials, and one-on-one advice during food distribution hours.

“Local food pantries are our primary partners, but we also tend to involve Master Gardeners, Garden Clubs, high school ag classes, FFA, and other groups,” said Bill McKelvey, project coordinator for Grow Well Missouri and the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security at the University of Missouri.

Master Gardener groups have helped in other communities with seed repackaging, volunteer recruitment, staffing the program, and other related projects.

Primary funding comes from a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Master Gardeners share their knowledge & energy

The Master Gardener program is a popular statewide volunteer community-service organization administered through University of Missouri Extension. The organization’s goal is to train gardeners who are willing to share their knowledge with others. Master Gardeners become volunteers of University of Missouri Extension and donate hours for community educational projects in horticulture.

In 2015, more than 300 MU Extension-trained Master Gardeners provided 21,671 hours of volunteer horticulture services locally. Master Gardeners provide educational programs, work in demonstration gardens, answer horticulture questions from members of the public and assist with various other community projects.

Bill McKelvey, founder of the Grow Well Missouri program to share seeds, with some of the abundant harvest in 2015.

Bill McKelvey, founder of the Grow Well Missouri program to share seeds, with some of the abundant harvest in 2015.

Grow Well Missouri partners with food pantries, local organizations, and volunteers to establish food gardening programs that reach out to food pantry customers. By offering a selection of seeds, vegetable transplants, educational materials, and one-on-one advice, Grow Well Missouri helps those who use food pantries reap the many benefits of gardening.

The project stems from ongoing research by the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security showing that rates of chronic health conditions (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol) are measurably higher among food pantry clients than the general public.

Now in it’s fourth year, Grow Well Missouri is active in 13 communities across Missouri. Partners include:

Shelby County Food Pantry (Shelbina), St. James Caring Center, Help Center (Mexico), Central Pantry (Columbia), Cargill Cares Food Pantry (California), Neighbors Helping Neighbors (Boonville), First Christian Church (Jefferson City), Crosslines (Joplin), Share the Harvest (Greenview), Hickory County C.A.R.E.S. (Wheatland), Dallas County Neighborhood Center (Buffalo), Community Outreach Ministries (Bolivar), and the Springfield Public Library in partnership with the Master Gardeners of Greene County.

Beyond Gardening

Grow Well Missouri builds community capacity by helping groups establish community gardens, initiate healthy food education, and leverage resources to meet their goals. It also works to assess the strengths of food pantries and develop tools to increase learning and sharing among agencies across Missouri.

The project is supported by a host of additional partners including the Health Communication Research Center, the Food Bank for Central and Northeast MissouriUniversity of Missouri Extension, by local Master Gardener and Garden Club groups, and Feeding Missouri. Private companies including St. Louis Composting and Morgan County Seeds also provide support.

To learn more about the impact Grow Well Missouri is making, see the complete evaluation results from the 2015 gardening season. Contact Bill McKelvey, Grow Well Missouri Project Coordinator, at McKelveyWA@Missouri.edu for more information.

Funding for this project is provided in part by the Missouri Foundation for Health. The Missouri Foundation for Health is a philanthropic organization whose vision is to improve the health of the people in the communities it serves.

Resources

A host of educational materials are available at Grow Well Missouri Resources page.

Learn more about the Master Gardeners of Greene County online at http://mggreene.org or contact the MU Extension Center in Greene County at (417) 881-8909.

For more information on “Grow Well Missouri,” contact Bill McKelvey, project coordinator for Grow Well Missouri at the University of Missouri, by telephone at (573) 882-4973 or by email at McKelveyWA@missouri.edu.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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