The Junior Master Gardener program planning started in the fall of 2009.
The Master Gardeners and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service were interested in teaching children the basics of gardening as well as giving back to the community. Our goal was to do classroom training over the winter months and then get the kids into the garden to plant and maintain it through the summer. The goal was education for the children and donating all the vegetables they grew to the C-CAP program of Winchester. This is a non-denominational group that provides support to the homeless and underprivileged of Winchester.
The students and the parents have to agree to maintain the garden through out the summer and preform the tasks to keep the garden alive. Once a week the children harvest the vegetables and bring it to C-CAP.
The kids attend classes once a week from 10:30 to noon and learn about gardening, ecology, water resources, pollution, herbs, nutrition, bugs and jobs in the hort industry, etc. We try to give them an over view of how gardening is important to everyday life and how it effects their community.
We want them to learn, put their learning into practice and give the community the results of their labor.
We planted the garden in the spring of 2010. The use of the land was donated. We had a volunteer come in and rototill the ground. It was an old lot. The kids came and shifted through the dirt and found pieces of pottery and items probably left over from an old livery stable or farm. This lot is in the middle of Winchester, Va and hadn’t been used for many years. We are still improving the soil and the site.
That first year we got plants donated by our volunteers. We used old fence wire for trellis. We got some seeds left over from a store and seeds from volunteers.
The children got water from the town run through a bucket system. Luckily, we had a volunteer who bought us a hand pump you we didn’t have to lug the water bucket by bucket from the stream. We got tools from the Extension office that they use in their programs.
We partner with the Extension office. The staff provides the “paperwork” and back up to the program. The Master Gardeners volunteer to teach the children and they volunteer to help in the garden over the summer months. We make a ‘ contract’ with the children and the parents they will maintain the garden and continue the program throughout the growing season.
We open the program to all students but have had mostly home schooled children attend. We hope to expand our summer program and bring in groups from day camp and other children’s group to show the garden and teach mini- classes in the summer.
We have started to buy long term items that are needed. We have some garden tools. Rotary of Winchester donated money and we did buy the tool shed. Southern States donated a small water tank. We have a borrowed hand pump we need to use to get water.
We are trying to incorporate the State standards of learning to our program and bring in schools in the city and reach out to the school staff and the students.
Our program is stable since we have the back up of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service and support from the 4-H staff and youth programs people.