Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Projects
These are a few of the many activities through which MSU Extension Master Gardeners are making Michigan a healthier, more beautiful place to live.
Growing & Sharing Local Food
Since 1997, a two-acre community vegetable garden in Kalamazoo has been growing fresh food to donate to area food banks to help feed hungry residents. The produce is shared with people through 88 food banks in southwestern Michigan.
This project is a collaboration between MSU Extension and the Kalamazoo County Master Gardener Program, Humphrey Products, Kendall Electric, the Food Bank of South Central Michigan and community volunteers. This garden produces between 12,000 and 20,000 pounds of fresh food each year, 14,000 pounds were donated in 2017.
The volunteers in this garden have also planted the seeds for doing more good by serving as mentors for new community garden coordinators. They teach a six-week class called “Vegetable Gardening 101” to anyone who is interested in learning more about growing their own food or growing food to share with others.
Grand Ideas Garden-Great to Visit and Learn
A labor of love for the Kent County MSU Extension Master Gardeners and the local green industry, the idea for the Grand Ideas Garden was planted a few years ago and has blossomed into a true jewel for the entire Grand Rapids community.
The garden is not large by botanical standards. Encompassing two city lots, it demonstrates a greater scale of grandeur for nine months of the year by showcasing thousands of types of plants including annuals, perennials, woody trees and shrubs, vines, and of course, vegetables. Visitors can stroll through the multi-level pathways, observe a three-dimensional waterfall and smell the fragrance of spring, summer and fall.
Extension Master Gardener Rest Stop Beautification Project
Genesee Extension Master Gardeners are involved in a unique educational outreach project at several Genesee County rest areas. Through a partnership with the Genesee County Road Commission and Michigan Department of Transportation, Extension Master Gardeners have designed, installed, and maintained several annual flower displays at three rest areas along I-75, US-23 and I-69. These rest areas serve about 2.5 million persons every year.
The plant material is labeled in the beds and a descriptive brochure with cultural tips is available for rest stop visitors. The objectives of this project are to provide a visually pleasing welcome to the visitor’s center and to educate people about plant materials that are proven performers in the Michigan landscape. Extension Master Gardeners are on hand during several summer holiday weekends to educate rest area visitors about various aspects of gardening.
Canton Hoophouse Project, Focus on Food Security
In 2017, a group of Extension Master Gardeners ran a hoophouse in Canton and were able to donate over 1,200 pounds of produce to two local charities. In 2018 they decided to build bigger beds to maximize the space in the hoop house and increase the amount of food they could donate. With the support and donations from many local businesses and with a lot of man power from the Extension Master Gardeners, the twelve beds were finished in a week. Next came 4 yards of compost and 9 yards of soil. Many hands with shovels and wheelbarrows helped fill the beds. A soaker hose watering system will be added soon and then the planting will begin. Besides the two local charities, vegetables will be shared with students in a new food program this summer. Students will take home new vegetables to try! In addition, a Girl Scout Troop will be volunteering with the Extension Master Gardeners in the hoop house to earn their gardening badge. Outside the hoophouse, in the community garden, the Extension Master Gardeners plant and tend 2 large beds of vegetable plants, a bed of pollinator plants and two sensory beds (plants for touch and smell) for special needs individuals to visit. The Extension Master Gardeners also run an information booth every Sunday at the Farmers Market.