Evaluation of the Saginaw County Family Gardening Project


June 12, 2007 - David S. Conner

The C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems (now CRFS) at Michigan State University produced the following report on the Saginaw County Family Gardening Project, a project intended to promote family gardening as a means to improve individuals’ diet, health and physical activity levels.

Executive Summary

This report presents findings of an evaluation of the Saginaw County Family Gardening Project, a series of efforts intended to promote family gardening as a means to improve individuals’ diet, health and physical activity levels. Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) educators from twelve counties in the greater Saginaw Bay watershed received funds to purchase materials to promote gardening, nutrition and food preservation. This report is based on findings of a series of interviews with twelve project directors, and reflects their experiences and observations on the project’s successes, impacts and lessons learned.

A total of 1423 individuals participated in one of 145 gardens. Overall, the directors believe the project fulfilled its objectives: (i) teach nutrition education principles around the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, (ii) to increase the availability of and access to fruits and vegetables, (iii) to teach food preservation techniques, to encourage people to grow and try new varieties of produce, and (iv) to encourage physical activity through home gardening. The project also brought a broad array of secondary benefits to gardeners and also enhanced MSUE educators’ efforts to collaborate across program areas with their Extension colleagues.

Keys to project success include the use of MSUE educators’ network of partnerships, including community volunteers, local businesses and the media. The key difficulties faced included getting a late start and inadequate monitoring of gardeners; activities. Some perceived difficulties of working with the poor are also discussed.

A key strength of the project was its overall design. MSUE proved to be both a strength and weakness of the project: an asset due to its institutional strength, network of partners and the dedication of its employees, yet overtaxed. Recommendations focus on better time allocation and delegation, and closer, more frequent monitoring of gardens. Also suggested is the use of partnerships to better leverage project resources.


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