Pilot Program Helps San Juan Island Families Grow Their Own Food

Posted June 25, 2019 at 5:48 am by

11 adults and 14 chil­dren enjoyed week­ly vis­its to the Mas­ter Gar­den­er Demon­stra­tion Gar­den and Joyce Sobel Fam­i­ly Resource Cen­ter in Fri­day Har­bor to learn how to grow their own food.

Over the four-week pilot pro­gram, par­tic­i­pants learned how to select a site with sun, con­sid­er their soil types and what their fam­i­ly likes to eat, and how to encour­age chil­dren to eat fresh vegetables.

Hands-on activ­i­ties includ­ed trans­plant­i­ng veg­etable starts, fer­til­iz­ing, weed­ing, slug con­trol and water­ing. Each fam­i­ly received a con­tain­er gar­den with veg­etable plants to take home, gar­den gloves and a binder with gar­den­ing resources and recipes.

A bi-lin­gual vol­un­teer was part of the pro­gram to help with trans­la­tion as needed.

The pilot pro­gram was orga­nized by the WSU Mas­ter Gar­den­er pro­gram, the Joyce Sobel Fam­i­ly Resource Cen­ter and the San Juan Coun­ty Health and Com­mu­ni­ty ser­vices. The spark for the pro­gram orig­i­nat­ed over a year ago with the orga­ni­za­tions want­i­ng to pro­vide an oppor­tu­ni­ty for fam­i­lies to grow and eat fresh vegetables. 

A steer­ing com­mit­tee met to cre­ate a needs assess­ment to deter­mine the inter­est in gar­den­ing and food grow­ing among fam­i­lies with pre-school aged chil­dren. The sur­vey high­light­ed some of the bar­ri­ers fam­i­lies face grow­ing food and guid­ed the devel­op­ment of the program’s curriculum.

Access to gar­den space, the cost of water, deer, lit­tle gar­den­ing expe­ri­ence, and not know­ing which crops grow in the islands’ cli­mate were issues iden­ti­fied and addressed in the curriculum.

After the pro­gram con­clud­ed, par­tic­i­pants said they learned use­ful infor­ma­tion about site con­sid­er­a­tions, how to pre­pare soil for plant­i­ng, how to care for veg­etable plants and how to encour­age their chil­dren to eat more fresh veg­eta­bles at home.

Par­tic­i­pants also said the pro­gram was very appro­pri­ate for the audi­ence, the train­ers were knowl­edge­able, the infor­ma­tion was rel­e­vant and it was fun. “This pro­gram real­ly moti­vat­ed me to get my gar­den togeth­er, which oth­er­wise prob­a­bly wouldn’t have hap­pened” said one par­tic­i­pant. The group will meet again in July to learn about com­post­ing kitchen scraps in a worm bin.

The pro­gram was fund­ed by the San Juan Coun­ty Mas­ter Gar­den­er Foun­da­tion, the Joyce Sobel Fam­i­ly Resource Cen­ter and WSU Exten­sion. Mas­ter Gar­den­er vol­un­teers Alice Deane, Janet Ames, Diana Brooks, Ear­lene Rothauge, Cheryl Turan­ci­ol and Liz Smith imple­ment­ed the pro­gram with sup­port from Caitie Blethen, WSU Mas­ter Gar­den­er Pro­gram Coor­di­na­tor, Kris­ten Rez­abek, San Juan Coun­ty Health and Nutri­tion Coor­di­na­tor, and Jen­nifer Arm­strong, Joyce Sobel Fam­i­ly Resource Cen­ter Director.

The Mullis Com­mu­ni­ty Senior Cen­ter gen­er­ous­ly hosts the Mas­ter Gar­den­er Demon­stra­tion Gar­den on their property.

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