Pilot Program Helps San Juan Island Families 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.