Increasing food security through extension master gardener programming in northeast Ohio

J. Kowalski, E. Barrett
While the rest of the world is experiencing rapid growth in urban centers, some cities in northeast Ohio (Akron, Cleveland, and Youngstown) are experiencing the opposite. These three cities, which experienced tremendous growth during the height of industrialization, as a whole have experienced a 50% population loss over the last 50 years due to complicated socio-economic factors. Loss of population and tax base, coupled with raising poverty and chronic diseases has inspired government officials to consider land reuse strategies that will contribute to the well-being and overall health of communities. One of the strategies that cities are employing is the development of community gardens. However, backyard food production and gardening presents challenges to a population several generations removed from actual food production. To combat this challenge extension educators are enlisting the assistance of extension master gardener volunteers (EMGV)s. Extension master gardener volunteers are trained in best practices and garden knowledge in order to assist Ohio State University Extension with research-based horticultural outreach. Based on growing demand, the volunteers are providing programming for community gardeners in northeast Ohio through formal mentor relationships, onsite technical support and partnerships with community-based service agencies. As a result of these efforts, community gardeners have gained knowledge, confidence, and skills in the area of backyard food production and helped Extension provide programming to underserved, limited resource audiences. This paper explores three different models of community engagement utilizing EMGVs, successes and challenges, and emerging opportunities EMGVs to continue to provide practical research based information to community gardeners.
Kowalski, J. and Barrett, E. (2020). Increasing food security through extension master gardener programming in northeast Ohio. Acta Hortic. 1279, 53-58
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2020.1279.8
extension master gardener, food security, community garden

Acta Horticulturae