University-trained volunteers use demonstration gardens as tools for effective and transformative community education

K. Reid, M. Gable
The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) leads a volunteer master gardener program that provides research-based educational outreach to the public through a variety of venues including a network of 76 demonstration gardens, 156 community gardens, and 594 school gardens distributed throughout 38 California counties. In fiscal year 2017-2018, master gardener volunteers gave 107,097 service hours to the development and maintenance of these outreach gardens at a total independent sector value of $ 3,207,555. Both passive education, through permanent informational signage, and active instruction carried out in workshops and “open garden” events provide local urban community members with training on a wide variety of sustainable gardening principles and practices. These efforts center around ANR's strategic initiatives: promoting sustainable natural ecosystems, supporting urban food production sustainability and security, responsible integrated pest detection and management, protecting water quality, quantity, security, and supporting family and community health through science education and outdoor activity. Participant-reported behavioral changes from these garden-based events include an increase in the use of landscape plants displayed in the gardens that attract and support pollinators (70%) and those that are water-conserving and regionally appropriate (67%), improved food growing skills (68%), increased use of compost for soil and plant health (46%), reduced use of pesticides (55%), and an increase in the amount of time spent in outdoor activity, including gardening (71%). With over 200,000 people served through garden-based educational activities, positive impacts are being made on California's urban ecology and the people who live there.
Reid, K. and Gable, M. (2020). University-trained volunteers use demonstration gardens as tools for effective and transformative community education. Acta Hortic. 1298, 85-90
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2020.1298.13
informal learning, environmental impact, pollinator-friendly gardens, sustainable gardening, urban food security, community health

Acta Horticulturae