AMES, Iowa – Entering the growing season, Iowa Master Gardeners and the staff at the seven Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farms set a lofty goal of producing 1,500 pounds of vegetables per farm to be donated to Iowa food pantries.
The Master Gardeners are well on their way to reaching that goal as they enter the home stretch of production for this growing season – a goal that will provide over 30,000 servings of vegetables.
The seven ISU Research and Demonstration Farms have already grown more than 6,000 pounds of food that will be donated this year, according to Susan DeBlieck, Master Gardener program assistant with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
The gardens are supported throughout the summer by Master Gardener volunteers who harvest and deliver the fresh produce to their local food banks. The gardens are located in Rock Rapids, Lewis, Kanawha, Ames, Nashua, Fruitland and Crawfordsville and measure 80 x 40 feet each.
“Helping with the demonstration garden is a great learning experience,” said Charlie Johnson, a volunteer at the Horticulture Research Station in Ames. “I get to cooperate with other Master Gardeners who share my love of growing while getting hands-on practice with food safety. It is a good feeling to see the crates of fresh vegetables on their way to folks in our community.”
Contributions from Lewis, Crawfordsville, Nashua and Rock Rapids have been high, with each garden donating over 900 pounds of vegetables thanks to very favorable growing conditions. Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes and melons are beginning to be harvested as well.
Field days were held at the seven demonstration gardens this summer, with over 180 attendees receiving valuable information about the types of vegetables that are grown by Master Gardeners and tips on how to improve their own home gardens.
The ISU Extension and Outreach Master Gardener Program, ISU Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education (SNAP-Ed) Program and the ISU Research and Demonstration Farms have collaborated to provide these opportunities to ensure that the produce grown will reach local food banks.
More information about the Master Gardener Program can be found online, as well as information on how to become a Master Gardener.