Spotlight on Dawn Henderson, Flavors of Northwest Iowa

January 24, 2020
Dawn Henderson.
Dawn Henderson

by Dawn Henderson, horticulture program coordinator

January marks my seventh month on the job as the horticulture program coordinator for Sioux, O’Brien, Lyon, Sioux, and Osceola counties (marketed jointly as Flavors of Northwest Iowa). I joined ISU Extension and Outreach after completing a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Iowa State this past May.

Extension and agriculture have been large parts of my life. While in college I discovered a passion for non-formal education. This role has given me the opportunity to combine my background and my passion while also gaining new experience every day. 

My role encompasses just about everything relating to horticulture across my four-county area. Answering calls, managing donation gardens, and coordinating the Master Gardener program are all parts of what I do. The biggest projects are in the summer, but during the winter months I also host workshops on a wide range of topics.

Adults help children make gardening posters.
PoP Club teaches kids about local food and nutrition.

Donation gardens

My largest role in local foods comes from the donations we make to area food pantries from donation gardens. Right now, I work with three gardens in my area and more are in discussion. All three donate the majority, if not all, of the produce grown there. This provides as many people with access to fresh food as possible.

The summer of 2020 is going to be a busy one. The K-12 coordinator in O’Brien County and I are planning a new camp for middle-school youth that focuses on both gardening and community impact. I’ll also continue the Power of Produce (PoP) Club we’ve been running for a few years.

PoP Club partners with area farmers markets to teach kids healthy eating choices, provides a fresh veggie sample, and a $2 token to spend at the market on fresh fruits or vegetables. Teaching kids about new foods is exciting and a great way to connect with them.

Dawn leads wreath-making workshop.
Dawn leads a wreath-making workshop with the area Women in Ag group.

Looking ahead

One of my favorite parts of this job is working in the gardens. I spend long hours outside, getting my hands dirty and meeting many new people along the way. One of the best parts of community gardens is the diversity of people who want to participate, from beginners to life-time gardeners. The donations that come from the gardens are my favorite part of it all. Food banks in the area are so appreciative of the fresh food we bring in. It increases the impact the gardens already have on the community.

Another wonderful aspect of this role is the potential for growth in the community, gardens, programs, and impact. Looking ahead, I am extremely excited to push this programming forward and expand it throughout the area.

Contact me by email or call with any questions or suggestions.