Food Gardening Specialists - 2016
Food Garden Specialists (FGS) are volunteers in the UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County. They have a passion for and extra training in sustainable food gardening. In addition to offering food gardening workshops, they provide free advice and consultation services to community gardens throughout Sonoma County.
The inquisitive spirit of the group is not to be underestimated. Specialists explore, research and apply a number of new, evolving and resurrected food gardening practices. For the past two years, an emphasis has been on the drought with an effort to provide information to home gardeners on how to have a thriving vegetable garden with less water (a Food Gardening with Less Water video and resources can be found on this website). This education, along with other food gardening topics will continue in 2016. Currently, FGS are experimenting with Chipped Branch Wood (CBW), trying to replicate the forest floor and observing benefits realized in the food garden. You can follow the progress of this project on this website.
There have been recent exciting developments. First, the FGS were charged with developing a Youth Garden Program that provides consultation and advice to Sonoma County schools and youth programs that are exploring or managing food gardens. The Master Gardener Youth Garden Program was implemented on a trial basis in 2015 and is expected to expand in 2016. Second, the FGS are increasing their presence in and strengthening relationships with underrepresented communities within Sonoma County, especially with community and social action food gardens.
As to be expected, individuals in this project are active food gardeners. Almost all have a home food garden and/or community garden allotment. In addition, many volunteer in social action gardens that address the produce needs of the needy (such as Harvest for the Hungry), or in school gardens. At the January FGS planning meeting, the 2016 resolutions expressed by these individuals were ambitious: plant cover crops, grow less/practice restraint—only what is needed, use chipped branch wood, grow food in straw bales, implement no-till gardening, experiment with square foot gardening, join a community garden, go crazy with mulch, do more vertical gardening, practice companion planting, put a Christmas present—a wood chipper—in action, experiment with plants with which children can succeed and cover the complete yard with food crops. One specialist said that she wanted to improve her succession planting (transitioning a productive garden from season to season). She is going to do this by following “Sundays with Sue” on our Facebook page. Sue, a Food Gardening Specialist, writes a weekly Facebook feature on edible landscaping and demonstrates how to eat from your garden twelve months of the year.
Want to learn more? Look for free 2-hour FGS classes on the program’s Workshop Calendar or Facebook page. Most workshops are advertised in the Saturday Home and Garden section of the Press Democrat and in some local newspapers. If you are the leader of a Sonoma County community, church or social action food garden that is in need of a gardening consultation or educational service, you can call the Master Gardener Information Desk, (707) 565-2608, and leave a message requesting a call back from the FGS group.