Guest contributor Pamela Price is the founder of Red, White & Grew, a blog devoted to “Promoting the Victory Garden Revival and other simple, earth-friendly endeavors as bipartisan, patriotic acts in an age of uncertainty.”
A few decades ago, Americans would have learned how to raise peas, carrots and corn under the watchful eye of a family member. That still happens, of course, in many rural areas. Alas, it happens too infrequently in suburban and urban communities. Sure, there have been pockets of progress. Community and school garden advocacy groups have helped nurture new gardeners nationwide.
But when it comes to launching a successful, full-fledged victory garden revival, one that can help ensure access to fresh grown food in tight times just as previous efforts did in WWI & WWII, the country will need legions of experienced gardeners working to educate newcomers.
Are you an accomplished green thumb? Does the idea of teaching new veggie gardeners the ropes appeal to you? If so, here are three mentoring options to explore:
• Become a Master Gardener – This is the traditional approach. Through a series of courses offered by your county/parish extension office, you can become a certified horticultural expert. In exchange for your education in both edible and ornamental plants that typically flourish in your region, you’ll be asked to volunteer in your local community through research endeavors, presentations, phone consultations, and other outreach avenues. One of the nice things about this option is that it is also a suitable training route for new or intermediate gardeners who have a knack for leading people. To locate a program in your area, visit the American Horticulture Society’s Master Gardeners page.
• Become a Garden Coach – Whether they are trained professionals or self-taught hobbyists, garden coaches should have considerable first-hand experience before hanging out a shingle. Note that the biggest difference between the work of a master gardener and a garden coach is that the later is more apt to be for hire. (Some professional coaches do, however, have or obtain the master gardener credential.) If you possess considerable gardening knowledge and think coaching is the best route for you, Susan Harris’s The Gardening Coach Blog offers excellent tips and strategies to get you started. Want to hire a coach? Check out the Worldwide Directory of Garden Coaches.
• Mentor Online – This the most flexible and dynamic of the three options. It’s also arguably the most common approach. Participants may not think of it in those terms, but mentoring happens all the time in various online forums. Some well-respected, popular sites to check out and contribute include Kitchen Gardeners International, Dave’s Garden, and iVillage’s GardenWeb.
Feeling entrepreneurial? Follow the lead of other successful gardeners and use your blog (or your Facebook.com or Twitter.com account) to provide tips and strategies tailored to your region or climate zone. And don’t forget MeetUp.com–that’s a great networking tool that could tie-in with your mentoring efforts, helping you to create a grassroots community of green thumbs. Thanks to social media and the World Wide Web, the possibilities are endless for creating specialized, garden-centered learning communities.
At the same time, it’s important to make sure that people find and read your work. Want a built-in audience from the outset? Create a special site or online forum tailored to your faith community, school, town, or neighborhood association. To ensure this target audience finds your site (or sites), make inexpensive business cards or flyers on your computer to publicize it locally. Independent coffee shops and natural food stores often have bulletin boards for just this sort of thing.
To spark further interest, host a small introductory meeting featuring nibbles–or a potluck meal–at your home, in a church fellowship hall, or at another accessible location. If your contribution to the spread includes fresh-picked or preserved produce from your own garden, all the better!
Public domain image.