MU Extension hopes to expand gardening program
University of Missouri has recognized the Texas County Extension Center with a prestigious award for a youth program offered last summer.
The program "Garden 'n' Grow" gave a group of about 20 local kids enrolled in the Houston Optimist Club's after school program a close look at growing vegetables. The series of learning sessions and activities--both outdoors at the Community Garden and in a classroom setting--were conducted from late May to late July.
"The program has been part of MU Extension's mix of classes for several years, but last summer was the first time it had been offered locally," said Cammie Younger, nutrition and health specialist with University of Missouri Extension and county program director in Texas County.
Staff involved in conducting Garden 'n' Grow in Texas County were named as recipients of MU Extension's 2012 Teamwork/Internal Partnerships Award during MU Extension's regional faculty and staff meeting in December at the Fox Community Building in Licking.
The honor was earned in the environmental science category from among all MU Extension Centers around the state.
"Receiving recognition for the Garden 'n' Grow program is the ultimate success for the community as a whole," said Younger. "It shows the incredible amount of support from the community, with everyone receiving the benefits of gardening through better health and dollars saved in health care costs by learning to produce and consume healthy fruits and vegetables."
Officials with MU Extension officials said the teamwork award is designed to give recognition to people who have shown that the sum is greater than the individuals. Special recognition is given to teams that have included paraprofessionals, and/or support staff as members of the learning organization.
Garden 'n' Grow's nomination was based on the level and execution of collaboration used to offer the program to youth in Texas County. That collaboration featured support from 22 area businesses that donated funds and materials, along with hands-on assistance and guidance from Missouri Master Gardeners, Extension staff and support staff, the Houston Optimist Club, the Texas County Community Garden and the Texas County Food Pantry.
In addition to Younger, people overseeing the organization and delivery of the program locally included Extension Nutrition Program Associates Dana McGuire and Lorette Smith, Texas County Extension Administrative Assistant Amber Dailing, Extension South Central Region Nutrition Program Manager Terri Fossett, and Missouri Master Gardeners Velda Cross, Caroline Nugent, and Celinda Castleman.
As participating children and adults successfully braved last summer's excruciating heat, Garden 'n' Grow harvests produced approximately 1,000 pounds of fresh produce that was donated to the Texas County Food Pantry for distribution around the community.
Younger said plans are in place for a second annual Garden 'n' Grow program in Texas County.
"The University of Missouri is planning to continue to offer the program in 2013, and volunteers are needed to provide instruction and hands-on learning," said Younger. "The curriculum is user friendly and gardening experience is recommended but not required. Extension staff and Master Gardeners are available to serve as support and provide leadership for the program."
Younger said the success of the program in Houston could lead to bigger things for it in the future. "Extension is hoping to expand the program into other communities within the county," said Younger.
For more information, call the Texas County Extension Center at 417-967-4545.