Extending Extension's Outreach
A strong, healthy community is one that strives to work in harmony with its natural environment and develop economic and social opportunities while preserving the quality of life. University of Illinois Extension urban programs work with a variety of neighborhood and community groups as well as the horticulture and environmental industries to develop gardens and community parks, reclaim urban lands, and teach safe and environmentally friendly practices.
Master Gardeners spend eleven weeks in training learning about horticulture, botany, pest control, and related topics and in return serve 60 hours as volunteers. They answer consumer calls, provide technical assistance, and teach others the basics of horticulture.
In Rockford, Extension Master Gardeners worked with Singer Mental Health Center to develop and maintain a vegetable and flower garden throughout the summer. Residents learned how to prepare, plant, and harvest their gardens from the Master Gardeners.
Two residents at Park Towers, a senior citizen housing complex, have received training on how to build and maintain raised beds and use the square-foot gardening method to gain high production with limited space. As a result, they have been able to provide produce for their own families as well as for others in their high-rise.
After attending a workshop taught by Master Gardeners, members from the Rockford Men's Garden Club developed a program to work with residents at the Barbara Olson Center of Hope. Although gardens had been planted before at the center, efforts saw little success because participants in wheel chairs could not move around in the gardens. With Extension's help and training, raised-bed gardens were built, and the gardens are now accessible to residents in wheel chairs. Each week the children have the opportunity to work in the gardens and harvest the produce.
For more information about the Master Gardener program in your area, contact your local Extension office.