Future Gardeners train through ‘I Can Garden Club’

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By Marci Moore, Special to The Shopper

Coweta Master Gardener Extension Volunteers (MGEVs) love playing in the dirt, but that’s not all they do. They have amazing hearts of gold and reach out to our community to educate, share and help.

MGEVs are not paid or reimbursed for their expenses. The only benefit they get is seeing the smiles they put on the faces of Coweta County residents. Many of these priceless smiles are from beautiful children that are learning from volunteers who share their knowledge, time and love of gardening.

Each year the Boys and Girls Club children join the MGEV gardening group through the “I Can Garden Club” where participants learn how to garden by growing and eating their own vegetables.

Each child participates in twelve to fourteen sessions with MGEVs. They participate in fun classroom activities, journal about their experiences and then “learn by doing” in their own garden areas. The program helps Boys & Girls Club members focus on health, education and leadership.

The “I Can Garden Club” is made possible by donations from Piedmont Hospital & the Kiwanis Club of Coweta County. It includes children ages six to eleven who arrive on buses each week to join their “garden teachers” where they put newly acquired skills and knowledge into action.

Participants also enjoy two field trips each year. This year they visited Country Gardens Farm where students delighted in picking sugar peas right out of the garden. The second field trip was a scavenger hunt at the Coweta County Fairgrounds Nature Center and students also visited the Extension greenhouse to learn about growing tomato plants from seed.

The group also participates in learning activities like the “String Bean Tasting” which is a tasting contest between fresh cooked, frozen cooked, store bought canned and homemade canned green beans. Guess which ones were the favorite? Of course, the homemade canned green beans were the favorite and participants ate all their green vegetables that day!

Their gardens have an annual theme. Since the program began in 2013, they have grown pizza, potato soup, vegetable soup and salsa gardens. This season’s salsa garden ended with a “Chips & Salsa” party where the “I Can Garden Club” finished up the year by learning how to make salsa from the vegetables they had grown. The Boys & Girls Club also hosts an event in Atlanta where the Club shares salsa with neighboring B&G Clubs.

Now you see why the Coweta MGEVs were honored by the Boys & Girls Club as the 2018 Volunteer of the Year. Joanne Donahay, the “I Can Garden Club” team leader, said “we are in the community helping.”

Joanne has volunteered with the program for five years, has been team leader for three years and is a prime example of why volunteers join this program. They have a heart for serving and want to see future generations become successful gardeners.

MGEV Volunteer Team shown with Garden Club participants (Back L-R): Roni Wolcott, Charlene Allison, Kris Carpenter, Denise Dasher, Joanne Donahay, Dale Senko, Nancy Harrelson, Faye Haynes, Jan Bowyer, Judi Worth. Not shown: Julie Bull, Amy Keller, Pat Farmer.

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