Idaho Master Gardener School Mentor Program Sprouts Statewide

Friday, August 30 2013

MOSCOW – School gardens across Idaho will get some expert help from 11 University of Idaho Extension Master Gardener volunteers who will serve as mentors this growing season.

An Idaho Department of Education child nutrition grant planted the seeds for the cooperative effort.

UI Extension selected the mentors from those trained in its Idaho Master Gardeners program who already provide service to the public in counties statewide, said project leader Ariel Agenbroad, UI Extension Canyon County horticulture educator at Caldwell.

The Master Gardener mentors will guide schools in managing their own gardens by providing technical expertise and assisting garden leadership teams with horticultural issues, she said.

Idaho Master Gardener mentors will be paired with schools that received a $2,000 grant for a school garden from the Idaho Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Program.

“This is a great opportunity for Idaho Master Gardeners to continue to “grow” as volunteers and serve their communities,” Agenbroad said. “They see that real need to connect kids to farming and agriculture through gardening.”

Jennifer Brown, Master Gardener mentor for Ms. Amy’s Daycare in Fruitland, has worked in early childhood education for years. Her background is ideal for Master Gardener mentors working with schools across Idaho.

“I was ecstatic when this opportunity came up because it’s down the line of what I’ve been doing and it’s just bringing the two together,” Brown said.

Some schools already have a gardening system in place. Brown has plans to connect her school’s garden to the playground area.

“I want to bridge that gap between the playground and the gardening area and intertwine them,” Brown said. “I think we can get a lot more going on there, more interaction with the kids.”

In many communities, schools are out for the summer, but the gardens will continue to grow with help from their students, teachers, administrators, parent volunteers and the master gardener mentors, Agenbroad said.

The Idaho Department of Education program funded a range of schools from Coeur d’Alene’s Fernan Elementary to Boise’s Borah High School. Others participating include the Moscow Charter School and Mountain Home Air Force Base Youth Programs.

In several communities, year-round child care centers will participate in the garden program.

In addition to experiencing gardening and developing an appreciation for agriculture, Agenbroad said, the young gardeners will enjoy the healthy fruits, and vegetables, of their labors.

Participating Idaho schools and organizations, and their Master Gardener mentors include:

• Troy Elementary, Troy, Nancy Hepler McElroy
• Little People’s Academy, Idaho Falls, Mark Heckenbach
• Parma Learning Center, Parma, Debbie Delaney
• Tater Tots Child Care, American Falls, Myrna Keyes
• Heritage Community Charter School, Caldwell, Kerry Fuller
• Meridian Middle School, Meridian, Mary Fitzpatrick
• Borah High School, Boise, Helen Brookman
• Mountain Home Air Force Base Youth Programs, Mountain Home, Kim Kovac
• Ms. Amy's Daycare, Fruitland, Jennifer Brown
• Kellogg Middle School, Kellogg, Mike Bauer
• Fernan Elementary, Coeur d' Alene, Julie McKerracher