Master Gardeners: Our National Mission
‘Extension Master Gardener programs educate people, engaging them in learning to use unbiased, research-based horticulture and gardening practices through a network of trained volunteers directed and supported by land-grant university faculty and staff.”
Underneath the quiet of pandemic strictures and social-distancing, the world hasn’t completely come to a stop. Just as, soon, crocuses (not, croci, we’re told) will begin poking through the snow, so will the Otsego County Master Gardeners’ exciting plan start to become a reality.
“The Grow With Cornell Cooperative Extension” fund drive has reached 70 percent of its $200,000 goal, Extension Director Don Smyers announced this week, and thus, with spring, an innovative redo of the organization’s parking lot at 123 Lake St., Cooperstown, (just before you get to The Farmers’ Museum), will get underway.
The Master Gardeners’ organization – its members instruct would-be gardeners in how-to and best practices, and its Memorial Day plant sale is an annual hit – is a low-key, but beloved entity, as underscored by how $140,000 was raised since October, in time of pandemic.
“Growth” Co-Chair Pati Grady of Cooperstown – the other co-chair is Jason Stone, who runs a Toddsville topiary business – is predicting the construction, overseen by McManus Construction of Fly Creek, will get underway this spring.
Phase One will be clearing the parking lot and installing the infrastructure – electric, water and a slab for the Greek Revival garden house that will follow in Phase Three. But the Master Gardeners aren’t going to wait to begin the fun part – working with the actual plants, said Grady.
“One thing we’re really focusing on now,” said Grady, “is raised-bed, demonstration food-growing gardens – which will be beautiful. We’re embracing something called ‘edible landscape,’ functioning gardens, mixed with vegetation that will deter deer, but attract bees.”
Those of us who putter, somewhat randomly, in our backyard vegetable gardens, can understand the 123 Lake project is taking the whole concept to the next level.
Another novel aspect is a rain garden – the strip will run across the front of the garden house – designed to naturally drain impurities from water that flows down the hill and across the parking lot, cleaning it up before it runs across Leatherstocking Golf Course into Otsego Lake.
The rain garden will yield pure water that Master Gardeners, as they train gardeners to be, will then use to water the plantings on-site.
The beauty of all this is stated in the Master Gardeners’ mission statement, printed in full at the top of this editorial: “to educate people … through a trained network of volunteers.”
This is not an inner-focused undertaking: The idea, first, is for Master Gardeners to upgrade their growing skills and, second, to show the rest of us in Otsego County how to do the same.
That must be underscored: The rest of us, ALL of us.
It’s instructive that the fundraising committee reaches beyond 123 Lake’s host community. It includes Oneonta’s Bill Woodward, a SUNY Oneonta administrator, at the county’s south end, to Betty Swetz of Richfield Springs, herself a Master Gardener, at the north end. (Smyers and Bob Sutherland, Mohican Farms manager, round out the panel.)
Anybody can participate in the programs, whether you’re tending a flourishing community garden plot next to Oneonta’s River Street School, or flourishing flower beds alongside Glimmerglass.
The Master Gardeners make full use of The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta’s Happenin’ Otsego calendar, so be sure to look for how you can benefit from what the MGs have to offer as the weather warms.
Meanwhile, while enough’s been raised to get started, another $65,000 is needed to complete this ambitious and intriguing plan.
In time of pandemic, something good is happening. Let’s help it grow. Let’s donate to allow “Growing With Cooperative Extension” to go the distance.