Updated: Nov 13
Volunteers grow more than two tons of vegetables, fruits and herbs to support local food security efforts
The past summer's issue of Northern Gardener Magazine exhorted readers to “Get Growing This Summer!” Ramsey County Master Gardener volunteers answered the call by grabbing their spades and donating over 4,000 pounds of produce in 2023. In addition to donations made by individual Ramsey County Master Gardeners to local food shelves, RCMG volunteers partnered with three Ramsey County programs to bring even more value to the community.
At the White Bear Area Food Shelf, Ramsey County Master Gardener volunteers composted and mulched the Community Roots Garden after installing an irrigation system. Community volunteers, including school children, donated seeds and seedlings that RCMG volunteers planted. RCMG volunteers also helped food shelf volunteers maintain the garden, harvest the produce, and package the herbs and onions for food shelf clients. By the end of the summer, 93 pounds of dill, green onions, basil, Thai basil, cilantro, and parsley had been grown and donated. If you’ve ever weighed a bunch of basil, you know that is a lot of herbs.
Ramsey County Master Gardener volunteers also planted and maintained demonstration vegetable gardens at our home base (the Red Barn) on White Bear Avenue. Volunteers worked throughout the summer to keep plants watered and tended. All harvested produce is donated to the Keystone Food Shelf on Rice Street. In 2023, volunteers delivered 1,869.5 pounds of pole beans, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes, and collard greens to the food shelf. The Ramsey County Master Gardener demonstration gardens at the Barn are open to the public and illustrate several techniques for growing these vegetables successfully in an urban setting.
A dedicated crew of Ramsey County Master Gardener volunteers also operated a free farmers market called Gardens for Good each week at the Wilson Hi-Rise on the East Side of St. Paul. Ramsey County Master Gardener volunteers donated their home-grown produce to the to effort, and a group of volunteers sorted, weighed, and organized the food for transport to the Wilson Hi-Rise. Another team of Master Gardener volunteers brought the food to Wilson and set up the market. Wilson residents were lined up and waiting every week. The excitement grew throughout the summer as residents eagerly awaited the first ripe tomatoes, but they were just as enthusiastic about the melons, potatoes, and hot peppers. Ramsey County Master Gardener volunteers also donated fresh cut flowers and herbs each week, and in the late spring before garden produce was ready, houseplants and small patio plants were distributed. The participating Ramsey County Master Gardener volunteers donated over 2,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to Wilson Hi-Rise in 2023.
One of the Master Gardener Volunteer Program Priorities is Local Food—promoting the use of sustainable techniques for growing local food on multiple scales and at various locations. Donating more than TWO TONS of produce this season also helped alleviate food scarcity and enabled people on limited incomes to add more fresh vegetables to their diets.
If you’re a gardener who grows too many cucumbers or cherry tomatoes, join Ramsey County Master Gardener volunteers next year in sharing more locally-grown food with our community. Think of the joy you’ll be putting on someone’s plate!
Master Gardener Volunteer
This project supports the Local Foods priority of the Master Gardener Volunteer Program: Promote the use of sustainable techniques to grow local food on multiple scales and in different types of locations.