Humus and Pimento Cheese – TN Master Gardener Training

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Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 3.44.17 PMWhat do we want? PORE SPACE?  How do we get it? HUMUS!

This, I’m sure, is the official cheer for Master Gardeners. We had a hootin’ and hollerin’ good time during the third Tennessee Master Gardener training class–which was all about soil and plant nutrition. Last week we had a great speaker on landscape design and, as you can imagine, there were lots of lovely pictures to ooh and ahh over. So, when I sat down to do my homework for this week about dirt, I was a little worried that the honeymoon was over and it was time for the really boring classes to start. I’m not a scientist and I literally cannot remember a single thing from high school biology. Reading about minerals and soil amendments and the science of decomposition was proving to be a bit of a challenge (it probably didn’t help that my “reading partner” was drooling all over the pages). I was starting to think that this was going to be too hard.

Baby Holding the Textbook

Here’s my reading partner. She’s really into dirt right now too.

I was wrong. Soil is awesome and SO not boring.  Our instructor this week will go down in history for being the first person to make dirt interesting and will forever be credited with crafting our official MG cheer. It’s all about pore space, y’all. Get that organic matter decomposed (humus), feed those micro-organisms, and BAM you’ve got pore space in your soil to hold the water, air and nutrients your plants need to grow. Okay, it’s not exactly that simple or the class would have been 5 minutes instead of three hours, but you get the idea.

So far I’ve come away from every class feeling like I’ve learned a LOT of really helpful information, and with the desire to keep learning more!  It was a really great decision to start the journey to becoming a Master Gardener in Tennessee. You know what else is awesome about training to become an MG in Tennessee? Someone always brings a tub of killer pimento cheese for snack time. Oh, and donuts…lots of donuts.

What do we want? PORE SPACE (and pimento cheese)! How do we get it? HUMUS (and show up next week because that’s just how we roll here)!

This is the second post in a series on becoming a Master Gardener, by AmpleHarvest.org’s Grower Outreach Coordinator, Emily Fulmer. Read the first post here.

TN Extension Master Gardener in Training

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TN Extension Master Gardener in Training

by Emily Fulmer, Grower Outreach Coordinator at AmpleHarvest.org

Jack (or Jane, really) of all trades, master of none. That’s how I’ve often described myself. I grow a vegetable garden, I keep some chickens, I play musical instruments, I’m raising a couple of kids, I can check the oil and change the tires on my car, but I would never claim to be an expert in any of these areas. Most of the time I feel like I’m just trying to make sure everyone survives the day.

IMG_6486In the coming year, I hope to change that to Jane of all trades–master of ONE. I’ve just embarked on the journey to becoming coming a Master Gardener! (Not sure what a Master Gardener is? Read my earlier post about it here). I went to my first class yesterday at the Shelby County, Tennessee Agricultural Extension office with about 60 other eager “wannabe” MGs. Each was handed a green tote bag with the Tennessee Extension Master Gardener Handbook–or as I think I’m going to call it the TN gardening bible.  This thing is HUGE, and as we each stood up to introduce ourselves to the class, it was all I could do to keep myself from cracking it open to start reading.

IMG_6497The introductions, though they took a long time, were pretty incredible. Most of my classmates are retired or almost retired, and I’m pretty sure my kids are younger than all of their grandkids…but no one tried to pinch my cheeks or anything. What struck me was how many of them said they grew up on a farm or came from a long line of farmers–despite that, they still couldn’t figure out why their tomato plants were dying. That made me feel a lot less insecure about my MANY garden failings.

It’s not going to be easy to finish this–14 classes spread over as many weeks, 40 volunteer hours, 8 continuing education units, homework and tests–but I think it’s so worth it.  I’ll be learning so much, I’ll be meeting so many people, and I’ll be volunteering at gardens across the county to earn this title of Master Gardener. Like most things, I’m sure I’ll find that the more I know, the more I’ll realize all that I don’t know.  Perhaps that’s the true meaning of “Master”–to realize that the depth of knowledge is endless and so the quest for knowledge continues.  I’ll be posting regularly about my journey and I hope you’ll join me.

Take Action to End Hunger and Wasted Food with AmpleHarvest.org

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Take Action to End Hunger and Wasted Food Now with AmpleHarvest.org

1. Make a tax-deductible donation to AmpleHarvest.org.  In a traditional food drive, one can of food equals one can of food. A monetary donation to AmpleHarvest.org equals countless pounds of fresh food donated to food pantries across America. Every dollar you give goes a long way to end hunger and wasted food in ALL 50 states.  Visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/donate to make a secure donation online.

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2. If you’ve got even the tiniest of green thumbs, pledge to plant some extra veggies in your garden to donate to your local food pantry. Take the pledge hereScreen shot 2014-09-03 at 10.05.41 AM

3. If your thumbs aren’t green at all, that’s ok! Tap into your creative side and create a whole fruit or vegetable centerpiece for your holiday table. When you’re done enjoying it, donate the whole thing to your local food pantry and it will bless TWO tables! Read more about our Centerpieces for Pantries campaign at www.AmpleHarvest.org/holiday

Centerpieces for Pantries

4. No green thumb and not a creative bone in your body? That’s okay too! These are really easy ways to donate FOR FREE to AmpleHarvest.org:

  • Grab your cell phone and text “Give3″ to 79008 and BV Wines will donate $1 to AmpleHarvest.org on your behalf.
  • Visit Post’s Great Grains Facebook page between now and February 1, 2015 to take the “Fad Free Pledge” to eat healthy wholesome foods this year. When you pledge, they make a $3 donation to AmpleHarvest.org!
  • Get creative with your New Year’s resolution at http://tastybite.com/resolutions/ and they will donate $1 on your behalf to help us continue our work to end hunger in America.
  • When you’re shopping online use Amazon Smile and they will make a donation on your behalf. Visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/Amazon to make your online purchases.

5. Help us spread the word about AmpleHarvest.org the 42 million Americans who are growing food gardens! Like our facebook page, and invite your friends to like it too. Join us on InstagramTwitter, and Pinterest. Write a blog article about AmpleHarvest.org–there’s a sample blog post and graphics on this page.

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6. Help a food pantry get registered on AmpleHarvest.org so that growers can find them when they have extra food to donate.  When you’ve located a food pantry in your community, check to see if they are already registered by searching at www.AmpleHarvest.org/findpantry. If they are not there, give them a call or send them an email letting them know that registering on AmpleHarvest.org is FREE and it will help them get fresh food donations for their clients!

 

AmpleHarvest.org – Also Getting People Fed

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AmpleHarvest.org – Also Helping People Get Fed.
By Gary Oppenheimer

Gary Oppenheimer is the Founder and Executive Director of AmpleHarvestorg

Gary Oppenheimer is the Founder and Executive Director of AmpleHarvestorg

People like to think of AmpleHarvest.org as “that website that connects gardeners to food pantries” and they are right because that what we’ve been telling them for more than 5 years. However, that perspective is as simplistic as thinking that the importance of the invention of the syringe is that it allows you to inject a fluid into a person.  Accurate but incomplete.

You can also think of the syringe as the device that helped to eliminate small pox from across the planet, helps to keep another 1918 flu pandemic from killing tens of millions of people, or helps to assure that no more children will face the risk of living their life in an iron lung.

Or you can just think of it as a long pointy device that can hurt.  Again, correct but not completely correct.

In 2009, AmpleHarvest.org launched when a complaint from someone in a community garden about food going to waste was followed by my, “If we are going to have an ample harvest, let’s give it to people who really need it” response.

For a long time, I thought that we were feeding people.  That was accurate but incomplete.  We are getting people fed but not by feeding them.  However, thinking… and saying…. that we’re feeding people did help the public understand AmpleHarvest.org even though it made funding more difficult because people being fed was the outcome of our actual core work – ending the waste of food.

In short, I had forgotten that AmpleHarvest.org started because too much food was being left in a garden and not because people in the community were hungry.  My bad.

Food BoxesAs I’ve stepped back from the weeds to better look at the forest, I’ve come to better understand that AmpleHarvest.org’s true magic is that by reducing the waste of food, especially garden produce, it helps the environment, reduces the costs of feeding programs, reduces the long term health care costs of the country and it builds bridges between the people in the community and the food pantries in the community.  Oh yea… it also helps people get fed.

For example, I have had speaking engagements over the past few years at Wharton, Temple University and U Penn.  Philly seems to have a love affair with AmpleHarvest.org.

For each of these events as well as many others I’ve attended, they’ve had more box lunches than the number of people who ultimately showed up.lunch box donations

In the past, they would have been thrown away—increasing the waste stream and wasting both money and the food.

In each case however, by using AmpleHarvest.org much as a gardener would, the extra food was donated to a nearby food pantry, soup kitchen or shelter because the event organizer realized that the old ways of doing things are not necessarily the best ways of doing things.  And I suspect that going forward, excess box lunches will continue to be donated which will help the environment, reduce costs at the receiving agency (pantry, etc.), provide nutrition that will help local families and build will bridges within the community.

Oh yeah… it will also help people get fed.

Not all donations are created equal – AmpleHarvest.org

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There’s a strange magic that happens when you donate to AmpleHarvest.org.  For our first act, we’ll quadruple your donation. Ta-da! That’s right, from now until December 12, for every dollar you donate, an anonymous donor will match it with an additional THREE dollars–up to $10,000.  That’s pretty magical, right? But, our second act will knock your socks off.  When you make a donation to AmpleHarvest.org, your money goes a long way….farther than you might think.

Every donation you make to AmpleHarvest.org helps us reach MILLIONS of gardeners across the United States. When a gardener or farmer learns that he or she can donate food to their local food pantry, they can continue to donate for the rest of their gardening life. Your donation helps us connect them to a food pantry so that millions of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables can be shared with those in need–year after year after year.

Not all donations are created equal:

double donation campaign 2

In a traditional food drive, one can of food equals one can of food. A monetary donation to AmpleHarvest.org equals countless pounds of fresh food donated to food pantries across America for years to come.

Make a donation before December 12th (to have it quadrupled!) and we’ll use our strange magic to multiply the impact a million times over.   Visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/donate to make a secure donation online, or download this form to send a check in the mail.

Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday Fatigue – AmpleHarvest.org

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Is it Wednesday yet?

giving tuesday graphic

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that today is “Cyber Monday” -a day of great deals and discounts for online purchases.  You may also be aware that tomorrow is “Giving Tuesday” -a day to give back and do good after a long weekend of over-eating and over-shopping.

We’ve got a better idea: let’s just combine them!  Shop online today at Amazon.com and find some great deals. When you shop, let Amazon make a donation to AmpleHarvest.org on your behalf. It’s really easy!

Visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/Amazon or click the AmazonSmile button to the right — this will take smile buttonyou to our AmazonSmile page where every qualified purchase you make triggers a donation to AmpleHarvest.org from the AmazonSmile Foundation on your behalf.  It’s really easy and your Cyber Monday shopping will help us reduce hunger and malnutrition across the United States.

Help us spread the word by forwarding this email to your friends and family. Pssst: If you include your Christmas wish list they can help AmpleHarvest.org AND get you what you really want for Christmas.

Our AmazonSmile program works 365 days a year, so you can even make a difference on regular old boring, no-name Wednesday if you’d like.  Just remember to bookmark the link so that all of your future eligible shopping will benefit AmpleHarvest.org.

Giving More than Thanks this Thanksgiving – AmpleHarvest.org

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Can any more things be crammed into one week? We’re traveling, cooking, shopping, eating–some of us doing one or more of these almost at the competitive level–and on top of all of that, we’re supposed take some time to really appreciate what we have and be thankful for it.

Whew. I’m tired already.

Thanksgiving can be pretty tough…like, when that one family member insists on talking about all of the subjects you’d rather avoid, when the weather ruins your travel plans, when your team loses the big game, or when you get stuck in “black friday” traffic when you’re just trying to get to your Aunt’s house to meet your newest cousin before you head back home. But, sometimes the giving thanks part can be the hardest.

We’re not conditioned to appreciate what we have. It’s not a natural part of our human nature. Just ask a 4 year old to come up with 5 things he’s thankful for…mine is already saying thanks for that one Christmas present he KNOWS Santa is going to bring him (wink wink).  We want stuff, we want more than we have now, and we’re not good at being happy with what we’ve got.

If you’re finding it hard to give thanks, just imagine an empty plate.  Imagine what millions of Americans face every day–the panic and insecurity of not know where their next meal is coming from.  If you have something to be thankful for, consider giving more than just thanks. Give of your abundance to help a family in need.

Any uncut fruits and vegetables or unopened food items that you haven’t used this Thanksgiving can be donated to those in need. If you’ve made a beautiful edible centerpiece for your holiday table (www.AmpleHarvest.org/Holiday), find a food pantry near you at www.AmpleHarvest.org/findpantry and make a donation.

And, bring that 4 year old along too. Maybe if he’s shown an example of honest gratitude and humble giving, he’ll grow up to be a little more compassionate, and slightly less obsessed with what’s going to be under the Christmas tree.

GIVE THANKS for what you have, and work

DIY End Hunger with Centerpieces for Food Pantries

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DIY End Hunger with Centerpieces for Food Pantries

Centerpieces for Pantries

AmpleHarvest.org encourages and enables gardeners across the United States to donate their excess garden bounty to local food pantries. But, what about when the garden is resting for the winter? You can still reduce hunger in your community with this super fun and creative DIY project called Centerpieces for Food Pantries.  The idea is simple and possibilities are endless! Here’s how:

1. Gather some fresh fruits and vegetables from Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 12.43.31 PMyour garden, the grocery, or farmers market.

2. Arrange the whole, uncut fruits and vegetables in a basket, bowl or just on your table. Be sure to take a picture of your creation and share it with us. Post it to our Facebook wall, upload it to Instagram and tag it with hashtag #ampleharvest, or email it to us at iShared@AmpleHarvest.org.

3. Enjoy! Display your creation on your holiday dinner table. Make it a conversation piece! Tell your family and friends that you care about the 1 in 6 Americans who don’t know where their next meal is coming from and you are doing your part to help the hungry in your community. Tell Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 12.43.44 PMthem that the beautiful food that’s decorating your table today will be donated to a local food pantry to help feed a family in need.

4. Donate that food!  Visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/findpantry to search for a food pantry near you.  Any pantry you find on our site is ready and able to accept fresh food donations. You can find the hours they are open and in many cases you can see a list of other items that they may need as well.

Time to get started! Here are some more pictures to inspire you. All were made by our Instagram friend @uprootny. To read more about the campaign visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/holiday

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Food Day 2014 – AmpleHarvest.org

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food-day_2014October 24 is Food Day–a day to resolve to make changes in our own diets and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level. This annual event involves some of the country’s most prominent food activists, united by a vision of food that is healthy, affordable, and produced with care for the environment, farm animals, and the people who grow, harvest, and serve it. With Food Day, we can celebrate our food system when it works and fix it when it’s broken.

AmpleHarvest.org is a national partner of Food Day 2014 because we believe that when we work together we can reduce hunger in our communities by increasing access to fresh and healthy foods for all. We believe that no food should be wasted. No food should be left behind in a home or community garden. We work hard to make it simple for food growers of all stripes to donate their extra vegetables, fruits, herbs and nuts to their local food pantries where it can be distributed to our most vulnerable communities.

Join us in celebrating this world day of action and reflection by getting involved with our campaign to move food from garden to pantry!  From the comfort of your home computer (or work computer on your coffee break!), you can make a huge difference in your community.  Here are some simple ways to take action for Food Day:

1. If you’ve got even the tiniest of green thumbs, pledge to plant some extra veggies in your garden to donate to your local food pantry. Take the pledge hereScreen shot 2014-09-03 at 10.05.41 AM

2. If your thumbs aren’t green at all, that’s ok! Tap into your creative side and create a whole fruit or vegetable centerpiece for your holiday table. When you’re done enjoying it, donate the whole thing to your local food pantry and it will bless TWO tables! Read more about our Centerpieces for Pantries campaign at www.AmpleHarvest.org/holiday

Centerpieces for Pantries

3. Help us spread the word about AmpleHarvest.org the 42 million Americans who are growing food gardens! Like our facebook page, and invite your friends to like it too. Join us on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Write a blog article about AmpleHarvest.org–there’s a sample blog post and graphics on this page.

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4. Help a food pantry get registered on AmpleHarvest.org so that growers can find them when they have extra food to donate.  When you’ve located a food pantry in your community, check to see if they are already registered by searching at www.AmpleHarvest.org/findpantry. If they are not there, give them a call or send them an email letting them know that registering on AmpleHarvest.org is FREE and it will help them get fresh food donations for their clients!

 

Food Pantry Friday

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“If we all donate a little bit, it can make a big difference in the lives of others.”

Guest blog post by Jackie Tona, Case Worker at Ruth’s Place – Volunteers of America of Pennsylvania located in Wilkes-Barre, PA


Most of us know if one eats well one does well. In my time here at Ruth’s Place, a Program of Volunteers of America, I’ve found that many people in the community are very giving of food donations. We have local bakeries who donate breads and pastries and also volunteers in the community who come in and make dinners for the women residing in the shelter. At any given time, you can look in our food pantry and find canned anything; pastas, cereals and anything else that has a shelf life of a few years. One thing that isn’t commonly found is fresh produce.

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Fresh produce donation photo by Jenny Rottinger

Most people know that eating more fruits and vegetables will give you more energy and make you feel better, but most times at the shelter we don’t have access to produce. Lately, there has been a push with some local produce being donated from Fertile Grounds CSA and through gardeners finding us via AmpleHarvest.org. The women in the shelter are very excited and grateful to have access to fresh food to prepare and eat.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Fertile Grounds CSA, it is a local organic vegetable farm where people can pay an annual fee and receive a weekly box of fresh grown produce. Fertile Grounds has been extremely giving by donating to not only Ruth’s Place, but to many other programs in the area.

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My point? If you have extra produce that may just sit in your fridge or on your counter that will turn black and go bad, why not donate it to some people in the community that would appreciate and enjoy the food? I know that I buy produce and have had many weeks where I throw it out because it has gone bad before I eat it, but I won’t do that anymore. There are too many people less fortunate who aren’t getting the access to healthy foods, which are shown to improve mood and fight disease! If we all donate a little bit, it can make a big difference in the lives of others.


If you would like to be featured in a Food Pantry Friday post, please contact Leanne Mazurick, Food Pantry Outreach Coordinator at Leanne@AmpleHarvest.org