URI Master Gardener Program Partners with Providence Public Library to Host Urban Workshop Series

The URI Master Gardener Program and Providence Public Library offered an introductory workshop series of gardening classes for urban and low income residents  from March through October 2017. The URI Master Gardening On-Ramp Series:  From Seed to Table was a welcome addition to the programming designed for On the Table, an exhibition and program series focused on food and dining culture.

Twenty-one people participated with most either working or living in the greater Providence area.  Their experience level ranged from beginning gardeners to those with years of experience wanting to develop their knowledge base.  Several of the participants were teachers, looking to gain knowledge to share with their students, middle school through adult literacy students. The class settled to about 15 participants attending regularly, with 10 finishing up at the October session. The first session at the Community Garden plot in Roger Williams Park was the best attended with 18 people joining to see the installment of the square foot garden, the preparation of the soil and the initial planting.

The series began with a presentation by Master Gardener John Gaynor at the Community Garden plot in Roger Williams Park.  Sandra Cook led two classes on square foot gardening.  The August session at the garden plot focused on pest management and was well received as many of the participants had run into some unwelcome visitors by that time in the growing season.

There were quite a few positive outcomes from the On-Ramp Series:

  • The establishment of a permanent Seed Library at the Providence Public Library in support of the On-Ramp participants as well as community gardeners. The cabinet is stocked with donations from the URI Master Gardeners’ school garden seeds and a donation from High Mowing Seeds, which proved very popular with the libraries’ gardeners. A relationship with the R.I. Wild Plant Society has been initiated and a donation of harvested seeds has been promised for later this fall.
  • One of the On-Ramp participants put together a Facebook page for sharing experiences and to post questions that arose during the series; this was a social media outlet that strengthened the connection among participants and further developed a sense of community. URI Master Gardening On-Ramp
  • On a lighter note, one of our participants rescued a chicken that had wandered into the Community Garden during our first session and they brought her the Maple Farm Sanctuary in Mendon, Massachusetts. At last report, the chicken is doing well at her new home.

This pilot was so successful that we are planning a similar program in 2018 for clients of local food pantries in partnership with the RI Food Bank.

A special thank you to Sandra Cook, John Gaynor, Cynthia Fuller, Lynne Farr and Angela Dellar who served as instructors and all members of the Produce Donation Program project who served as in -garden mentors at the community garden.  Kudos to Bill Baddeley and Charlie Junod who developed and organized the program.