Submitted by Ivory Harlow
Master Gardeners donate time, energy and enthusiasm to enrich their communities through garden education, but that isn’t all they donate… The gardeners grow fresh, healthy food for donation to area foodbanks. In 2018, Ross County Master Gardeners donated 4979.5 pounds of produce as part of the Grow Ohio Challenge.
Grow Ohio is a statewide competition sponsored by the Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Program. Twenty-one Ohio counties took the challenge in 2018. Together they grew and donated 57,786 pounds of produce; that’s 47,905 meals!
Master Gardener Dave Porter leads the project in Ross County. Dave became a certified Master Gardener in 2013. He began a prison garden project at Terry Collins Reentry Center, where he worked as a parole officer. Inmates were eager to learn about plants, enjoyed spending time in nature, and working outdoors with their hands. Dave discovered teaching inmates how to grow food allowed them to experience the positive fruits of their efforts in the garden.
Dave retired from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) in 2014 and began farming a 3-acre food plot with the help of Alvis House residents. Alvis House is a half-way home for rehabilitated offenders in Ross County. Dave works with residents to plant, grow, and harvest produce for the Grow Ohio Challenge. Dave delivers donations to organizations including: local foodbanks and pantries, churches, soup kitchens, and Airmen at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
The Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Program awarded Ross County with a $500 prize for winning the Grow Ohio Challenge small group category. Ross County Master Gardeners will utilize the funds to purchase seed, fertilizer and supplies for next year’s Grow Ohio Challenge.