Kathy Brown is Master Gardener

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Master Gardeners must volunteer 20 hours annually to keep their status. Above, several Master Gardeners and volunteers from a local church group weed the St. Olaf garden that feeds the Clayton County Food Shelf. (Photo submitted)

By Molly Moser

Guttenberg resident Kathy Brown, like many in the area, was born and raised on a farm. “We had a huge garden so we were pretty much raised on the produce and milk, eggs and meat grown on the farm,” she told The Press. “It was very much organic and there was no processed food, so I guess I am a firm believer in ‘natural’ and ‘the way God gave it to us is best!’”

Two years ago, Brown returned to her roots by participating in a Master Gardener course. “Becoming a Master Gardener is a two-year program. During year one, the Master Gardener trainee takes 40 hours of educational classes. During year two, they become a Master Gardener intern and complete 40 hours of volunteer service work,” said Holly Loan, executive coordinator at the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Office in Elkader. 

Courses for the state-wide program are taught by Iowa State University faculty, local horticulture experts and Extension and Outreach educators. Topics include vegetables, houseplants, compost, flowers, fruits, turf grass, landscape design, woody landscape plants, plant propagation, soils, wildlife management, integrated pest management, plant pathology and entomology, as well as a full Saturday of hands-on workshops at Iowa State University. After two years of coursework, participants officially become Master Gardeners. 

To uphold their status, Master Gardeners must take 10 hours of continuing education and perform 20 hours of volunteer service annually.

“I met some really nice people in the class and we have bonded,” said Brown. She and other Master Gardeners are giving back through a special project for the Clayton County Food Shelf. In 2017, the Clayton County Master Gardeners received a Snap Ed Mini Grant to start a donation garden in St. Olaf that feeds the Clayton County Food Shelf. This year, they received another grant to expand the donation garden and add raised beds for greens. 

“Last year we gave almost 900 pounds of produce. This year we are enlarging the garden as we decided it was too small,” Brown told The Press. “It is work and also a lot of fun working together outside in the fresh air and sunshine.” In addition to their contribution to the food shelf, the Master Gardeners volunteer with various gardening projects on public land around the county.

There are currently nine Master Gardeners in Clayton County. “Clayton County is in need of many, many more members and now is the time to sign up for the class that will start in the fall,” said Brown. “I took the 10 week class in 2016. We have a study book and materials to read each week with questions we go over each week in class. Every county has Master Gardeners and they all have wonderful projects and present meetings all year that we can attend. Some counties have dozens of members and Clayton County is trying to encourage more people to become certified and join the fun of helping.”

For more information or to register for Master Gardener courses, which will be held this fall, visit at https://www.extension.iastate.edu/mastergardener/become-master-gardener.

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