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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sometimes You Just Have to Jump Ship Before It Sinks!

One more thing. Due to the economic crisis, Sonoma County is trying to cut back. There will be a series of meetings to get feedback about areas where there could be reductions or complete cuts. Apparently, whether to get rid of the Master Gardener Program in this county or not is being discussed. While it is an off shoot of the University of California Cooperative Extension, each county in the State has to contribute to the financial support of the program locally.

I have been in the program for three years now. I feel that we could be of much more value to the community than we are, but we are constrained by the rules of the program itself. A few years ago, I wanted to do library presentations on the 'crops of the Americas' motivated by a new stamp put out by the Postal Service. The talk would have been about the significance of five plants domesticated in the New World and was to include recipes and foods to sample (prepared by me). I was told I could say nothing about recipes, let alone let people sample. We could not advise how to use anything. A talk about herbs was strictly about growing them, not what they were for - you could say rosemary is often used as a culinary herb, but no more. Well, this totally turned me off and I decided not to proceed at all.

Lately, during the book club meeting where we discussed "The End of Food" (see below), some of us expressed the frustration we feel that while we have been specially trained to provide information to the public, there are so many constraints that we are in fact, ineffectual. Many of us agreed that we must be proactive is assisting the public in growing their own food and making healthier food choices. Many people don't eat fresh vegetables because they have no idea how to prepare them. There was talk of forming our own group outside of the official one that would get more hands-on.

If the MG program is disbanded in this county, I guess that might free us up to do what we want. Of course, we will not have the benefit of all the support we get from the program, nor the access we have to the public via the county fair, farmers' markets, and other events where we volunteer.