Seeding the Garden of Gardeners
As the wisdom of eating locally-grown food is spreading, so is interest in growing one's own food. Many would-be gardeners don't know much about Austin's growing seasons, how to design and orient a garden, what to plant where, how to build a functioning compost pile and other useful topics.
Out of the fertile minds of Brandi Clark (Austin EcoNetwork, EcoNetworking, Austin CarShare and more) and Marla Camp (Edible Austin) grew a broad plan to get more gardens growing in Austin. One component of that plan is called Citizen Gardener. Modeled after TreeFolks' successful Citizen Forester program, a companion to the more comprehensive Master Gardener Program, Citizen Gardener provides a framework for getting 10 hours of instruction, completing 10 hours of service apprenticing with a more seasoned gardener, and becoming an official Citizen Gardener.
Brandi pitched the idea of "Citizen Gardener" during her Citizen Foodie talk at the Downtown Farmer's Market Green 4th of July 2008 celebration and got enthusiastic responses. Dick Pierce, Master Gardener as well as veteran Permaculture and gardening instructor, volunteered to offer his Introduction to Fall Gardening class (normally $50) for free to those who would make the service hour committment to become Citizen Gardeners--and the program was born.
Currently coordinated by SFC, Citizen Gardener is a ten-hour course that provides hands-on organic gardening instruction. Citizen Gardener series are held in January-March and August-October, and cover essential knowledge for growing food in Central Texas, including the basics of constructing raised beds, composting, and rainwater collection.
Upon completion of the series, students complete ten hours of volunteer service at local gardens and farms, both to enhance their knowledge and to employ their new skills to benefit the community. After completing both components, participants celebrate their graduation as Citizen Gardeners at a local food potluck that closes each planting season. Graduates are encouraged to continue to serve as ambassadors for growing your own food in our community.
For more information, visit SFC's Citizen Gardener Website.