“Talking less and doing more” empowers new gardeners

Person in garden gear with flower bulbs
Emily Herb showing off a nice collection of homegrown onions.

Master Gardener trainee Emily Herb brings the skills of an educator and sign language interpreter to re-envisioning the popular Seed to Supper classes in Benton County. Offered in collaboration between Master Gardeners, Oregon Food Bank and other community partners, Seed to Supper aims to connect low-income households with the know-how and resources to grow tasty and healthy food. Learn more and find out how you can get involved in Seed to Supper with Master Gardeners in Benton or Linn Counties.

A parsonage garden

I grew up in Southern Oregon where my mother’s family is from. We lived in Grants Pass, which was a small timber town at that time.  Grants Pass in the 1980’s was struggling with the fall of the timber industry and the houses, yards, and lives of residents reflected that struggle.  I do not remember many ornamental flowers or trees.  My father was a minister there and we lived in a small parsonage with a small yard. My mom was a gardener and did her best with that little yard. She was always fond of roses and iris, which grew well enough in Southern Oregon. When I was sixteen we moved to Corvallis, and I remember my mom’s excitement about moving to the Willamette Valley where almost anything could grow. When I first moved here I rode my bike up and down the streets looking at the magnolia and flowering cherry trees. I had never seen such full beautiful trees before. Corvallis amazed me with so many yards spilling over with beautiful plants.

Rescuing bargain flowers

All my early gardening memories involve my mother. She loved plants just like she loved animals and children, and she couldn’t stand to see them suffer. I have a childhood memory of when she and I were at the grocery store on our bikes and she came across a flat of half dead chrysanthemums the store was selling cheap. We had to figure out a way to bike all of them and our groceries home so she could save the mums from death.  My mom loved scouting out a deal and the hunt for the plants was a big part of the pleasure. We drove far and wide to go to nurseries and gardens all around the Willamette Valley. This was sometimes a trying experiences, but her passion and care instilled in me a love of plants as well as the knowledge of how to care for them.

A new family garden

My favorite gardening memories center around family gardening in the house I live in now. Eleven years ago my parents, my husband, my two children, and I moved into a house across from Corvallis High School. The house came with a coveted Corvallis double lot and we were able to buy another adjoining lot to make a very nice ¾ acre in the middle of town. Our front yard is terraced and we planted the first terrace with roses for my mother the fall after we moved in. It is filled with roses bought on sale at the annual Heirloom Rose garden summer sale.

In the years we have been here, my mom and dad lined the north facing fences with rhododendrons. We went to all the local garden sales and created beds of shade and sun perennials. My husband, my gardening partner and personal backyard engineer, put in berries that came from his father’s berry fields and taught himself to prune the large gravenstein apple tree and pear tree that came with the property. I am lucky enough to have two huge vegetable gardens, raised beds, and a chicken mansion. My children learned to garden and weed with the family in this massive backyard. It has been our family group project and when I go outside I see all of us reflected in the gardens we have created. My mother died a year ago and my father is less inclined to work outside than he once was, but through the help of the children and my best friend who lives in the neighborhood, my husband and I are able to keep up and even continue creating our backyard project, which of course is never done.

Seed to Supper : hands-on

I decided to become a Master Gardener because I have a passion for growing food and I want to assist and teach people with limited access to fresh, organic produce the skills to grow their own. When I saw the Master Gardening Seed to Supper program advertised in the newspaper one year I decided that this might be the way to become involved in work I believe in. Since completing my Master Gardening training and starting on my volunteer hours I have had the opportunity to be part of a team teaching Seed to Supper and then part of a team who has redesigned the Seed to Supper course into a completely hands on class we piloted this Spring.

The new class that we taught this spring came from an interest among several people on the Community Garden Action Team (CGAT) to teach a basic gardening class that contained all the content of the original Seed to Supper class, but using a completely hands on approach out in an actual garden. The idea was to talk less and do more, or perhaps talk while doing. We all thought that gardening is something one learns best through practice. I volunteered to go through the Seed to Supper book and to organize the content of the text book into hands on “stations” that participants could rotate through to learn all the skills and concepts normally taught through power point slides in a classroom.

Gardening 101 & 102

Through this curriculum redesign we ended up with eight stations that teaches the same concepts of Seed to Supper, including some helpful redundancy. This past spring we taught the class over the course of two Saturday mornings out at Willamette Community Garden. We called the classes Gardening 101 & 102 and each class lasted three hours and included four stations full of content. The reviews back from our 20 students are very positive and we plan to teach more of this class in the future. It has been an amazing experience for me to get to be an important part of curriculum writing, program planning, and then teaching. This process has been everything that I hoped Master Gardening would be.

P.S.

Now I am supposed to tell you something surprising about myself. I don’t know if this is surprising, but I feel like in my life I am a generalist. I enjoy doing so many things that I find I am not an expert at anything; nonetheless I am proud and grateful for all the many things that are part of my life. I am a Sign Language interpreter by profession, but am a potter, gardener, cook, food preserver, musician, family member, and many more things in my “off time.” I am very happy to add Master Gardener to this list.

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One Reply to ““Talking less and doing more” empowers new gardeners”

  1. Emily,
    You have a gift to serve, home, family community. I’m certain of how proud your father and mother are of you, yes, I believe your mother is smiling where she is in heaven. You are giving a gift to all you touch, carrying on a legacy from your Mom. Love you Emily!

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