Dennis’ story: strengthening community through sustainable gardening, food security and resiliency, and environmental health

“I’ve been a Master Gardener since 2010. I started about 10 years before I retired and have continued in retirement because it’s a way to give back to and strengthen the community. The Master Gardener program is a good outlet for my technical and professional skills. Professionally I was a manager of environmental projects for an engineering firm for 25 years. Academically, I have degrees in horticulture and the plant sciences. I use both skill sets as a Master Gardener. 

I work with historically underserved populations who have an interest in sustainable gardening, food security and resiliency, and environmental health. I’ve helped several organizations obtain grants to develop and provide sustainable gardening education programs. In some cases that involved helping an organization establish a garden and subsequently use it as an educational resource. 

I lead a team of five Master Gardeners delivering monthly Horticulture for Life classes at the Bybee Lakes Hope Center in North Portland.  The classes follow OSU’s Seed to Supper program. The Hope Center serves homeless men, women, and families with children and is operated by the Helping Hands Re-Entry Outreach Centers, which offer access to trauma-informed, data-driven, person-centered homeless services for the Portland Metro Area. VetREST, a non-profit whose mission is to mentor veterans while providing farming opportunities in safe and supportive environments, established a Victory Garden at the Hope Center in 2021. The Victory Garden encompasses about 3 acres of vegetable garden, orchard, blueberries and native plants. We created a Learning Garden in one part of the Victory Garden for the purpose of holding the Horticulture for Life classes. 

There was increased interest in gardening during the pandemic and many people have maintained that interest. Sustainable gardening is a great way to help people understand and appreciate how their thoughtful actions can help maintain soil health, water quality and environmental quality in general. 

I facilitated the Seed to Supper program when it was part of the Oregon Food Bank and brought the program to a community of immigrants, houseless and veterans. We also use it as the basis for our Horticulture for Life classes at the Bybee Lakes Hope Center. The Seed to Supper program is a great way to deliver information about low-cost gardening techniques.”

—Dennis Brown, Multnomah County Master Gardener

This is but one of the many stories of the OSU Extension Master Gardener program we’re sharing this month in honor of Dam Proud Day. On April 26, Beavers everywhere will come together to support the things we do best: transformative educational experiences and life-changing research.
We are excited to be raising support specifically for our Seed to Supper program and updating our foundational resource, the “Sustainable Gardening Handbook” to reflect current knowledge. Please join us in gathering your friends and colleagues to give to support the Master Gardener Program on Dam Proud Day, at any donation level. See you (online) April 26th!

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