Posts Tagged: Missy Gable
UC ANR partners with state and local organizations to improve urban communities. This story is the first in a series about the impact of these partnerships.
Successfully supporting farming, homemaking and youth development with science-based solutions during UC Cooperative Extension's first 60 years in California prompted UC Agriculture and Natural Resources leaders to consider other ways the same concept could improve American lives.
One of those was the development of the UC Master Gardener Program in 1980, which recognized the need for science to inform sustainable and safe home food production for healthy diets, physical activity, education and mental well-being.
Over the years, the program has trained tens of thousands of UC Master Gardener volunteers to support residents of more than 52 California counties with environmentally sound ways to manage garden pests, reduce water use and grow fruits and vegetables. Today, there are more than 6,000 active UC Master Gardener volunteers.
Each of the 52 counties within the UC Master Gardener Program has unique projects that support its community needs, from reducing water use in home landscapes, diverting green waste from landfills and creating pollinator habitats to support pollinator populations. All counties answer gardening questions for free using a telephone hotline or email inquiry system. Master Gardener volunteers in many counties support community, school and demonstration gardens to share knowledge and spark inspiration. All focus their efforts on education.
To make still greater gains in outreach efforts, the UC Master Gardener Program enlists community partners that share its values. For example, the UC Master Gardener Program in Contra Costa County works with the County Department of Behavioral Health, Bi-Bett Corporation, Eden Housing and the Veteran's Affairs campus to provide gardening lessons to older adults, behavioral health patients and veterans.
“Gardens bring people together, regardless of race, color, age, sex, disability or religion,” said Missy Gable, statewide director of the UC Master Gardener Program. “Our volunteers in Contra Costa County carefully identified key gardening topics and the best delivery options for a variety of learning styles.”
The lessons covered vegetable gardening, soil health, composting, supporting pollinators and garden pest management.
UC Master Gardener volunteers in San Diego County worked with residential memory care communities and Alzheimer's San Diego to offer sensory gardening activities to people with dementia. The ‘Reminiscence Gardening' project in San Diego County was funded with a community grant and donations.
“Participants explored herbs, fruits and vegetables to activate the senses of sight, touch and smell,” Gable said. “In doing so, they worked their brains and their bodies, connecting their senses with memories, all the while also working on fine motor skills and muscle tone.”
In Santa Clara County, UC Master Gardener volunteers developed science- and nutrition-based field trip activities to present at their demonstration garden and, with local grants, help pay to transport children from low-income neighborhoods to the garden for a day of hands-on learning.
Children learned about the plant life cycle and planted sunflower seeds to take home and watch grow. They tasted vegetables and discovered the benefits of eating fresh produce of many colors. After learning how to collect insects and identify them, UC Master Gardener volunteers invited them to release beneficial insects at the park.
“UC Master Gardener volunteers encouraged the children to return to the garden with their families to share their experiences,” Gable said. “Children are often an important driver of both food and recreation choices for families so encouraging them to continue their gardening journey is key to seeing change at the family level.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, when many families and children had to stay at home for their protection, interest in home gardening surged. UC Master Gardener volunteers and coordinators sought out safe ways to reach new gardeners with research-based information.
In Calaveras County, UC Master Gardener volunteers provided gardening kits for school children distance-learning at home. UC Master Gardeners in San Bernardino County offered monthly gardening sessions via Zoom to their community. UC Master Gardeners in Contra Costa and Alameda counties donated vegetable transplants to students and families in the Oakland Unified School District. In Santa Barbara County, volunteers taught local residents how to grow an abundance of high-demand fruits and vegetables for food banks.
“Our volunteers didn't skip a beat,” Gable said. “They live and work in the communities we serve, so they can identify where needs are and connect with like-minded partners to provide the widest possible distribution of trusted gardening information.”
The UC Master Gardener Program and other UC ANR statewide programs rely on donor contributions. To learn more about how to support or get involved with the UC Master Gardener Program in your community, visit mg.ucanr.edu.
"Start modestly and in a way that you can manage it,” Gable said. “If you've never done this before, don't transform a quarter acre.”
She recommends beginning by assessing space you have available for gardening - whether in the backyard, front yard or the corner of a balcony.
“Get to know the space, and watch to see how light moves around," Gabe said.
Most plants need about six hours of direct sunlight a day. Then figure out what kind of soil you're dealing with: Is it dry or rocky? Does it have the consistency of clay? Is there good drainage or does the water often pool? None of these results are “bad” or should dissuade you from planting there, but understanding what you're starting with will inform what you do next.
Gable recommends planting fruits and vegetables that you love to eat.
“For a starting gardener, depending on what your family is most interested in, I always recommend the standards: tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers, carrots, radishes, Swiss chard, eggplants. Those are fun and easy," she said.
If you have kids, Gable recommends including some plants that have a shorter yield time, so they can see the results faster. “Radishes are a really nice place to start,” she said. “They mature really quickly, and it's a fun way for kids to see the fruits of their labor quickly so then they're invested in the plants that take a little longer, like tomatoes.”
The UC Master Gardener Program trains volunteers to extend research-based gardening information to the public. Gable recommends looking up your local UC Master Gardener Program to get accurate information based on local conditions.
Back in May of 2013, we headed over to the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH) Annual Rose Days on the University of California,...
A honey bee heads toward the Sparkle and Shine rose, related to the Julia Child Rose. This one was purchased in 2013 at the CCUH Rose Days. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Although honey bees prefer such flowers as lavender, borage, bee balm, catmint and zinnia, they cannot resist the Sparkle and Shine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
In years past, canning knowledge was passed down from grandmothers and mothers to children. Access to commercially canned and frozen fruits and vegetables put home food preservation on the back burner. The Master Food Preserver program was established in the 1980s, but is now seeing a surge in interest as consumers want more control over the sources and additives in their food.
"The UC Master Food Preserver Program serves as a reliable resource for research-based information on home food preservation," said Missy Gable, who overseas the program for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Improperly preserved food can cause serious illness. Meats, vegetables and any food containing meats or vegetables - such as soup or spaghetti sauce - must be pressure-canned to prevent potentially fatal botulism. Incorrect procedures can allow micro organisms to spoil canned foods.
"Each UC Master Food Preserver volunteer understands food safety and the steps needed to safely preserve and store foods," Gable said. "They also understand the science behind home food preservation and help the public identify the best food preservation methods for the items they would like to store."
The Master Food Preserver Program is available in 10 California counties. Learn more about food preservation and find a local program on the UC ANR Master Food Preserver website.
"When plants are under drought stress, we don't want to promote a lot of leafy growth," says Missy Gable in the fifth installment of UC ANR's six-part video series on saving water in the landscape. "If using fertilizer, choose a fertilizer low in nitrogen, or don't fertilize this year."
The UC Master Gardener Program provides a detailed description of landscape fertilizer needs on its California Backyard Orchard website. Visit the website to learn about the various nutrient needs of growing trees and shrubs, symptoms of nutrient deficiencies, and how much fertilizer should generally be applied each year.
View the latest video here:
Additional videos in the UC ANR video series on saving water in the landscape.
The videos are also available on the UC ANR YouTube channel.
Coming next week, a video about using fertilizers under drought conditions.
An initiative to improve California water quality, quantity and security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
Author: Jeannette Warnert