Community Gardening

Rochester residents engage in gardening education to combat food insecurity

photos provided by St. Mark’s & St. John’s Episcopal Church

The Seed to Supper (S2S) gardening curriculum is a comprehensive beginning gardening experience that gives novice gardeners the tools they need to connect with others in the community, grow in confidence, and successfully grow a portion of their own food on a limited budget. The Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Master Gardener program and 4-H Youth Development Program have each been awarded this S2S grant by Cornell Garden-Based Learning. 

CCE’s Master Gardeners will form a partnership with St. Mark’s and St. John’s Episcopal Church (SMSJ), located in the Beechwood neighborhood of Rochester where more than 50 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. SMSJ has been an integral part of the community for years, with seven urban vegetable gardens currently in place that provide three days of emergency food supply to between 34 and 45 families. 

Adults on limited incomes living in the Beechwood neighborhood who are interested in developing food gardening skills will engage in a six–week course using the Seed to Supper curriculum. Classes will be taught by Master Gardeners who have been trained by CCE to serve as garden educators or facilitators. 

Additionally, SMSJ has garden bed captains at each garden site who will be offered garden facilitator training.  Training sessions will be in the community room of SMSJ and the existing raised bed gardens on the property will be available for hands-on instructional activities.

The youth portion of the grant, S2S Youth Corps, will engage diverse youth in underserved audiences. 4-H educators will meet youth where they are located by forming partnerships with existing food assistance and youth development programs doing similar work. 

4-H educators will introduce existing garden-based learning curricula into these communities and train teens to teach it to younger youth. This peer educator model is based on the published and research-based Choose Health Action Teens (CHAT) curriculum, which engages youth to promote healthy living in their local communities. The model further increases teen leadership and youth voice in our community.

Trained teen garden educators can then facilitate after-school programming, supplement summer learning, and teach children of adults participating in S2S workshops. Teen garden educators could earn community service hours or a small stipend for their work. 

Starting the Seed to Supper program in Monroe County will allow CCE to further engage the community and build partnerships that increase food security in Rochester. Those involved will learn skills they can share with their neighbors and create a sustainable cycle of community improvement and development. 

The Master Gardener program is offered through Cornell Cooperative Extension to provide services to Monroe County residents. Master Gardeners give advice on garden planting, plant selection, maintenance, and pest management. Many volunteers staff the phone support helpline, speak to local groups, and support community improvement projects. Guidance is focused on non-biased, research-based information provided by Cornell University.

The Monroe County 4-H program is offered through Cornell Cooperative Extension to the youth of Monroe County. 4-H is a worldwide youth development program open to all youth aged 5 to 19, who want to have fun, learn new skills, and explore the world. In return, youth who participate in 4-H find a supportive environment and opportunities for hands-on or “experiential” learning about things that interest them.

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Plant the colors!

by cathym on May 5, 2020

by Carol Ritter Wright

Cover of official program for the National American Women’s Suffrage Association procession, Washington, D.C. March 3, 1913. Courtesy United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division. Original artwork by Benjamin Moran Dale; restoration by Adam Cuerden.

Purple, white, and golden yellow.

To the suffragists who marched and campaigned and picketed more than a century ago, those were the colors signifying their quest for laws granting women the vote.

This year is the centennial of passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that accomplished what those suffragists had fought to achieve. And 2020 is also the bicentennial of the birth of Susan B. Anthony, one of the principal figures in that long fight for suffrage.

Anthony and her close friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the organizers of the historic 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, spent years working together to gain the right to vote for women. But neither of them lived to see it actually happen.

We—all of us, women and men, anyone who cares about equality and democracy and fairness – owe a great deal to Anthony and Stanton and to the many others who dressed in white and carried suffrage banners and flags in the colors of their fight. 

In this important centennial and bicentennial year, we should recognize and demonstrate our respect for those rights pioneers.

How can we do that? Simple.

Let’s plant the colors.

Most of us, even non-gardeners and apartment dwellers, usually manage each year to have at least a pot or two or a window box filled with flowering annuals at home during our all-too-brief summer.

Many plants we use in those displays are relatively inexpensive, need little care, and can be grown from seed or purchased everywhere from large nurseries and big-box home stores to supermarkets, drugstores, farm markets, and roadside stands.

Petunias, for instance, are available in many varieties with purple or purple-and-white flowers. There are lovely white geraniums. Marigolds bloom profusely in several shades of golden yellow and even in white. None of these plants requires more than minimal attention to produce abundant flowers from late spring to first frost. Experienced and adventurous gardeners can find many other species and varieties in the three colors.

Planting the three significant colors in one pot or individually in a group of pots can create a show of recognition and respect for the suffragists who made it possible for American women to cast votes in this and every election year and to hold public office. 

In Seneca Falls, a variety of special events are planned by Seneca Falls 2020, the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the town government, Seneca Falls Development Corporation, and other organizations and agencies.

All of this summer’s municipal floral displays in that Seneca County town will be in the suffrage colors. Planters overflowing with mounds of flowers in purple, white, and golden yellow will decorate town parks and principal streets and historic sites.

Castelmezzano container combination. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.

There’s a movement afoot to encourage residents of Seneca Falls to use those colors in plantings at home on porches, decks and balconies and in front yards to warmly welcome visitors and show pride in the community’s suffrage history.

People in Rochester, Susan B. Anthony’s home, should do the same. Residents of Canandaigua, where Anthony was tried in court and found guilty of voting, ought to follow suit. There are several other communities in central and western New York that have historical ties to the suffrage movement. Planting the colors would be one way to acknowledge those important bits of their histories.

It would be great if people arriving in the Finger Lakes were greeted by floral displays in purple, white, and golden yellow.

We can make this happen. Let’s do it!

Carol Ritter Wright, originally from Seneca Falls, retired as a journalist at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle