Master Gardeners fight food insecurity

  • Published: Thursday, May 28, 2020

HILLSBORO, Mo. – Master Gardener chapters throughout Missouri are accustomed to donating produce from home and community gardens to those in need. To further assist Missourians fighting food insecurity at this uncertain time, University of Missouri Extension horticulturist and Master Gardener state coordinator David Trinklein reached out to chapters across the state to see if members would plant an extra row of produce in their gardens to donate to local food banks and food pantries.

Debi Kelly, horticulture specialist and Master Gardener chapter coordinator in Jefferson County, said Master Gardeners in her area were already thinking about helping others through growing fresh food.

“There were five Master Gardeners who belong to a church in my county creating a community garden this year,” Kelly said. “They're going to try to feed folks in need at their church and donate everything else that's left over to the food bank in the area.”

Part of Master Gardeners’ mission is to extend their knowledge to help others, even when communities are not experiencing unusual circumstances.

One example of the work the volunteers do: “We had a non-ambulatory residence home reach out looking for gardening advice. We advised them on what would look nice and explained what to look for in a landscaper,” Kelly said. “Now, a couple of my Master Gardeners help maintain that garden once a week and interact with the residents of the home.”

When COVID-19 halted face-to-face programming, Kelly and fellow MU Extension specialists immediately transitioned in-person offerings online. Despite the abrupt shift, Master Gardeners didn't lose their passion for horticulture, Kelly said. Ninety percent of her class continued their lessons and even found new ways to serve their communities.

As Master Gardeners step up to the challenge, MU Extension and community members continue to work together to provide others with the support they need in trying times.

The Master Gardener program provides in-depth horticultural training to individuals throughout Missouri who then volunteer their time applying what they have learned to help others in their communities learn about gardening. In 2019, more than 2,600 Master Gardeners contributed almost $4 million in volunteer service hours to Missouri communities.

To become involved in a Master Gardener chapter near you, contact your county MU Extension center. Learn more at

Image available for this release:
Master Gardener Tom Ruf tills ground on the site of a new community garden at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Arnold, Mo. Photo courtesy Jefferson County Master Gardeners.

Writer: Ashley Craft

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Debi Kelly

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