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People On The Move - Jeanne Patterson
03/07/2012 - By Gayle Davis
Jeanne Patterson works with special education students and is also a certified Rutgers Master Gardener of Monmouth County (there are about 160 in Monmouth County). The Rutgers Master Gardener program is designed for trained volunteers to deliver horticulture programs and information to the general public. Jeanne has always had a passion for gardening and teaching people, so the program is a great fit. Her philosophy has always been that it’s not only important to give back, but it’s important to teach as well. She, like her father and grandfather before her, has always had an admiration for gardening.
Jeanne says, “To become a Master Gardener you must first apply and be accepted into the program. To be accepted into the program you must demonstrate your willingness to volunteer on the application. It was pretty fortunate that I was selected, because sometimes there can be over 100 applications. The program is 10 weeks long. You must attend classes for a total of 60 hours, or for a total of six hours per week (three hours/two days a week) and take a mid-term and a final exam. Each cadet must also complete a minimum of 60 hours of community service which is broken down into 20 hours of working the helpline and 40 hours of community service. “A few are taken at the Agricultural Building located in Freehold,” she adds, “and a few are taken at Brookdale Community College along with one at Deep Cut Park and are taught by Rutgers professors, Brookdale professors and one Monmouth County Park Supervisor. Volunteers who spend time at the office will help with identifying plants, ticks and other insects, and diagnosing plant problems.”
The Master Gardener Program has been offered in Monmouth County for about 11 years and there are several community gardens overseen by Master Gardeners located in towns such as Freehold, Tinton Falls, Oceanport, Long Branch (at Monmouth University) and Westminster Community Garden in Middletown. Most of these gardens include a “PAR Garden,” which stands for “Plant A Row for the Hungry.” Jeanne says, “When we initially started, the first garden was at a church and we gave out canned goods for the hungry as well. This is what really initiated the PAR garden and helps to build community. The crops planted at these gardens provide healthier food choices for members and/or for people who are in need.”
A Junior Master Gardener program has also been established for children ages 9 to 11. These kids work with mentors and oversee their own garden behind the agricultural building in Freehold.
Rain Gardens are also cultivated by the Master Gardeners. A rain garden is basically a depressed garden. “We only have so much rainwater in the world,” Jeanne explains. “A lot of rainwater gets washed off into the ocean. We are encouraging people to recycle the rainwater back into the ground and create ground water. We are spreading this important message at county fairs and we have rain gardens planted at some of the schools and at the Agricultural Building as well.”
Jeanne is involved with the Shade Tree Commission, too, and explains that there are a number of White Pine trees throughout Monmouth County that were grown from seedlings sprouted aboard the space shuttle Columbia flight in April 1997. One is planted in Durand Park in Freehold. Patterson says that Freehold is recognized in the state as a “Tree City,” and Arbor Day was celebrated here in recognition of its 30th anniversary.
If you would like to learn more about applying to the Master Gardener program you may visit Rutgers.edu. For additional information, or if you have any gardening questions, please call the Master Garden Helpline at 732-303-7614.
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