Grow It Eat It

Interest in homegrown food increases daily as our recession deepens and folks want to continue enjoying healthy but often higher priced organic vegetables and fruits. Maryland Cooperative Extension (MCE) has heard the word and is responding with an exciting new initiative called Grow It Eat It.

The Grow It Eat It mission is to Help Marylanders improve health and save money by growing fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs using sustainable practices. The vision is one million Maryland food gardeners producing their own affordable, healthy food. Supported by MCE staff and faculty, Master Gardener volunteers and the Home and Garden Information Center are leading the way.

The Grow It Eat It campaign will help address major issues, including increasing food safety and security, improving quality of life and human health, and environmental concerns such as improving water quality, protecting natural resources, and encouraging the use of alternative energy. Big issues, yes, but learning how to start and maintain a food garden is something that can be done at the individual level and if accomplished in large enough numbers, will have an impact on each of these pressing problems.

The campaign’s goals are to:

* Dramatically increase the number of food gardeners and food gardens in Maryland by teaching beginning food gardening to a wide variety of groups. We intend to reach all residents and garden sizes, from a 5-gallon bucket to an acre.
* Break down barriers to growing food at home, in schools and communities.
* Teach intensive, low-cost, sustainable growing techniques that maximize food production per area, protect and improve natural resources, and improve human health.
* Create a network of food gardeners through this web site, and a blog that will allow gardeners to share ideas, experiences, and recipes, www.groweat.blogspot.com.
* Answer the questions of new and experienced gardeners via Master Gardener Plant Clinics, the Home and Garden Information Center hotline Mon.-Fri., 8am-1pm (1.800.342.2507) and via e-mail questions 24/7 through the web site- www.hgic.umd.edu

What is MCE?
Those of you unfamiliar with the Extension office, as it is often referred to, will appreciate this explanation from our web site. Maryland Cooperative Extension (MCE) is a statewide, non-formal education system within the college of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. MCE educational programs and problem-solving assistance are available to citizens and are based on the research and experience of land grant universities such as the University of Maryland, College Park.

Who are the Master Gardeners?
Maryland Master Gardeners are specially trained volunteer educators for the University of Maryland who teach the public about safe, effective, and sustainable gardening practices. There are approximately 1200 certified Master Gardeners active in 18 counties and Baltimore City.

Maryland Master Gardeners are receiving special training and forming Grow It Eat It teams to promote the campaign and teach classes and workshops across the state. Our focus is on beginner gardeners but we will continue to develop resources and classes more suitable for seasoned food gardeners.

What is The Home and Garden Information Center?
The HGIC, can be reached in Maryland by calling 1-800-342-2507 or out of state at 410-531-1757 and online at http://www.hgic.umd.edu/ . At this frequently updated site you will find monthly Hot Topics for March including Spring Frost Dates, Over Seeding Your Lawn, Publications (some free to download, others for sale), Invasive Species Alerts, and an award winning Plant Diagnostic Site which offers photographic keys to help diagnose and solve plant problems, using Integrated Pest Management principles.

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