Gardeners With Heart: Growing Food and Communities

Mar 31, 2024

Gardeners With Heart: Growing Food and Communities

Mar 31, 2024

Watch the video on YouTube here


In celebration of National Volunteer Month, we are thrilled to spotlight a remarkable group of UC Master Gardener volunteers nominated for their outstanding contributions to food gardening and food access initiatives in their communities. These UC Master Gardeners have gone above and beyond to promote sustainable gardening practices, address food insecurity, and empower their communities to embrace healthier and more resilient food systems. Join us as we recognize and express our gratitude to these inspiring “Gardeners with Heart” for their unwavering commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of others.

Grace Mahannah, a passionate advocate for composting and local food access in Butte County, has been pivotal in promoting sustainable gardening practices and food literacy within her community. Her efforts to connect people with fresh, locally grown produce have helped improve access to nutritious food and strengthen community ties, fostering a more resilient and equitable food system for all. The communities of Gridley and Butte County have benefited from Grace's contributions and efforts, with her successful implementation of projects that expand reach to the far corners of rural communities.

Ferol Conklin, a UC Master Gardener in Mariposa County, works tirelessly as the co-chair of the Plant-a-Row committee to provide excess produce to those in need. Her commitment to addressing food insecurity and promoting sustainable food systems has made a tangible difference in the lives of individuals and families, ensuring that everyone has access to nutritious food. With Plant-a-Row collecting more than 2,000 pounds of fresh produce from multiple home growers and local farms, Ferol's heart for the food insecure of Mariposa County knows no bounds.

Sharon Erickson, a UC Master Gardener in Palo Alto, has been a driving force behind various food gardening initiatives, including the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden and fruit tree pruning workshops. Her dedication to teaching people to grow their own food sustainably has helped build a community centered around the garden, inspiring others to take action and make positive changes in their lives. In the past year, the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden has donated more than 700 pounds of food.

Treva Valentine, an advocate for home vegetable gardening in Yolo County, has shown remarkable resilience and adaptability in continuing her outreach efforts during challenging times. Her commitment to educating and empowering individuals to grow their own food has helped improve food security and promote healthier eating habits within her community. Treva's proactive approach extends beyond Yolo County, has reached approximately 200 people over the past few years with valuable home food gardening advice.

Ann Liu, a dedicated volunteer in Yolo County, transferred to the county a few years ago with a wealth of knowledge and energy. Ann keeps everyone connected and helps feed and educate the community at large. Her involvement in promoting environmental education and community empowerment through her work with SEEDS and the Grace Garden has helped create a more inclusive and resilient community. The Grace Garden's harvest of 657 lbs. of vegetables and 317 lbs. of fruit in 2023, along with 1009 volunteers contributing over 280 hours of service, underscores Ann's impactful efforts.

John Wimer, a passionate advocate for sustainable gardening practices in Amador County, has demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to environmental stewardship through his involvement in various food gardening projects and youth field trips. His efforts to empower individuals to embrace sustainable food production methods have helped strengthen community resilience and promote healthier, more sustainable lifestyles for all. John's contributions extend to every school in Amador County through school garden mentors and local farm visits, highlighting his commitment to education and community engagement.

Patti Joki and Gail Myers, both UC Master Gardeners in Alameda County, have played instrumental roles in organizing the Incredible Edible Plant Sale. This event not only raises funds but also provides valuable resources and education to the community. Through their leadership and dedication, they have fostered a culture of environmental stewardship and community resilience, inspiring individuals to grow their own food sustainably and contribute to a healthier food system.

We are incredibly grateful for the dedication, passion, and hard work that Grace Mahannah, Ferol Conklin, Sharon Erickson, Treva Valentine, Ann Liu, John Wimer, Patti Joki, and Gail Myers,  have demonstrated in promoting food gardening and food access initiatives in their communities. Their collective efforts have made a significant impact on the lives of individuals and families, serving as inspiring examples of how volunteers can make a positive difference in the world. As we celebrate National Volunteer Month, let us express our heartfelt gratitude to these “Gardeners with Heart” for their invaluable service and commitment to creating a healthier, more equitable food system for all.


About National Volunteer Month and Gardeners with Heart

MG with heart color logo blue gloves gold trim
During National Volunteer Month (April 1 - 30), the UC Master Gardener Program celebrates its incredible volunteers and their contributions to California communities. Gardeners with Heart volunteers were nominated for their outstanding work in food gardening and food access initiatives, highlighting their commitment to promoting sustainable food systems and community resilience. Join us in honoring their dedication and passion for making a difference in the lives of others. If you would like to get involved and learn more about gardening in your community you can find your local program here.

By Barbra Pushies
Author - Statewide Communications Specialist