St. Croix Valley Master Gardeners Association prepares for spring gardening.
Like many local organizations, the St. Croix Valley Master Gardeners Association (SCVMGA) may have seemed dormant in the past year due to COVID-19 imposed restrictions. But, much like the seeds they carefully tend in flower beds and vegetable patches throughout the St. Croix Valley, things have been growing under the surface. And this spring, signs of green new growth are poking through.
Donna Davis served as interim president of the SCVMGA from spring, 2020 through this past winter. With previous terms as president and over 30 years in the association under her belt, Davis was in a unique position to assess the challenges COVID posed to SCVMGA and how it has interrupted many aspects of the group’s normal operations.
“It’s different during COVID,” Davis says. Aside from moving meetings online, SCVMGA’s major fundraising event was also thwarted due to the pandemic. Their plant sale funds many grants SCVMGA gives to community members to inspire and support community gardening projects. “But we still have money in our treasury,” Davis notes.
Community members still applied for grants, that can run up to $250 each, to fund purchasing supplies and seeds for community gardening projects in places like schools and libraries to YMCAs and nursing homes.
“We gave out 20 grants this last year, and most of them carried through during COVID,” Davis says, reflecting that very few projects were canceled, despite the extenuating circumstances. “I thought during a COVID year that was excellent,” she adds.
When asked how she initially got into gardening, Davis laughs. “I think I’ve gardened, off and on, since junior high. We had a vegetable garden out East, in the state of Virginia. With a florist father and a mother who tended victory gardens during World War II, “I think it’s in the blood,” she concludes with a chuckle.
But, despite years of experience and membership in SCVMGA, Davis says she’s still a partial green thumb. “I’m like everybody else, I get behind or too busy and some of the plants go to the wayside.” Even being a master gardener doesn’t make you immune to the temperaments of mother nature, but it does provide a large base of resources to draw upon.
A master gardener membership requirement of the University of Wisconsin-Madison extension is 10 hours of continuing education annually. “Our extension leader, she’s been doing continuing education,” Davis says. “There were plenty of opportunities that Madison had, where you could go online and watch a program and take a little quiz and then you would get your credit.”
Another component of membership, 24 hours of volunteer service annually, (waved for 2021). But despite an exception, Davis still managed to rack up over 100 hours of service. “I do a food shelf garden by myself,” Davis says. “I’ve raised over 500 pounds of vegetables that I raised, picked, packaged, and donated. Idonate to three churches and one low-income housing. And I’ve done that for three or four years.”
Although COVID interrupted many SCVMGA projects, members are determined to see one of their traditional events through this year, although in a different format than usual. “We’re going to be holding a virtual Western Wisconsin garden conference called Growing Together,” Davis says.
Seven Wisconsin counties collaborated to pull off this online conference, which was open to master gardeners and the public alike.
To learn more about the St. Croix Master Gardeners Association visit scvmga.weebly.com.