Master Gardeners of Ontario Say a Big “Thank You”!

Good evening,
My name is Danielle Gignac, and I am the coordinator for the Guelph-Wellington Master
Gardeners. It is my great pleasure to be here tonight to thank you for your incredible
donation and to share with you some of what we are doing in our community.

Danielle Gignac offers her heartfelt thanks (Photo Credit: Crista Renner)

The Master Gardeners of Ontario Inc. is an organization dedicated to providing science-
based sustainable horticultural information to the public. The Ontario Ministry of
Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) began the Master Gardener Program in
1985, but it is now an independent nonprofit organization. Each region operates as an
independent group under the provincial umbrella. The benefit of this is that members of a group reside in the area they serve, and so can be most effective in their service and provide relevant advice to the particular growing zone.

Master Gardeners receive their certification after completing an educational component (consisting of a series of 3 or 4 university horticulture courses or self-study and a written exam) as well as 2 years of volunteering at 30 hours per year. After becoming certified, members must maintain continuing education as well as their 30 volunteer hours. These rigorous requirements ensure that members stay up-to-date in their knowledge and active in their service so that we can fulfill our mandate. With the overabundance of information available today, it is crucial that people have a trusted resource for unbiased scientific, authoritative information that is backed by practical experience and relevant to particular growing conditions.

Our volunteer activities typically include advice clinics at public events or garden tours;
answer questions through our telephone or email hotline; prepare and present garden
talks and workshops for both adults and children at local venues such as the libraries,
other horticultural societies or garden centres; speak on the radio; create online videos;
respond to gardening questions on social media platforms; and write gardening articles,
to name just a few! Last year, the members of our local group contributed a total of over 2000 volunteer hours in the Guelph-Wellington community.

We are an entirely volunteer-run organization. As a non-profit group focused on
information sharing, most of our activities do not require significant funds. Our
educational events, such as Day in the Garden, are typically offered at-cost to
attendees. Our May Plant Sale is usually the only fundraising event we have each year,
and this is used to cover expenses related to offering our normal services. As such, we
rarely have the opportunity to put together a program like we have been able to do with your generous donation.

You have enabled us to facilitate practical horticulture education for Grade 3 students at 20 Guelph elementary schools. We are able to support and enhance the current
curriculum by creating educational content as well as providing the actual materials and
equipment for students to practice what they learn.

The subject students will be taught is “relating science and technology to our changing
world by assessing ways in which plants are beneficial to society and the environment,
and ways in which human activity has an impact on plants and plant habitats.” We are
providing full growing kits for seed starting, which will support learning on plant growth
and health in general, as well as food security in particular–a growing concern in our
world today. The complete kits would include educational information for starting and
maintaining vegetable plants, a moveable multi-level rack, full spectrum grow lights,
light timer, soil, pots, seeds, labels, and necessary tools. All of this equipment will stay
with the schools and be able to be used from year to year, with only new soil and seeds
needed at a minimal cost. We are also providing teacher support to ensure the growing
process goes smoothly.

We see this program as having great potential to reach beyond the classroom as well.
With concerns around food security, we know these seed starting kits will be extremely
valuable for life skills that may be necessary for a child’s family either now or in the
future. As anyone who grows plants knows, there is also an emotional and
psychological element to the process. The joy and thrill of seeing our seeds germinate
or a bee pollinating our flowers is so good for our well-being. Studies have shown that
gardening is beneficial to mental health. Even with some disappointments with
germination or pests, gardening is ever hopeful. Every seed planted expresses our faith
in a future where it will grow and thrive. We need this more than ever.

All the materials have now been purchased and our volunteers will be assembling the
kits this weekend. On April 15, they will be delivered to the classrooms. We know these
growing kits will be an exciting addition to these 20 classrooms. Transformation begins
with education. By making growing plants accessible to kids, we are equipping them
with lifelong skills to contribute toward a sustainable future. On behalf of the Guelph-
Wellington Master Gardeners, I thank you so very much for supporting us to do this
work. We know the benefits will be far-reaching. You are planting a seed in the lives of
these kids – an act of hope for the future. Thank you.

cheque presentation

Sharon Lewis and Tannis Sprott make a 100WWCG cheque presentation to Danielle Gignac of Master Gardeners of Ontario

(Photo Credit: Crista Renner)