June 21, 2018
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Healthy crops topic of UM gardening forum

By Dylan Riley, Special to the BDN

ORONO, Maine — Gardeners of every ilk will get the chance to learn about maintaining healthy crops during a presentation by a University of Maine Cooperative Extension researcher at the UM Rogers Farm in Stillwater on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

UM researcher Dave Handley will speak at 6 p.m. at the farm, as will members of the Extension’s Master Gardeners Program, which trains volunteers every year to be better gardeners. Handley’s presentation will focus on keeping crops free of disease and on good handling techniques. The presentation will run for about an hour and a half.

The program trains 40 to 80 people per year, according to coordinator Katherine Garland. The participants attend 10 classes and spend 10 hours on a public gardening or landscaping project of their choice, and are required to do 40 hours of volunteer work to maintain their Master Gardener status with the program. They also spend time on the farm’s demonstration garden from 5 p.m. to late evening every Tuesday.

The master gardener participants maintain a demonstration garden at the Rogers Farm. The all-organic garden is open to the public to view on Tuesday nights.

A couple of the master gardeners will also speak on Tuesday about their preserving, canning, drying and freezing strategies.

The program was started in Penobscot County in 1990, and the volunteer garden was begun in spring 1995. In 2000, the Master Gardeners Program donated 53,138 pounds of food to various food pantries and other groups that help the needy. By 2009 the annual total of donations was 87,319 pounds.

The program, which began as a volunteer project, offers scholarships to low-income participants to help pay the fee to attend the program.

Handley has conducted research into plant varieties that thrive in Maine’s climate, according to UM. His research has contributed to Maine farming for 25 years.

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