There was a time when this was an agrarian economy, and farming brought us close to the soil and to the cycles of the growing seasons.
Citizen Thomas Jefferson used cisterns to capture rain water to nourish gardens on the mountain top he called Monticello, and he grew 18 different forms of lettuce (meat was a garnish for his salads). Jefferson had every crop you could imagine including grapes for wine. You can visit his gardens today and obtain cuttings for your own property.
There are those who would cover the earth with asphalt from sea to shining sea. But we still have farmers and gardeners who celebrate all that’s green and vital to life.
There is a phalanx of award-winning master gardeners right here in Loudoun County who volunteer their time to conserve and perpetuate what Messrs. Jefferson, Adams and Washington held dear – a legacy of green growth both necessary to life and beautiful to behold.
These volunteer master gardeners are coordinated by one of this county’s special treasures, urban horticulturist, Debbie D. Dillion, with the Loudoun County Extension Office, a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments.
As for getting your county tax dollar’s worth, we pay a relatively few content-brilliant public employees including Debbie who serve as the managers, guides and catalysts for 100 or more active volunteer master gardeners who each contribute hundreds of hours of their time.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a “victory garden” that prompted 20 million home gardens during World War II that produced 40% of America’s vegetables.
First Lady Michelle Obama planted a garden bed on the South Lawn of the White House last year with a group of fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School, hoping in the bargain that our children would learn to eat healthier.
Closer to home, Master Gardeners Lisa Doseff and Holly Flannery taught pre-schoolers in Lovettsville to plant a vegetable and flower garden at the Community Center.
Holly said, “increasingly, we see contaminated food from these corporate mega-farms, our major food source; we have to do better; and there’s no question that these local home grown ‘victory gardens’ produce safer, fresher, tastier and better food.”
President Barack Obama grants bronze, silver and gold “volunteer service awards,” and certificates for those who contribute time to their community.
The President presented gold awards, for more than 500 hours of service, to Loudoun County Master Gardeners Cathy Anderson, Barbara Arnold, Margie Bassford, Elaine Hawn, Sally Hewitt, Carol Ivory, Jim Kelly, Normalee Martin, Dawn Meyerriecks, and Linda Award. He also awarded silver, for more than 250 hours service, and bronze, for more than 100 hours, for another 81 Master Gardeners.
Ms. Dillion was excited that so many received these awards, what she described as a special “thank you to our Master Gardener volunteers for the services they provide to the Loudoun Community.”
There are some who think any government action limits freedom but I believe our master gardener program is just one more example of how federal, state and local government can enable individuals to realize their potential on behalf of their communities.