Garden to Table course reaches traditionally underserved residents

A man sits in a chair on a patio next to potted vegetable plants.

The number of Latinos in Yamhill County continues to grow, making up about 16% of the county’s population. However, Latinos, especially those in lower-income households, along with other underserved residents, have traditionally been a hard-to-reach group for the Oregon State University Extension Service Master Gardener program.

In response, Heather Stoven, OSU Extension Master Gardener coordinator in Yamhill County, thought of the successful Seed to Supper program, a free, six-week course that gives novice adult gardeners the tools they need to successfully grow and enjoy their own food. The program was developed by OSU Extension in 2014. In 2016, Master Gardeners in Yamhill County partnered with the local foodbank, Yamhill Community Action Partnership, to adopt the program and design a food-based gardening course. They changed the name to Garden to Table.

The Garden to Table program started during the COVID-19 pandemic and interest in growing and eating local food skyrocketed. The classes were adapted to online learning and the course was given twice in 2021.

As a result, Stoven received grant money from the nonprofit Yamhill Community Care Organization (YCCO) that enabled the construction of 37 raised beds, nine containers, three community garden spaces, plus plant starts and seeds for the class participants. Each new gardener was assigned a Master Gardener mentor who was available outside of class. The also recieved a book on gardening, as well as resources on food preservation and nutrition.

Of the 42 original participants, 40 completed the course. In a survey, everyone who responded said they ate more vegetables while using their newfound garden space – anywhere from two to 21 servings a week. The participants reported savings of $10-$90 a week in grocery costs, with an average of $47, resulting in an average savings of $940 for the season, which ranged from three to seven months in 2021.

Survey results showed that 87% feel the classes had a positive impact on their dietary choices and all of them said they plan to garden again. The class will be offered in person and online in both Spanish and English in 2022.