Every spring and summer since 2004, Clackamas County Extension Master Gardeners have planted rows and rows of vegetables for their Grow an Extra Row Giving and Learning Garden. Grow an Extra Row supplies nutritious vegetables to area food banks and serves as a hands-on learning environment for practicing sustainable gardening techniques. In 2019, the volunteers produced and donated 3,039 pounds of fresh, nutritious produce.
Last February and March, Master Gardeners had already begun tending hundreds of vegetable starts at home when the garden needed to close following safety guidelines for COVID-19. Realizing how the pandemic could seriously increase the numbers of individuals experiencing food insecurity, Clackamas Master Gardeners hurried to distribute vegetable starts among members to tend, nurture and harvest veggies from their home gardens. Grow and Extra Row volunteer coordinator, Nancy Muir, said, “We knew the need for produce was going to be huge and we encouraged our volunteers to grow as much as they could and donate it.”
Within weeks, Master Gardeners were donating fresh, nutritious vegetables to several food banks in Clackamas County.
Grow and Extra Row started in 2004 when the late Gray Thompson – OSU Extension agent and co-founder of the Master Gardener program – sought to overcome the shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet of local residents. Thompson secured a 5,000-square-foot plot on the Clackamas Community College campus, enlisted the help and sweat equity of several Master Gardeners and sowed the seeds of what would become the Grow an Extra Row Learning and Giving Garden program. Support and funding is carried on by the Clackamas County Master Gardeners.
In 2020, despite the pandemic, Clackamas County Master Gardeners reported donating nearly 5,000 pounds of produce to food banks. Master Gardeners Will Hughes and Kathy Krentz donated over 1,000 pounds of tomatoes alone. True to their spirit as community volunteers, Clackamas County Master Gardeners overcame the challenges of a pandemic and rose to support their fellow Clackamas County neighbors.