Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

April 20, 2013

Gardening program continues to grow

By Wade Coggeshall

DANVILLE — Even with technology that allows you access to just about everything everywhere, there's still something about making your own that trumps it.

Growing your own food is a prime example. Hendricks County Extension Master Gardeners prove that on an annual basis with their "Gardening for All Ages" event. The 25th edition was conducted Saturday at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds and Conference Complex.

It was Jim Trocha's second time running it. They had 1,600 attend last year, and organizers expected to easily surpass that this time.

"We had a line of about 50 people at 9 o'clock waiting to get in," said Trocha, president of the Master Gardeners.

Attendees were treated to a variety of vendors, speakers, and activities.

"We keep the show strictly garden," Trocha said. "It's all natural stuff. Our mission is education."

While many merchants were local, some came from as far away as Northern Michigan, including one who makes jewelry out of seeds.

There were four speakers discussing a variety of garden-related topics. Gene Bush, owner of Munchkin Nursery and Gardens in Southern Indiana, talked about native plants.

"There's a big move to restore those," Trocha said. "We wiped them out and now we're bringing them back, because that's what attracts bees and birds."

Another popular feature of Gardening for All Ages are the free seeds and trees, the latter of which always runs out fast. There were 150 handed out this time.

"Every year we get more and every year they still go quick," Trocha said.

Some of the entities present displayed a different side of gardening. The Plainfield Correctional Facility had a booth showcasing their gardens. They have 12 plots that are 75 by 50 feet each - almost double the size they had last year. All the food they grow is donated to community-based programs like Gleaners, Sheltering Wings, and The Gathering Together.

"It gives our guys purpose, a way to be productive and give back to the community," said Sgt. Bob Paige. "It gives them the mindset that there's more to life than just yourself. If you're giving back to society, that's a much better deal."

On any given day there can be up to 60 offenders helping with the gardens. As a result they produced more than a ton of crops in 2012.

"In the beginning we had like 11 or 12 pounds," Paige said. "As it started to grow, we began having 300-, 400-, 600-pound yields on a weekly basis."

Trocha has noticed an increased interest in gardening recently.

"More people want to know where their food comes from," he said. "It's great to be able to grow your own and say it came from your garden. A whole generation skipped canning and preserving food, but now it's coming back."

It also saves money in the long run.

"You grow what you need," Trocha said. "The rest you give away or can or freeze."

Even though Trocha's in his 50s, he was one of the younger Master Gardeners when he started in the program five years ago. That all ages part has begun to take hold since.

"I see a lot of younger people now getting into the program," Trocha said. "They had relatives who used to have gardens. Now they want to know how to do it."

For more information on the Master Gardeners, call 745-9260 or visit the website HendricksGardeners.com.