The Latest Dirt - Sept 2023
¿Qué pasa, Jardineros? (What’s happening, Jardineros?)
By Anne Sutherland
You may recall from last Winter’s The Latest Dirt  that I met Marisa Neelon, the Nutrition, Family & Consumer Sciences Advisor for UCCE in CoCoCo. She put me in touch with Santos Lopez (see photo with baby). Santos is the EFNEP* Community Nutrition Educator for UCCE.  He teaches nutrition classes to Spanish-speaking mothers of Contra County County students. With the help of school staff, we have continued a program for these mothers to learn to grow their own food. Container gardening makes the most sense since many of the families have little or no garden space.
This year’s first class was a little too ambitious, a hands-on potting up and pruning of bare-root fruit trees. Everyone had a great time, but the pots were big, heavy, and hard for the class to manage, especially for those who didn’t have cars! The class periodically tells the school staff how the trees are doing.
After a short PowerPoint presentation, UC Master Gardener Allison Thomas and I showed 18 women how to pot up and care for tomato, pepper, and sunflower seedlings at Delta Elementary School in Oakley. We put our Spanish to good use, and the women loved having plants to take home. This school would love to join our School Gardens Project, and they have the beginnings of a lovely garden. Allison told me, “This is what being a Master Gardener volunteer is all about.” Santos showed off his babysitting skills while the mothers were potting up.
We’ve scheduled two more classes for this Fall at Montalvin Manor Elementary and Rodeo Elementary Schools. We will list them on the VMS calendar.
Another event we staffed was a Resource Fair at the Monument Crisis Center. Allison Thomas and I set up an Ask A Master Gardener-style table and gave away advice, Quick Tips in Spanish, and sunflower seedlings to 34 grateful attendees. The Fair chose the sunflower as a symbol of Environmental Justice.
Indigenous Peoples Day will be held this Fall at the Richmond Arts Center and will be on the VMS calendar. I plan to contact the CA Native Plant Society to see if they’d like to co-host, and I will have CA native plant seeds and seedlings to give away. The event will need a coordinator.
Another highlight was staffing a gardening class at the Monument Crisis Center Summer School. Like last year’s class, we had a potting-up table using bean seedlings and Botany and Insect tables. UC Master Gardeners Allison Thomas and Rosalee Frankel volunteered again, to my delight. There were 50 kids who also rotated through a cooking class and a gardening games table—many thanks to Karla Tinajero and her terrific staff. Otherwise, can you imagine managing 50 kids??
I hope to find a venue to celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and give away marigolds and mums, traditional flowers that honor los Muertos. It will be on the VMS calendar.
Even if you don’t speak Spanish, I do and will be staffing all these events except Indigenous Peoples Day, and I would love to have the help!
 *Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), the first nutrition education program in the US for low-income populations, at the forefront of nutrition education (https://www.nifa.usda.gov/grants/programs/capacity-grants/efnep/expanded-food-nutrition-education-program)