Extension Master Gardeners in Fairfax County’s Green Spring unit support the community that surrounds Green Spring Gardens, a Fairfax County public park, through community events, talks, and research-based horticulture education.

The park includes a children’s garden and a space where Extension Master Gardeners maintain an edible garden that produces vegetables and herbs for donation to a local food bank.

With the help of a micro-grant from the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program office, Green Spring Extension Master Gardeners had educational materials translated and install new signage at Green Spring Gardens that caters to the diverse language needs of their community.

“We realized that our signage wasn’t welcoming diversity,” said Gioia Caiola Forman, an Extension Master Gardener who helped coordinate the project. “We wanted to have as many languages represented as we could fit. We took the local population into consideration, which includes a lot of Spanish and Korean speakers, and then we worked our way out into the suburbs. We were able to fit 17 languages on our ‘welcome’ sign.”

“We also added signage in different languages to our Little Free Library and purchased books related to our ‘bee’ theme in those languages,” said Mary Lou Wall, another Extension Master Gardener who helped coordinate the project.

At the request of a local foodbank, Green Spring Extension Master Gardeners also recently added a variety of international vegetables and herbs to their edible garden area. These crops are donated to the food bank to meet the needs of a diverse clientele. As part of their signage project, Green Spring Extension Master Gardeners translated signage labeling these crops.

“Providing programming in other languages is very important because want to people who speak other languages to know that Green Spring wants them to be here,” Forman said. “We want them to learn what the environment has to over, and we’re allowing some people who wouldn’t normally come to the garden to feel a little more comfortable.”

“When we looked at demographics of the community, we realized we were only hitting a small number of people,” Wall said. “While it’s heartwarming to see people visiting, we realized that they may or may not be able to read the signs, and we realized we could expand our garden community by translating our educational materials.”

Providing information in a variety of languages benefits everyone, according to Forman. “We learned that there are also many English speakers who want to introduce their children to different languages. They might come to something like our international storytime even if they don’t speak that language at home,” she said.

Grant funding from the Extension Master Gardener state office contributed to the translation of materials into different languages, installation of new signage and educational materials, and the work of a local artist to paint signs.

“Through projects like this, Extension Master Gardeners support the wellbeing of all Virginians,” said Kathleen Reed, the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener state coordinator. “It’s important that we support these volunteers as they turn knowledge into action serving their communities.”

From local garden projects to environmental education, Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners help all Virginians implement the research of Virginia’s two land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, and provide real solutions for a more sustainable and collaborative commonwealth.

To learn more about gardening or join a community group of other passionate gardeners, contact your local Master Gardener unit by searching for your county on the Virginia Cooperative Extension website or Facebook.

Written by Devon Johnson

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