Portage River Farm

  (Pinckney, Michigan)
Notes on our struggles and successes on our family farm in rural Michigan.

Master Gardener Class

In the interest of honing my gardening skills and increasing my involvement in the local gardening community, I signed up for the Master Gardener Program offered by the Extension Office. After paying the program fees, being interviewed by the Extension Agent, providing three character references and having a police background check, I was accepted into the program. The program involves 48 hours of classroom time plus 40 hours of field work.

The date of the first class finally arrived to find me excited to get started. Unfortunately, that was also the day that we got our first major snow storm of the season. From my office at work, I checked the weather forecast and watched the flakes stack up outside the window. My commute from my office in Livonia to the classroom site would normally take about 45 minutes, but I decided to leave early to allow for slower traffic.

Little did I know what an incredible snarl the traffic would turn out to be. As soon as I turned onto the freeway, I could see that it was crammed to capacity and making extremely slow progress. I watched with mounting frustration as the estimated time of arrival on my GPS ticked the minutes away past the start time of class. At one point, I exited the freeway in the forlorn hope that I could find a quicker way through side-streets and back roads. Unfortunately those routes proved even more backed up than the freeway! I merged back into the freeway traffic and tried my best to relax and tell myself that it just couldn't be helped.

After nearly a three-hour struggle, I arrived at the Extension office about 30 minutes late. I found the packed classroom and took a seat along the wall. To my relief, they were just concluding the introduction to the course and I hadn't missed any of the lectures. The Extension Agent who was teaching the class knows me from previous courses and said she was confident that I would show up eventually.

The first class covered plant physiology and classification as well as an overview of major epidemic pest infestations and devastating disease outbreaks in the region. I found the topics fascinating and picked up many new facts that I did not know. We were also provided with a huge textbook roughly five inches thick. I'm looking forward to reading my way through the assignment in the next day or two.

Among my classmates were two of our CSA members. It was nice to see them and it's good to know that we will have so many well educated members to help and advise us. I also made acquaintance with another woman who is establishing her own CSA in the region and was eager for us to work together sharing ideas and helpful resource contacts. Her enthusiasm for her project was a good match for my own. We stood out in the parking lot talking excitedly until snow-covered and cold. We decided to continue our chat the following week.

It feels good to be getting to know so many people with similar interests in our region. The feeling of excitement among this growing network of farmers is infectious. Everyone I have met has been helpful and supportive, with effusive information sharing and offers of assistance in one way or another. The impression that we are all part of something new and exciting, a movement that is growing by the day does wonders to shore up my own energy for the massive amount of work we have ahead of us in our first CSA season.

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