WESTFIELD-Judith Harvester has always enjoyed being outdoors and working the land so becoming a master gardener was inevitable.
“I grew up on a farm and have loved being outdoors my entire life,” said Harvester during a break between inquiries at the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association table at the Westfield Farmers’ Market on Thursday.
In a matter of 20 minutes, Harvester fielded questions by Lynn Bannon on pest identification and measured the acidic levels of soil samples hand delivered by Isaac Stayton. Harvester also enjoyed quizzing patrons passing by including Julie Desharnais and Kelsey Rebmann on garden-related questions.
Harvester graduated last year from the association’s training program and encourages others to consider joining the nonprofit organization of volunteers who are dedicated to promoting sustainable, best gardening practices and educating the public about them.
The next master gardener training program is slated on Tuesdays from January to April 2017 at Holyoke Community College. After completing the program, certified master gardeners fulfill annual service hours working with the public to foster its mission.
“The training we received was excellent and grounded in botany and sustainable gardening,” said Harvester, adding that other topics included vegetable gardening, the composition of soil, plant diseases, and plant management.
For Harvester, her annual service hours include working at the Westfield Farmers’ Market during the Thursdays in June, as well as providing an educational presence at the 4-H Club’s community garden in Belchertown.
“It’s a huge plot of land and all food raised is given to the food pantry in Belchertown,” said Harvester, noting that projects including these help her to advance her knowledge by staying current on the latest gardening techniques.
For more information on becoming a master gardener, visit www.wmmga.org; the training program application should be online by late summer.
“The classes are very stimulating and there are always internship opportunities too,” said Harvester.