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Growing Groceries program brings fresh, homegrown food into residents’ kitchens

Jan 5th, 2013 | Category: Community, Features

Snohomish Country training now in its third season; registration due Feb. 1

by Samantha Schuller

A lot of home gardeners tend a secret dream of someday becoming a Master Gardener. But if it’s the tidy rows of a productive vegetable garden you’re after, you’d be better off aspiring to a different title—Master Grocer.

Growing Groceries is an in-depth edible garden training program offered by Snohomish County’s WSU Extension Office (which trains adjunct Master Gardeners as well). Participants learn from expert speakers in four Saturday lecture sessions on basics like soil building, healthy transplanting, and identifying garden pests, as well as advanced topics like vertical gardening, food safety, and more. Four hands-on garden sessions follow the completion of the lectures.

Garden lettuce wall in Tulalip. PHOTO BY RICHELL TAYLOR

“The goal is to get more people growing groceries,” says program advisor Kate Halstead. “We hope to help more people get fresh, homegrown food into their kitchens.” The program was developed when Halstead and her fellow extension agents began noticing an increase in the demand for edible gardening advice. “In years past, people had been more interested in horticulture,” she explains, “but these days, people are seeing the cost and health benefits of growing their own produce, and we want to help them succeed.”

The program advisors encourage participants to volunteer 35 hours or more in the following year, sharing their training in their own communities, and WSU offers a $50 tuition discount for participants who do. “We’re really looking for folks willing to share their expertise with the community, whether they start a community garden or start donating to the food bank each week,” Halstead says.

Now coming into its third season, Growing Groceries has seen the birth of a network of experts, graduates, and volunteers all over the Puget Sound region, exponentially sharing training through community and school gardens. Program graduate Diane Decker-Isle of Snohomish says, “I’ve always gardened, so I was surprised at how much I learned not only from the training, but from the other mentors as well. It’s a great network to tap into long after the training ends.”

Registration for the upcoming 2013 session is due by Feb. 1. Training includes four classroom and hands-on sessions: Feb. 9 and 23, Mar. 9 and 23, from 8:30 a.m. 3:30 p.m. at WSU Snohomish County Extension’s Cougar Auditorium in McCollum Park, Everett. Following, four monthly garden sessions will take place April 20, May 18, June 15, and July 20, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (locations to be announced). Tuition is $135 for participants willing to meet the volunteer requirement; $185 for those who prefer not to.

For more information, visit, or contact Sharon Collman, WSU Snohomish County Extension Educator at (425) 357-6025 or To register, contact Karie Christensen at (425) 357-6039 or e-mail

Published in the January 2013 issue of Grow Northwest magazine

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