Ohio Master Gardener Volunteers return to Ecuador

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Buenos Dias! Or as they say in Ecuador, good morning! If you are reading my column in the morning, I am still in the air, flying home from Ecuador. If you are reading this in the evening, hopefully, I am home and enjoying my family.

For the first time in two years, Ohio State University (OSU) Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) spent a week in Ecuador on our gardening vacation. The last time we were there was in 2020, the last trip before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We had 20 MGVs and OSU staff members fly down on Jan. 20 and spend a week working in the indigenous communities. The projects this year were awesome.

The trip is organized by the Tandana Foundation, a non-profit organization created by Anna Taft. Anna and her mom, former Ohio First Lady Hope Taft, have worked with our MGVs for 10 years to create this international outreach program for OSU.

MGVs pay their own airfare and registration fees and the foundation takes care of us when in Ecuador. The staff is comprised of college students who are working abroad as well as permanent Ecuadorian staff. They organize all the gardening activities and cultural tours.

We typically work a half day and then tour in the afternoon. The work is generally easy (though sometimes not!) and assists communities on a variety of projects.

In these projects, the community must also provide help. We don’t go into a community, complete a project and leave. We work side by side with the members.

One of my favorite places is to work at Saminay El Legado. This school is an agricultural school in which students gain a general education but also lessons in growing food. Some students get up at 5 a.m. to catch a truck to get to school by 7 a.m.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

At Saminay, the students work on the farm and eat the food they grow. They are served breakfast and lunch.

In 2020 our project was to plant a row of flowers along the entrance drive to the school. We stripped the grass, added compost, and planted. I am happy to say that the students have done an excellent job of maintenance.

This year, our project was to work with the students and build flower and vegetable beds to create a new garden area. We help strip the grass and prepare the raised bed.

Now, this isn’t grass like our Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. It’s more of a Johnsongrass on steroids. The underground rhizomes are tenacious. It took quite a bit of hoeing meal. It is a lot of fun and of course, the bonding among the 20 women was successful. Many will remain in contact once they are back in Ohio.

If you are interested in learning more about the Tandana Foundation, go to tandanafoundation.org.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at bennett.27@osu.edu.

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