UAF Cooperative Extension Service releases new food gardening app, Grow & Tell

Heidi Rader shows her new Grow & Tell app. (Photo by Jeff Fay, for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service)

Heidi Rader describes the new Grow & Tell app and website she developed as “essentially Yelp for gardeners.”

Rader teaches gardening and farming as the tribes Extension educator for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service and the Tanana Chiefs Conference. She also reaches gardeners and farmers from around the state through distance-delivered courses.The free app, which was released Tuesday, allows gardeners in the United States to see what vegetable varieties grow best in their areas based on what other gardeners say. The app also invites gardeners to act as citizen scientists and rate the varieties that they have grown for taste, yield and reliability.

Vegetable variety trials conducted in Fairbanks show what grows well here, she said but not in other areas of the state.

“That works pretty well for me but not for people, say, in Arctic Village or Nome,” she said.

Rader hopes that lots of gardeners will rate crops, which will make the app more useful for others. “It’s citizen scientists conducting variety trials where they live,” she said.

The app is available on the App Store for iPhones, Google Play for android phones or as a website at www.growandtell.us. Development of the app was funded by a grant from the eXtension Foundation to promote innovation in the Cooperative Extension Service. To keep the app free, Rader said, Extension will seek sponsorships to pay for updates, fixes and regular maintenance. Additionally, event advertising can also be purchased and targeted to app users locally, by state or nationally.

Rader hopes to expand the app to capture ratings on other plants used in the landscape and garden, including trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits and berries.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks recognized Rader with a 2016 Invent Alaska Award for her work on the app. Cornell University contributed ratings that it had already collected as well as lessons learned from operating a similar citizen science project. A Boston-based company, Geisel Software, built the app. For more information, contact Heidi Rader at grow.andtell@alaska.edu.

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UAF Cooperative Extension Service updates Alaska’s Sustainable Gardening Handbook

Sustainable Gardening 2015 cover

Alaska’s Sustainable Gardening Handbook” has been updated.

This publication was first produced in 2010 as an adaptation of “Sustainable Gardening: The Oregon-Washington Master Gardener Handbook” and this is the first revision. It is used as one component in Master Gardener training programs for University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service volunteers in Alaska, but is also a must-have for all Alaska gardeners.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service agriculture and horticulture agents have contributed their expertise to provide information on topics such as basic botany, lawns, vegetable gardening, orchards, entomology, pest management and more.

Call 877-520-5211 (toll-free in Alaska) to order the handbook, or check with Jasmine Shaw of the Sitka District Office at 747-9440 to see if she has any copies available locally. The 490-page book costs $50.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service to offer statewide online Alaska Master Gardener class

master_gardener

Are you interested in earning an Alaska Master Gardener certification? The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service is offering a statewide summer online Master Gardener class from May 23 through Aug. 12.

The Alaska Master Gardener online course is an intensive, sustainable gardening class specific to Alaska growing conditions. This is a non-credit, self-paced, online course offered through UAF eLearning using Blackboard Learn. The course fee is $375. Register here for the Summer 2016 Alaska Master Gardener online course — Course Number: ED F595P (50942) or NRM F595P (51014), choose either one when registering.

This curriculum for this online course includes lessons on botany, starting plants, soil, composting, season extension, greenhouses, landscaping, house plants, entomology, pest management, plant disease diagnostics and sustainable gardening. The course also covers growing vegetables, fruits, berries and flowers. The text for the course is Sustainable Gardening: Alaska Master Gardener Manual, which can be purchased for $50 a copy from this link. The text is optional for the course, but it is a good resource for any Alaska gardener even if you’re not taking the course.

Students complete 12 self-paced lessons and quizzes, a book report, participate in ongoing discussions, and complete a final exam. On average, the course takes students approximately three hours per week to complete. The course is pass/fail and the summer course is not for credit.

In addition to the coursework, students also pledge to volunteer at least 40 hours teaching what they’ve learned in their communities. Examples of how students can volunteer include helping with local school garden programs or 4H clubs, working with local foods groups, writing gardening blogs, and more.

The classroom-based Alaska Master Gardener course hasn’t been offered in Sitka for about three years, so the statewide online course is the only way Sitka gardeners can obtain the training until a new Cooperative Extension Service agent is hired in Sitka. Gardeners from Sitka can contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service (jdshaw2@alaska.edu or 747-9440) to see if there will be a local classroom at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus for the online course, otherwise they will need to take it from home.

For more information about the statewide online Alaska Master Gardener course, contact instructor Heidi Rader in Fairbanks at 907-452-8251, Ext. 3477, or by email at master.gardener@alaska.edu

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service to offer statewide online Alaska Master Gardener class

master_gardener

Are you interested in earning an Alaska Master Gardener certification? The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service is offering a statewide spring online Master Gardener class from Feb. 17 through May 18.

The Alaska Master Gardener online course is an intensive, sustainable gardening class specific to Alaska growing conditions. This is a non-credit, self-paced, online course offered through UAF eLearning using Blackboard Learn. The course fee is $375. Register here for the Spring 2015 Alaska Master Gardener online course (Course Number: CEPD F001-UX1).

This curriculum for this online course includes lessons on botany, starting plants, soil, composting, season extension, greenhouses, landscaping, house plants, entomology, pest management, plant disease diagnostics and sustainable gardening. The course also covers growing vegetables, fruits, berries and flowers. The text for the course is Sustainable Gardening: Alaska Master Gardener Manual, which can be purchased for $50 a copy from this link.

Students complete 12 self-paced lessons and quizzes, a book report, participate in ongoing discussions, and complete a final exam. On average, the course takes students approximately three hours per week to complete. The course is pass/fail and the spring course is not for credit.

In addition to the coursework, students also pledge to volunteer at least 40 hours teaching what they’ve learned in their communities. Examples of how students can volunteer include helping with local school garden programs or 4H clubs, working with local foods groups, writing gardening blogs, and more.

The classroom-based Alaska Master Gardener course hasn’t been offered in Sitka for nearly two years, so the statewide online course is the only way Sitka gardeners can obtain the training until a new Cooperative Extension Service agent is hired in Sitka. Gardeners from Sitka can contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service (jdshaw2@alaska.edu or 747-9440) to see if there will be a local classroom at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus for the online course.

For more information about the statewide online Alaska Master Gardener course, contact instructor Heidi Rader or teaching assistant Glenna Gannon in Fairbanks at 907-452-8251, Ext. 3281, or by email at master.gardener@alaska.edu

• Newly published Alaska Farmers Market Cookbook helps you turn your produce into a delicious meal

Are you looking for ideas on how to turn your farmers market produce into a delicious meal? Heidi Rader of Fairbanks recently published the Alaska Farmers Market Cookbook, which should provide you with lots of inspiration to cook “simply good food full of Alaska Grown ingredients.”

According to Heidi’s website, “The Alaska Farmers Market Cookbook is an unpretentious cookbook featuring Alaska Grown ingredients. It’s the only cookbook you’ll need to turn your basket of Alaska Farmers Market produce into a delicious meal. Organized by season, you’ll find recipes that make use of local, Alaskan ingredients in the spring, summer, fall, and winter. Many of the recipes were developed using produce from the Little Alaskan Garden. This full-color cookbook features many photographs taken by Heidi Rader. Recipes like Rhubarb Pie with Saffron and Mayan Zucchini Brownies will make you forget all about peach pie or banana bread.”

The book can be purchased off Heidi’s website by going to the book’s page clicking the “Buy Now” link, which takes you to a PayPal page. Heidi is charging $19.95, plus $6.99 shipping and handling ($26.94 total). Alaska farmers market groups interested in selling the book should contact Heidi to discuss possible bulk-purchase discounts. The cookbook is supported in part by the Alaska Division of Agriculture‘s Alaska Grown ProgramFairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Heidi is a lifelong Alaskan who earned a master’s degree in natural resources (with an agriculture focus) from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Colorado. In addition to her Little Alaska Garden farm, Heidi also serves as the tribes extension educator for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service and Tanana Chiefs Conference, and she provides agriculture education to remote communities around the state. To learn more about Heidi and her work, check out this recent feature from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publishes new sustainable gardening manual for Alaska

(The following is a press release from the University of Alaska Fairbanks news service)

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has published a new comprehensive gardening manual.

“Sustainable Gardening: The Alaska Master Gardener Manual” was adapted for Alaska from an Oregon State University publication, “Sustainable Gardening: The Oregon-Washington Master Gardener Handbook.”

The 490-page manual, which sells for $40, is a basic gardening text. It also offers information on soils and fertilizers, propagation, berry crops, pruning, composting, flowers, greenhouses and season extenders, lawns, plant diseases, pesticides and integrated pest management. The manual is a good resource for home gardeners and also will be used as one component in Extension’s master gardener training programs.

Michele Hebert, Extension’s Tanana District agriculture and horticulture agent, was one of several people who contributed to the manual. She said gardeners need additional information to overcome the challenges and capitalize on the benefits of growing vegetables and flowers in the Far North.

The manual focuses on sustainable gardening practices, a holistic method for growing plants that is good for the environment, good for families and good for the community, said Hebert. “It takes a minimal input of labor, water, fertilizer and pesticides while building the soil into a healthy living system. A thoughtful balance is made between the resources used and the results gained.”

Other contributors to the manual include current and former Alaska Extension faculty Stephen Brown, Jeff Smeenk, Tom Jahns, Robert Gorman (of Sitka), Fred Sorensen, Julie Riley, Heidi Rader, Bob Wheeler, Peter Bierman and Jay Moore. Copies may be ordered through Extension’s toll-free line at 1-877-520-5211 or by clicking this link.

(The Alaska Public Radio Network ran this story about the book on the Tuesday, Sept. 7, Alaska News Nightly show.)