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    September 10, 2020

    IMPERIAL VALLEY — About 56 current and potential green-thumbed Valleyites joined in on a free Zoom webinar held by Imperial County’s University of California Cooperative Extension Wednesday, September 9, for the first of six webinars on small yield gardening.

    The Building Our Local Foodshed: Gardening Webinar Series held by the UCCE-Imperial takes place every other week from September 9 until November 6 in half-hour sessions from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., according to their website.

    The first webinar, led by UCCE-Imperial’s Community Education Specialist 2 Kristian Salgado, introduced the physical, mental, and environmental benefits of gardening and how to start a garden at home this fall, according to the site.

    “There's been a surge in interest in taking on a variety of hobbies that people have in their home and there's been an interest in gaining access to good information, and whether it's to make your backyard look more beautiful or to grow your own food, there’s interest,” Salgado said.

    Salgado said the webinars are guided by the Master Gardening Program, where UCCE-Imperial advisers who are experts in their respective fields will be sharing research-based and scientific information on various aspects of gardening — including water management, organic pest management, and harvesting herbs.

    Dr. Oli Bachie, UCCE-Imperial director and cross-county advisor for Imperial, San Diego, and Riverside counties, said while in quarantine many people have the available resources and time to produce their own foods in their own homes, which is very healthy.

    Salgado agreed.

    “The majority are small food producers that are focused on different crops that are maybe unique or different,” she said. “So, this is like a combination of putting together info focused towards individuals who are very interested in going into gardening and something they can possibly translate into growing their own foods at-home.”

    While the series is for education and not entertainment, Bachie said he thinks the webinar series will still create fun “because if you have your children go out and put their hands in soil with you, they will enjoy seed planting, composting, irrigation, and eventually harvesting.”

    The coordinators hope the series renews interest in gardening. They believe it demonstrates the need for Imperial County to have its own Master Garden and Master Gardening Program.

    Bachie said a Master Gardening Program would teach people how to grow vegetables starting from planting all the way to harvesting and would include further education on the mental satisfaction of gardening, as well as positive environmental contributions, more knowledge in irrigation, and other related topics.

    Salgado said Master Gardening is a great type of training and would help bring together the pockets of interested local gardeners she sees on social media such as Facebook, in schools, churches, and other areas around the Imperial Valley.

    Participation in the Building Our Local Foodshed webinar series will help to give UCCE-Imperial a clearer idea of how many locals would be interested in creating a Master Gardening Program.

    “We want people to know a master gardening program has a very long-time history, think Imperial County is the only county (in California) that does not have the Master Garden Program,” Bachie said. “By now 54 counties now have the Master Gardening Program.”

    Roman Flores, Reporter, The Desert Review can be reached at rflores@thedesertreview.com

    Ramon Flores, Reporter, The Desert Review