Master Gardening is Gender-neutral

by Tom Neiman, SCMG

The meeting ended. As I was getting up to leave, one of the fellows asked me, “You’re a master gardener, aren’t you?”

Before I could respond, another man chimed in, “Why in the world would you join a women’s club?”

Although his question was intended as a jab at my masculinity, my answer got his attention.

“Yes, I’m a Sandoval County master gardener and one out of every four of us is a guy. But that’s not important. I like the idea of being able to plant a seed in the ground and watch what grows from it, whether it’s something beautiful like a flowering Cosmos or food to eat,” I said.

I pointed outside, toward the Rio Grande.

“How about something that your family can enjoy and leave as a legacy to the community. Look at all those trees and shrubs.”

Others gathered around to listen. Someone inquired, “Is your wife a master gardener?”

I answered, “Yes, Gretchen and I attended class one year apart, although she had plenty of experience transplanting her ideas as well as herself from New England to New Mexico. I’m relatively new to gardening.”

My smart-aleck friend again attempted to get a rise out of me by asking, “What do you grow? No, wait. Let me guess. Is it roses or tomatoes?”

I told him, “I prefer sunflowers, corn and green beans. Whoever would have thought legumes would be fun to grow. There’s no better feeling than eating the fruits, or should I say the vegetables, of your labor. My wife and I also grow trees. Gretchen prefers fruit trees and I plant desert willows and other low-water species from seed.”

Another person asked, “I heard you say you have a training class?”

“Yes, and 25 percent of last year’s interns were men. Our next class begins in January and runs through April. It’s only four hours per week.”

“What do you learn?”

“How to plant, grow and maintain flowers, grasses, trees and crops for their beauty, food value and to improve the health of the planet. The Sandoval County Extension office in Bernalillo is part of New Mexico State University. The university provides us with up-to-date information and we, as master gardeners, pass the knowledge out to the community through public events and demonstration gardens.”

My fun-loving friend asked, “What if I end up with too many … potatoes?”

“Yes, I know the feeling. Gretchen and I had more eggplants than we could possibly eat in one season. No problem. She preserved some for winter meals and we donated the rest to a local food pantry like St. Felix in Rio Rancho.

Another fellow offered, “What If I don’t want to plant in my own yard?”

“The Sandoval County Master Gardeners collaborate with non-profits like the Seed2Need Project, where acres of ground are planted and maintained by volunteers just like you. Tens of thousands of pounds of food were donated to the local food pantries last year.”

I elbowed my friend in the ribs. “ We can always use a little more testosterone in the garden, if you know what I mean.”

The cluster of observers laughed.

As we walked to our cars, I shouted, “Hey, why not come join us?”

Applications for the 2015 Master Gardener Training will be accepted until Dec. 5. Classes begin Jan. 6 at the Sandoval County Extension Service office in the old courthouse in Bernalillo. For more gardening and class information, call the Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service at 867-2582.

This article was published in The Rio Rancho Observer in November 2014 to publicize the upcoming SCMG Intern classes.