Passing down knowledge to the future

Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardener Association president’s report

Let’s talk history.

Not history in the big picture but history in a small way. Not your history or my history but a gardener’s personal history.

I recently received a box from my brother containing a few things from our grandmother’s sewing chest. He didn’t think they were of much value, but he thought, as I also sew, that I could use them. In the box were several pamphlets covering everything from mending to small home repairs, from gardening to candle making, from reupholstering to crocheting. Everything a Kansas farm wife would need to know. These pamphlets dated from the mid-1930s to the late-1960s and carried a wealth of useful everyday information.

My grandmother had written her name on the cover of each one. She put her name on it because in our community, you shared what you had. These pamphlets were loaned out to other farmer’s wives, and the name ensured they would be returned to the correct person.

Now, you’re thinking that I’m telling you about some of my family’s personal history though it may or may not be of interest to you. We all have great memories of our grandmothers, and this sounds more like it’s referencing my family’s history. Well you’re right there, but you’re also missing the significance — they were all from the Kansas State Cooperative Extension Service and were available to farm wives from all over Kansas. They requested them by mail or picked them up at their county’s Extension office.

My grandmother used these pamphlets her entire married life. Reading these showed me where she learned some of the tips that she taught me. Other than techniques that have been automated or advanced over time, I still use a lot of those tips today.

I’m sharing all of this with you so you can see where your volunteering will help those in the future. When we teach a class at Garden Fest, a garden club, or to Junior Master Gardeners, or when we hand a VCE pamphlet or flier to someone at a farmers market or a fair, we’re creating history. We’re sharing something that could be passed down in that person’s family.

And as more people are returning to gardening, we’re touching many people’s lives with knowledge. A lot of homeowners today do not have a link to the agricultural past that many Master Gardeners have, so there is no one from whom to learn gardening techniques.

That is why we volunteer and why we enjoy what we’re doing. Some of what we teach today could be passed on to the next generation and beyond. Imagine someday a grandchild opening a box his grandparent left for him and discovering a VCE pamphlet explaining the proper way to plant a vegetable garden. Then that grandchild remembering how his grandparent taught him to do it in the same way. History comes from many sources. So, in our small way, we’re passing on history for that child, too.

Now, it’s unlikely the person receiving that pamphlet from a Master Gardener is going to remember who gave it to them, but you never know — you may be handing it to a future Master Gardener.

Keep teaching.

Keep creating history.

— Cy Haley, NSVMG president

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