What is on your list of thanks this Thanksgiving? After all, that is the question of the week. I am grateful for many things, too much to list here. If I could distill down to a few core items for which I give thanks, the following is what I have to offer.
I am grateful for healthy soil. Yes, I said soil. The same stuff most people call "dirt." The same thing we work so hard to keep off our cars, shoes and out of the house. The very substance that plagues fingernails and a child's hands. Whatever you have to be thankful for this year, you also had better thank soil.
Think about the Thanksgiving meal. Without soil, there is no sweet potato casserole, apple pie or warm buttery dinner rolls. Even the meat -- be it turkey, ham or tofu -- resides on your table because of soil. Soil is the foundation (literally) for life.
Unfortunately, for many in Central Illinois and throughout the world, tables are sparse, even bare of food year-round. That is why I am also thankful for volunteers.
This year, Master Gardeners in Knox and McDonough counties grew a combined total of 4,789 pounds of produce to donate to local food pantries. We grow the donated produce in our GIFT (Growing Illinois Food Together) Garden in Macomb and the Carl Sandburg Community Garden in Galesburg.
If you are interested in learning about growing fresh vegetables and giving back to your community, come out and join us. Contact the McDonough or Knox County Extension office for more information.
In addition to growing food, Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists give back so much of their time and knowledge back to their communities. It is wonderful to get to work with such amazing people. In the past five years, these volunteers have donated 23,660 hours of service back to their community, which equates to a $557,422 value.
Which brings me to my next item of thankfulness, my job! Being an Extension educator allows me to work in, study, collaborate and write about stewarding the landscape.
Whether it's building a rain garden, troubleshooting a stressed tree, growing tasty veggies or restoring a prairie, every day brings something new. I get to work with community members and organizations, meet new people, teach and learn from others. Moreover, I get to work outside. To me, that is a great benefit to the job.
It is because of my job I get to write this weekly column. Over a year contributing to Good Growing has been very rewarding. Writing these articles forces me to explore horticultural topics more than I would otherwise. Writing has imparted me far more knowledge as a result. Thank you, readers.
Finally yet most importantly, I am thankful for my family. Their support over the years has brought me far and will take me farther still. Beyond thanks is hope for the future, especially as I think of my three children. A hope of healthy soil, full tables and bellies, good volunteers, fulfilling jobs and opportunities and family.