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Volunteer Spotlight – Betsy Dickson

When did you join the Colorado Master Gardener program and why did you join?

I became an Arapahoe County CMG in 2005. My grandfather was a wonderful gardener; his Minneapolis garden was beautiful, filled with peonies, tulips and award-winning roses. I have Littleton neighbors who are very gifted gardeners and they encouraged me to look into the Colorado Master Gardener program.

What is your favorite activity and why?

Discovering Colorado. My husband and I loved to four-wheel in our jeep when we were younger. That was the most glorious way to get to know this fantastic state. Now we travel in a more comfortable mode but continue our education and adventures. Next weekend we are revisiting Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I carry a pair of gardening gloves in the car for roadside treasures, dried flowers, rocks etc.

What is your favorite part of the program and why?

I have been a volunteer at the Colorado Center for the Blind. A park-like setting was designed and built about 20 years ago at the base of the school parking lot. Shortly after that, the CCB park was re-designed by the Arapahoe County Master Gardeners as a food support garden for the school.

The school considers our program a very important part of the CCB curriculum. We use the large raised bed as a food producing garden. This has been an outstanding experience for me and my fellow gardeners. Every Tuesday the school sends down five to eight blind students to work with us in the raised bed garden. The students weed, plant, sweep and harvest what has grown. The food harvested goes to the CCB kitchen and, if we have enough, a restaurant in downtown Littleton that provides meals to underserved citizens. We grow tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, runner beans, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, celery, herbs, pumpkins, swiss chard, chives and walking onions.

Students at CCB that we work with only recently lost their vision. They are learning new skills for an independent life. Along with studying Braille and other academic classes, how to travel, cook and use the computer, they work with us in the garden. Many have never touched “dirt.” Many are adjusting to life away from their families. The CCB students are from all over the globe. The age range of students is 18 to 70.

What would you want someone to know about the CMG program that may not be commonly known?

You are not expected to learn everything about gardening during the first Apprentice year. Each year there are opportunities to gain strength and education in many different areas. I struggled with turf, lawns and growing healthy grass. As a CMG, you are offered whatever courses you might need to review. Keeping an eye on areas that are challenging and looking for the lecture or an online class is a big help.

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