The Growing Together Project: Understanding impacts on field day attendees and Iowa Master Gardeners
Citizen science has been shown to be an effective tool for increasing data collection, as well as a great benefit to those who participate in the research project. The rising costs and limited funding for conducting large-scale research projects make citizen science projects valuable assets for researchers. Understanding the impact of citizen science projects on the volunteers must be done to better engage with and retain the volunteers. The Growing Together project, a partnership between the ISU Extension and Outreach Master Gardener program and the Human Sciences Extension, was created to increase food security in Iowa. The two major components of the partnership were the pantry donation gardens located at the ISU Home Demonstration Gardens and mini-grants. These components allowed Iowa residents and master gardeners opportunities to increase food security in their communities through either participating in a mini-grant or a Home Demonstration Garden in 2016 and 2017. Using both paper and electronic survey software, field day attendees and volunteers in Iowa were asked to respond to a series of questions investigating: 1) the perceptions of field day attendees about food security after participation in a Home Demonstration Garden, and 2) the effectiveness of a citizen science training in increasing knowledge of data collection techniques of master gardener volunteers compared to untrained volunteers participating in the Growing Together projects. The information gained from these two studies will guide future coordinators of both the field days and citizen science trainings, while also providing a baseline for continued study of these volunteer and attendee groups.