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Cultivating Communities: A Clemson Extension Program for South Carolina Community Gardens

Extension Education

Amy Dabbs
Statewide School & Community Gardening Coordinator


In response to increased grant funding to address food access and equity through community gardening, Clemson Extension developed the online training course "Cultivating Communities." The online course teaches community gardeners essential skills to create sustainable community gardens.

Participants begin by developing garden teams and assessing the needs and skills of their community through S.W.O.T. analysis and reciprocal mapping exercises. Students learn about site analysis, soil preparation, raised bed vs. in-ground gardening, and irrigation basics through engaging instructional videos. Additional topics covered include food safety, crop selection, integrated pest management, and garden management. In addition, practical assignments, including soil and irrigation water testing, help participants gain access to their local county extension agents and local resources while discovering valuable information about their chosen site.

Teams of community gardeners must successfully engage in all coursework and submit three practical activities that jumpstart the community garden development process. Upon course completion, participants receive an interactive digital badge to share with their network. 

The South Carolina Association for Community and Economic Development (S.C.A.C.E.D.) funded the pilot cohort in April 2022. The organization awarded $3,000 to twenty-one community garden grant applicants. S.C.A.C.E.D. required each community garden site's team to complete the course before receiving the funds. The leader of each group received an educational materials box with books and equipment to support the community garden.

Over eighty participants enrolled in the pilot, and Clemson Online issued sixty-eight interactive digital badges to those community gardeners who completed the training. Twenty gardens received final funding for implementation. Additional cohorts for new grant awardees will take place spring of 2023.

Poster has NOT been presented at any previous NACAA AM/PIC

This poster is being submitted for judging. It will be displayed at the AM/PIC if not selected as a State winner. The abstract will be published in the proceedings.

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Authors: Amy Dabbs, Justin Ballew, Carmen Ketron, Rob Last, Zack Snipes, S. Cory Tanner, Stephanie Turner, Mary Vargo, Lori Kinley, Laura Scott, Chase Sanders, Rachel Greene
  1. Dabbs, A. Statewide School & Community Gardening Coordinator, Clemson Extension, South Carolina, 29414
  2. Ballew, J. Fruit and Vegetable Research Associate, Clemson Extension, South Carolina, 29229
  3. Ketron, C. Urban Horticulture Agent , Clemson Extension, South Carolina, 29532
  4. Last, R. Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson Extension, South Carolina, 29812
  5. Snipes, Z. Assistant Program Team Leader- Horticulture Area Horticulture Agent, Clemson Extension, South Carolina, 29401
  6. Tanner, S. Horticulture Program Team Director, Clemson Extension, South Carolina, 29634
  7. Turner, S. Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson Extension, South Carolina, 29648
  8. Vargo, M. Horticulture Agent Master Gardener Coordinator, Clemson Extension, South Carolina, 29607
  9. Kinley, L. Associate Director of Online Development, Clemson Online , South Carolina, 29634
  10. Scott, L. Instructional Designer , Clemson Online, South Carolina, 29634
  11. Sanders, C. Digital Learning Designer, Clemson Online, South Carolina, 29634
  12. Greene, R. Digital Learning Designer, Clemson Online, South Carolina, 29634