CURWENSVILLE — Clearfield County residents with questions related to gardening and growing have a resource in Brenda Rumfola.
The Curwensville woman was recently hired as Clearfield County’s Master Gardner program coordinator. “I am so very excited to be a part of re-establishing the Master Gardener Program in Clearfield County. We have a lot of ideas and look forward to assisting county residents in answering their hot line questions and sharing science-based techniques and information in the coming weeks,” she told The Progress.
Rumfola received her appreciation for gardening and growing early in her life. “Both my maternal and paternal grandparents were farmers and instilled in me a deep love and respect for the land,” she explained. That zeal was renewed when Rumfola attended an Ag in the Classroom workshop in 2012. “It was mentioned there that nearly everyone is at least three generations removed from the farm and that people don’t understand where food comes from and what it takes to produce it.” she said.
Her fervor was reinforced in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic when the food supply chain was in question and people began to panic and hoard. Rumfola said that prompted her to want to assist residents in growing their own food. “In Pennsylvania there are a lot of opportunities to grow our own food. If someone has room, they can have a garden or grown plants in raised beds. Someone who doesn’t have much space may be able to grow food in containers,” she explained.
Rumfola said she joined the Master Gardner program following the death of her father. An only child, she inherited a 110-acre farm. “The farm has apple trees, blueberries and grapes. I wanted that farm to come back to production. I wanted to learn how to prune the 10 trees on the farm that were 30 feet tall and not producing well. Now I am able to take care of those trees,” she said.
She said she began the Master Gardner program in Jefferson County but completed it in Centre County.
Penn State Extension’s Master Gardner program was developed to assist extension agents in answering the many horticulture questions they received. The idea of the program is to enlist and train volunteers –equipping them with reliable gardening information.
According to the program’s manual, Clearfield County is believed to have had the first established Master Gardner program in the state –with the first graduates completing their training in 1982. In recent years the program was dormant until there was a push to activate it. Two county residents, Joel Mounts and Susan McNamee, recently completed their 40 hours of training on core topics such as botany, plant propagation, entomology, lawn care, diseases, pruning, native plants, vegetables and a host of other topics and are working on putting in their 50 volunteer hours.
Rumfola said she is is working with Andy Faust, Penn State Extension Education Strategy and Planning|Area Master Gardener Coordinator to develop Clearfield County’s program. She said the program has the potential to impact many other projects throughout Clearfield County by teaching people how to garden and grow plants and those who have that basic knowledge can learn how to solve problems or find a more efficient technique.
“I would like to see people get back to the land, growing their own food and eating clean. I also hope to clear up gardening and troubleshooting misconceptions and point people in the right direction. It all comes down to education.” she stated.
For two years, she and Faust have planted and harvested a demonstration garden in the lot behind Penn State Extension offices. Those gardens produced hundreds of pounds of vegetables that were donated to local food pantries for their clients. “It was such a blessing to people,” she said. She said they are currently working on plans for the current year’s garden.
In her eighth year as a member of the Master Gardner Program, Rumfola also is an active member of the Clearfield Hobby Garden Club where she serves as vice president. She volunteers with the Bilger’s Rocks Association and serves as the association’s instructor/educator.
Rumfola has been involved in education for 20 years –12 of those as a certified teacher with a degree from Lock Haven University in elementary education and management information systems. She has instructed pre-schoolers through adults in a wide range of subjects.
The mission statement of the Master Gardner program reads, “The Penn State Master Gardener volunteer program supports the outreach mission of Penn State Extension by utilizing unbiased research-based information to educate the public and our communities on best practices in sustainable horticulture and environmental stewardship.”
In Clearfield County the next Master Gardner basic training class will start in October. Residents who are interested in registering for the course or would like more information about the program can visit the website, https://extension.psu.edu/programs/master-gardener or email Rumfola at firstname.lastname@example.org.