Sarah Marcoux says that she and her husband Dan have encouraged their four children ages 14 to 21 “to give back to the community and cultivate a lifestyle of service to others.” Both are longtime, homeschooling parents.
Sarah, and her then 18-year old son, Joseph, became Master Gardeners in fall 2016. They have been volunteering for the Free Seeds for Education program since late summer 2018. They helped collect and sort seeds, address envelopes, and package orders. The Free Seeds group sent out 515 orders of 10 seed packets each in 2021, working from home, due to the pandemic. In recent years, the mother-son team also built a pollinator garden at Southwick Elementary School in Northfield where the Marcoux's live, and have worked at local farmer’s markets staffing an Ask A Master Gardener table.
In 2018, her youngest child attended Southwick, giving Sarah more time to volunteer. This coincided with the arrival of Southwick’s greenhouse, outdoor classrooms, and beehives. Brian Winslow, Southwick’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) instructor, mentioned that “a pollinator garden would be beneficial both for the bees and as a learning space for students.” After receiving funds from the NHMG Alumni Association, Chichester’s Millican Nursery and the Horticulture Club at UNH’s Thompson School of Applied Science, “Joseph and I worked with Mr. Winslow and the third-grade classes to design and plant a pollinator garden.” Winslow says Sarah is a “go-getter” and “she took on every aspect of the pollinator garden for Southwick School from applying for the grant, obtaining the plants and other materials, and overseeing the planting,” he says. “Our gardening program owes quite a lot to Sarah.”
She became involved in the Speaker's Bureau in spring 2017, and spoke at libraries, assisted living facilities, and garden clubs. Among the topics were permaculture, adaptive gardening for seniors, herbs, and vegetable gardening. “Every time I would pull out a talk to work on I’d think, ‘Oh, this one is my favorite’!” Every new topic is her favorite, she says. She never pictured herself as someone comfortable speaking in public, so instead she looks at it as sharing something she is passionate about. She is so ardent about her UNH Extension experiences that she is now studying at UNH working toward a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems with a minor in Brewing.
Last year many events went to online formats, and while it helped people have access, she says, it also stifled one-on-one interaction. For instance, when talking about herbs pre-virus she would bring potted plants to pass around or books for display. “I choose not to be disappointed that those interactions are on hold, and instead am excited at how many people have taken up gardening as a hobby.”
Her favorite part about the volunteering is “definitely seeing people who are excited about learning something new, and on the flip-side she’s never walked away from a volunteer experience where she didn’t learn something.” Working with “elementary students gives me an entirely new perspective, and elderly people in assisted living “share their decades of tried and true gardening experiences.”
UNH Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteers share information about home, yard, and garden topics with the people of New Hampshire. Got questions? Master Gardeners provide practical help finding answers to your questions through the Ask UNH Extension Infoline. Call toll free at 1-877-398-4769, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.