When Barbara Porsch of Midland lost her husband, she felt like she was lost. She was skeptical when she received a message from the local hospice organization suggesting she try something new and different, but took a chance.
“I was too busy already, but saw an ad for a new class through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service about becoming a Texas Master Gardener and thought I would try it,” said Porsch. “When I got there, nobody knew me and I knew no one. It was invigorating.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Porsch became one of the more than 7,000 Texas Master Gardener volunteers whose green thumbs can be found making a difference across the state.
The Master Gardener program provides training to increase volunteers’ knowledge and skills and prepares them to facilitate educational programming in their communities through school gardens, horticultural therapy projects, community and demonstration gardens and more.
Little did Porsch know when she attended that first meeting how involved she would become, but she has now dedicated 30-plus years to the program.
She said she enjoys being part of a program that allows her to help her fellow community members solve horticulture problems with scientifically proven information.
“I love to help people get turned on to horticulture and gardening,” she said. “To get someone interested and enthusiastic about digging in the dirt to start a small garden or even a garden in pots is so rewarding. After helping them get their hands dirty, I teach them that it’s soil, not dirt.”
Porsch has even managed to tie her Master Gardener-gained knowledge into her favorite pastime of cooking.
To dig in deeper, we sat down to ask her a few questions.
Q: What do you do as a Texas Master Gardener volunteer?
A: I love working on different projects within the organization and sharing what we do with others. Having been a Texas Master Gardener for 30 years, I am sort of considered the organization historian because I have been around longer than anyone else here.
In addition to working toward the main goal of the program to get people interested in horticulture and expanding their knowledge and skills in that area, I’ve served in several leadership roles over the years. I have been the president of our Permian Basin association on three separate occasions and have served as the secretary for many years.
Outside of my local area, I have been elected as Texas Master Gardener Association, TMGA, director many times and have served at the state level as chair of the Conference Committee and am presently chair of the Outreach Committee.
Q: What has been one of your favorite projects in your county?
A: How am I supposed to choose just one?
I enjoyed coordinating continuing education classes for both Midland College and Odessa College as well as bringing the old Midland County courthouse to life through landscaping the grounds.
I have the opportunity to teach classes on growing and using herbs often and really like doing that.
However, if I had to choose a favorite project, it was serving as chair of the 2014 TMGA Conference held here in the Permian Basin.
Q: What would you say to someone thinking about joining the Texas Master Gardener program?
A: Don’t hesitate. Do it. The training can be overwhelming in the beginning, but it will all be well worth it. You will never find another group with so much diversity in which everyone enjoys getting their hands dirty and serving others.
Q: What do you do when you’re not volunteering?
A: I mostly try to keep up with my own garden at home. I also love cooking and trying new recipes to share with my children and grandchildren.
I especially love creating dishes that use things I’ve grown in my garden. One of my favorites that is always a crowd-pleaser is my rosemary cookies. This recipe came from the 1998 Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival.
Q: What is your favorite recipe?
A: Rosemary Refrigerator Cookies
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine flour and butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add sugar; mix well. Add yolk, vanilla, rosemary, zest and salt. Blend well. Dough will be extremely stiff. Shape into two rolls. Wrap in wax paper or saran and chill overnight. Slice 1/4 inch thick. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Makes 5 dozen.
I get requests for this recipe every time I take it somewhere.