OSU offers virtual gardening, chicken brooding classes during lockdown

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As people work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and spend more time thinking about their personal safety and security, home gardening has grown in popularity, said Timothy McDermott, an extension educator in agriculture and natural resources at The Ohio State University.

In response, McDermott is offering virtual gardening classes to any individual or organization within Ohio’s Franklin County, which surrounds Columbus. His courses, each of which teach students specific skills like how to prevent weeds from growing, how to plant an herb garden or how to raise chickens to add an essential stream of protein into a family’s diet, he said, are “on the upswing.”

“It wasn’t too many generations ago when everybody planted and maintained a garden and it’s only been a few generations where we’ve kind of lost some of that base knowledge and anything I can do that gets people back into that and provides our personal family food security, especially now with what we’re dealing and the challenges we have, I am delighted to do that,” McDermott says in a video introducing his virtual gardening courses.

The program, which is run out of the Franklin County Office of OSU Extension, also includes a blog with information like the pros and cons of plastic versus clay pots and staggered harvesting.

The courses represent but one of innumerable activities that have been moved online since the novel coronavirus pandemic forced universities to cancel their in-person courses and events. Art exhibits, counseling and coding workshops are just a few of the recent virtual offerings that students and university leaders have adopted to ensure continuity of operations. 

In Ohio, McDermott said gardening represents a way for people to foster a lifelong skill while also providing a constructive hobby to occupy people during a difficult time.

When we all were mandated to start working remotely from home I wanted to make sure that I continued to be able to provide that service of assisting backyard growers, community gardeners, teacher educators or urban farmers with their production needs,” he said. “I want people to start gardening this year but keep gardening next year and every year after that as well.”

The Ohio State University campus remains open under a state of emergency, but classes have been moved online and all university events have been postponed until at least July 6, according to the university medical center’s website.

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