Lamb Weston donation helps WSU Master Gardeners enhance sustainability education

Lamb Weston check passing for Master Gardeners
Lamb Weston employees join Benton/Franklin County Extension Master Gardeners in a check-passing on Aug. 23, 2023, at the volunteer organization’s demonstration garden. Master gardeners will use these funds to enhance education locally and statewide.

Through a gift from Lamb Weston, WSU Master Gardener Program volunteers in central Washington will help their communities become more sustainable and food secure.

WSU’s Benton/Franklin County Master Gardener Program received a $10,000 donation this summer from Lamb Weston, one of the world’s largest producers and processors of French fries and potato products. The gift will support local educational efforts as well as the state program’s campaign for its first endowed chair.

Team members at Lamb Weston’s Pasco location chose the volunteer organization for support after winning an annual, company-wide sustainability challenge.

“We’re very appreciative and grateful for their generous donation,” said Rachael Dove, Benton-Franklin Master Gardener Program coordinator. “The service and volunteerism of our twin-county Master Gardeners aligns with Lamb Weston’s goals for sustainability. Their gift will directly impact the local community, as well as the larger community here in the state of Washington, by helping to support sustainability education.”

Gifts for a Local Impact

Half of the donation will fund enhancements to the twin-county program’s educational efforts, which center on nine priorities: clean water and water conservation, wildfire preparedness, local food, pollinators, plant diversity, climate change, soil health, and nearby nature. Educational efforts take place at local schools, plant clinics, community events, the county’s demonstration garden, and the regional juvenile justice center.

“We try to make every opportunity in the community an educational one,” Dove said.

The remaining amount goes toward the WSU Extension Master Gardener Endowed Chair Campaign, which raises funds for the first ever faculty chair fully dedicated to the program. The campaign is currently benefiting from a gift matching program, which increases the company’s total impact by 50 percent.

Gifts to the endowed campaign will ultimately help ensure cutting-edge horticulture and environmental stewardship education for Washington communities in perpetuity.

“For 50 years, WSU Extension Master Gardeners have taught sustainable landscaping practices that put food on families’ tables, help keep our waterways clean, and conserve our natural resources,” said Jennifer Marquis, statewide program leader for Washington. “We are grateful to Lamb Weston and their Pasco employees for seeing us as an ally in their efforts to make progress for people, food and the planet.”

The company’s gift, coupled with the challenge match, tips WSU’s endowed chair campaign fundraising tally to just over $100,000. 

“We have a way to go, but when we successfully reach our $1.5 million goal, Extension Master Gardener volunteers and the communities across Washington will be healthier and more resilient because of cutting-edge research on backyard food production, climate change and gardening, pollinator health and habitat, and many other important topics,” Marquis said.

Lamb Weston volunteers garden bed.
Volunteers from Lamb Weston helped Benton/Franklin Master Gardeners renovate garden beds, remove a stump and roots from a formal rose garden, and harvest more than 400 pounds of produce at the group’s demonstration garden during a working party Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023.

Supporting a Sustainable Community

Lamb Weston and local Master Gardener Program celebrated the donation with a volunteer day, Wednesday, Aug. 23, at the organization’s Benton/Franklin County Demonstration Garden in Kennewick. Lamb Weston employees volunteered during the day at the garden, helping maintain this space for free classes that help residents learn about green gardening practices.

At the Demonstration Garden, volunteers teach xeriscaping with drought-tolerant and native plants, drip irrigation to save water, and home propagation of fruits and vegetables.

“The garden is great for teaching sustainable practices that local community members can use in their own backyards,” Dove said.

Drawing on the skills of about 120 current volunteers, Benton/Franklin master gardeners are part of local food gardening efforts, helping their neighbors raise and donate fresh produce to food banks. Volunteers give thousands of pounds of produce to good causes each year, and partner with Habitat for Humanity to build garden beds at houses and mentor families on growing their own food.

The twin-county program also hosts a regular plant clinic at its Kennewick office.

“If you have a tree or plant that’s not looking healthy, a master gardener can identify what’s going on and walk you through steps to fix the problem,” Dove said.

Benton/Franklin Master Gardeners’ education team has been recognized for its work at the Benton Franklin Juvenile Center, teaching incarcerated youth how to garden, boosting the youths’ skills and confidence. Educators at local schools invite the team to teach classes at elementary schools.

“We have an incredible education team,” Dove said. “Master gardeners themselves are intelligent and creative people who make a big impact on their community.”

• Visit the Benton/Franklin Master Gardener Facebook page to learn about free upcoming public classes. Contact the Benton-Franklin Extension Office at (509) 735-3551 to request a master gardener-taught class.

• To learn more about the Benton/Franklin Master Gardener Program, or to become a master gardener, visit the program website.

• The master gardener movement began at Washington State University 50 years ago this year. To learn more about the program’s 50th anniversary, visit the state program website.

• Contact: Rachael Dove, Benton/Franklin County Program Coordinator, (509) 735-3551,

Check passing for Master Gardeners and Lamb Weston
Lamb Weston employees join Benton/Franklin County Extension Master Gardeners in a check-passing on Aug. 23, 2023, at the volunteer organization’s demonstration garden. Master gardeners will use these funds to enhance education locally and statewide.