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It's a family affair for young Master Gardener

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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13-year-old says seeing process is the best part

The majority of people who become Master Gardeners sign up for the program after retiring, in an effort to give back to the community, said Jeanne Rehwaldt, program coordinator for the WSU Mason County Extension Master Gardener Program.

William Macy, 13, started a little earlier before his 10th birthday.

"Man, he knows gardening," Rehwaldt said. "It is so fun to have him talk (at Master Gardener events). He's like one of those child geniuses you hear about."

Macy said he became a Master Gardener because he liked growing vegetables with his family and wanted to know more about the practice.

"It's cool ... to go from start to finish. And then you can eat it," he said of his favorite garden project, growing vegetables.

Macy became a Master Gardener in 2012 through the Mason County WSU Extension's Master Gardener's Program.

He started his Master Gardener courses in 2010 and became an official Master Gardener in 2012 after completing the program and 60 hours of additional work.

Macy, who is home-schooled, was able to count the classes toward his science requirements.

"We have had several homeschooled kids come through the program over the past 15 years, and I would say without exception every one of them completed their volunteer hours and were a great addition to the program," Rehwaldt said.

However, WSU recently changed its requirements for the Master Gardener program, including a policy that the program can't certify Master Gardeners who are under 18, Rehwaldt said. Teens can still audit the classes, but can't be certified until they turn 18.

In past years Macy's family has grown about 1,000 pounds of food in their garden each year at their house in Shelton.

Macy's mom, Heather Pratt, said she has always encouraged her children to garden with her.

"I just have always gardened with them," she said. "Even if he was pushing his tractor around."

They grew "almost everything there was," he said, including squash, zucchini, radishes and cucumbers.

The family eats what it can, and cans or gives away the rest, Pratt said.

While their house in Shelton had a large garden, the family recently moved. Macy decided to take the opportunity to try a new gardening technique, using his knowledge as a Master Gardener to try straw bale gardening.

"It's a totally new thing," he said.

Macy took 48 bales of straw and arranged them in a spiral. Each day for 12 days, Macy will spread fertilizer on the bales, then pour hot water over the fertilizer.

"The straw doesn't have any nutrients in it for anything to grow in it," Macy said. "We've got to put that in there so the plants will stay alive."

The process breaks down the straw, similar to processes in a compost pile.

After the 12 days,

Macy will spread soil on the bales and plant seeds.

The fertilization process causes the bales to stay warm, Macy said.

"The nice thing with the straw bales is they get so hot you can grow watermelons or tomatoes ... without a greenhouse," he said.

He plans to grow a wide variety of plants in the straw bale garden, including kale, lettuce, garlic, tomatoes, carrots and bell peppers.

Macy plans to make a presentation to the Master Gardeners on straw bale gardening this year.

Right now, Macy is using his skills to help provide more fruits and vegetables for his family. In the future, he has bigger plans.

"I want to live back in the woods in a log cabin where I'm mostly off the grid," he said.

His family shares his wish and plans to build an off-the-grid home in the near future.

Macy said more people should learn how to grow their own food.

"It would definitely be a good thing to know where your food comes from," he said.

For more information about the WSU Master Gardener program, go to

"It would definitely be a good thing to know where your food comes from,"

William Macy, 13-year-old Master Gardener

Copyright 2015 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: March 26, 2015

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