Garden service

Volunteer day in school gardens

MJ Pickett shows the different lettuces and plants currently in the hoophouse at Urban Roots.

MJ Pickett shows the different lettuces and plants currently in the hoophouse at Urban Roots.

Photo/Sage Leehey

For more information about Urban Roots' MLK Day of Service in the Garden, visit or email MJ Pickett at

“A day on, not a day off” is the motto of the national Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, which has been dubbed by some groups as a “Day of Service.” The holiday is meant to honor Dr. King and should, in their view, encourage volunteer work in our communities.

Urban Roots is a local nonprofit farm focused on teaching gardening and related topics to community members. Urban Roots will host a local King Day of Service in the Garden event for the second year in a row from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 18.

“The goal of Martin Luther King, Jr. was to really make an active community come together and support one another, and that’s really our goal,” said Urban Roots’ FarmCorps Program Director, MJ Pickett. “This is a great way to get people involved.”

The event will take place at various schools that participate in the Garden Classrooms program throughout the community, although anyone can come out and help. Pickett said the only requirement will be some forms—a Washoe County volunteer form and a liability and photo release. Children are welcome to come, but if they’re under 18, a parent or guardian will need to sign the forms for their children.

“They can contact me to get the form sent to them early so their parents can sign it, and they can bring it in if needed,” Pickett said. “We encourage everyone to come and be a part of it. Last year we had quite a few families that had really young kids with their grandparents coming out. There’s a lot of stuff to be done at a lot of ability levels.”

The work to be done at each school will vary, but some of the areas will include cleaning up trash, removing dead plants, building new raised beds, painting signs and winterizing the gardens.

Urban Roots has been able to expand this event from last year because the organization has more AmeriCorps volunteers now, according to Pickett. And she expects to have somewhere between 20 and 50 volunteers come out on this day, spread among all the locations. Urban Roots, Hug High School Mount Rose Elementary School will be among these locations. More schools are expected to join, but Pickett assured that there will be enough space for all volunteers. She’s excited for the event herself and thinks it can really help the community.

“I think it’s super important—as a community, as Reno—that we come together, we help each other out, and school gardens are a great way to do that,” Pickett said. “They benefit kids so much even if they’re not in the garden everyday, even if they’re out there once a year even, it’s just so much better. And it’s really fun. We get to hang out. It’s really not hard work. It’s a lot of socializing and talking to people and getting to know them as well as doing something good for the community.”

Urban Roots is expanding and will move into the space of the bar next door as soon as the current occupants move out. Pickett said this will be great for them because they have very little indoor space for teaching and other activities at this time.