Passion Guides Lifelong Learning and Growth

What is passion? It is something that drives you, holds your focus, and keeps moving you forward. Thinking about a few of my personal passions, or “objects of deep interest,” came the problem of choosing which one to write about. That was harder than I thought! I doubt that I am unusual in having several areas of deep interest that I consider important. Have you spent time really thinking about what things in life are important to you? What passions would you list and describe if you were writing an article about passion?

Family: I am passionate about not only my family and all that means to me, but also about the concept of family; which, for each of us may look very different from others. A “family” connection is a desire for most in our society. We all need others where we can feel safe, loved, and supported with people we trust and who trust us. There is often a blood connection, but there might not be that connection at all.  I think about what a traditional family looked like from my youth. That was great, but I have grown to know there are many, many varied family make-ups in our world today.  Each identified family is special and fully deserves the recognition of family. Family connection is a passion for me!  We all deserve whatever form that security takes.

Education: Growing up on a farm that at one point was owned by my great-grandfather, then my grandfather, and then my parents, I have always been taught the importance of an education. Both of my grandmothers, my mom, and two out of three of my aunts were teachers. Education was always talked around our supper table. We were taught that an education is more than a piece of paper, and that education in life happens all around us…not just in a classroom.  I, too, was a teacher for nearly 30 years, having taught kindergarten in Sioux City Schools. I truly consider myself a LIFELONG LEARNER, as I continue to take online courses to increase my knowledge, improve my health, grow my passions, and just for fun.  

Kiddo Collaboration: I enjoy volunteering as a Master Gardener to educate children about the value and importance of gardening, doing lessons with them, and planting grow towers or garden boxes. My partner in this adventure, Lisa, and I are missing this form of education right now because as volunteers we are not able to access classes in the school.  We get that! We’ll be back when it is safe for the kiddos and staff! Through the years, I have shared this passion in many venues, not just the schools.  

Teacher Outreach: Through Woodbury County Extension and the Master Gardener program, I work in a team of four Master Gardeners who co-teach School Garden 101 for teams of school staff, supporting them in how to establish, maintain, and sustain school gardens.  This coming February/March 2021, we will be teaching this course virtually.  Teams of 3-5 teachers can take this for renewal, or graduate credit, or just audit. Contact Katelyn Brinkerhoff, Horticulture Educator at for more information. While going virtual this year, we will be opening the course to other NW Iowa counties, as well as Woodbury, offering another great learning opportunity.

Gardening: I grew up helping both of my grandfathers and my mom in the garden. I admit, I probably was only involved so I could nibble certain veggies before they even made it to the house. (I loved freshly shelled peas.) As a child, I likely hated some of the weeding grunt work. Despite lack of sincere interest at the time, I did learn. I wish I could pick the minds of all three of those gardeners again, now that I know more about what to ask! As an adult, I have had a garden for more than 45 years. I continue to learn new research-based strategies and techniques to improve food we grow and love processing for storage whether pressure canning, drying, dehydrating, or freezing. There is true satisfaction in growing, preparing for winter, and then eating our own produce throughout the year. (Fulfilling another passion!)

Food Security: A major path for gardening, and a passion for me, is working with Up from the Earth (UFTE), a local initiative and 100% volunteer system designed to connect excess fresh produce from home gardens to people in need through our existing food pantry system. Established in 2014, the program has recruited 30 local collection sites to achieve this objective.  

UFTE promotes the motto “Plant, Grow, Share” to help feed those in need. To date, community support of Up from the Earth has put more than 152,000 pounds of fresh produce into the food pantry system and we’re still waiting on a few of the 2020 season reports to come in. That poundage equals 456,000 servings of fresh produce!! Thanks to our generous community volunteers and gardeners, 2020 has shaped up to be another banner year.

I can think of other passions I have, such as maintaining relationships with friends, reading good books,and listening to music (participating at times).  Before COVID-19, I played in the Solid Brass Handbell Choir at Grace UMC. We will be back when it is safe! During the winter months, a new passion I’ve discovered is delving further into our family history through Ancestry. I’ve already ordered and organized seeds that will be used to garden plants from seed inside, starting some soon, and the rest in mid-February on into spring. Am I proficient at all of these? I can give a hardy no!  However, they are some of my passions, and as a lifelong learner, I will continue to grow my knowledge base, my skills, and my interest. Some of the seedlings I grow will be given to clients at food pantries, and others shared with friends, family, and others who will grow them to help increase food security locally.

Consider taking some time soon to create your list of passions. What are they? Why did you choose those passions? How can you share these passions with others?  In the end, it is often about community:  family, friends, neighbors, schools, churches, and more!  Make the most of your passions in 2021! Happy New Year!

By, Jenny Jorgensen, a retired educator and Master Gardener. She also keeps busy working with the Up From the Earth team to increase food security in the Siouxland area. Though retired, she finds many other areas to serve her community, including being elected to the Woodbury County Extension Council.

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