May 8, 2023
Paulsen named recipient of 2023 Excellence in Engagement Award
Pam Paulsen, extension and horticulture agent with K-State Research and Extension, is the recipient of the 2023 Kansas State University Excellence in Engagement Award for her work with the Garden for Good program.
Established in 2011 by the Office of Provost, the Kansas State University Excellence in Engagement Award highlights excellence in engaged scholarship via research, teaching and outreach. The award recognizes initiatives demonstrating innovative and sustained efforts in university-community engagement, positively impacting university and community partners.
The Garden for Good program, started in 2011, is a collaboration between K-State Research and Extension, or KSRE, and the Hutchinson Correctional Facility to educate the inmates about gardening and provide an activity to occupy and enrich the men's free time. The program has evolved into a community project that benefits both the inmates and the community.
"Working with the Garden for Good has been incredibly rewarding for both me and our extension master gardener volunteers," said Paulsen. "Many of the participants have never gardened before joining the garden program. As the season progresses, they learn to care for and nurture their plants, gain patience as they wait for them to grow and reap the rewards of their efforts when they harvest. They are working to improve their lives, and along the way, they learn the joys of helping those in need in the community."
The Garden for Good is a 1.75-acre community garden inside the boundaries of the Hutchinson Correctional Facility-East Unit in Reno County. Inmate gardeners participate in a program from K-State's College of Agriculture to become master gardeners. KSRE-Reno County master gardener volunteers and staff, including Paulsen, teach the garden curriculum, and KSRE specialists serve as guest lecturers.
Paulsen oversees the Reno County Extension Master Gardener volunteer program and puts together the curriculum for the Garden for Good classes.
The participants plan, plant and maintain the gardens. They keep track of the amount of produce harvested, sold and donated, and they also manage the finances for the garden. The gardeners are a culturally diverse group of men ranging in age from 23 to 72, and the majority of produce from the community garden is donated to local organizations that provide for the underprivileged.
Produce is also sold to other inmates and staff at the facility, and proceeds support the garden and charitable organizations. In addition to the larger community garden, each of the gardeners has their own garden that is 15 feet by 15 feet.
Between 2011 and 2022, more than 115,000 pounds of fresh produce and more than $35,000 in monetary donations have been given to organizations serving those in need in Reno County. Since the start of the program, participants have grown more than 232,782 pounds of produce.
Paulsen's nominators said, "Pam has effectively established herself as educator who believes in her educational programs having significant impact in her community. K-State Research and Extension is fortunate to have her on our team."
Paulsen grew up in Manhattan and graduated from K-State with a bachelor's degree in horticulture. She earned a master's in horticulture from the University of Hawaii and spent seven years there working for the nursery and landscape industry. She became the K-State Research and Extension horticulture agent in Reno County in 1999, and she also serves as director for the Reno County Extension Office.