Karen Harty is an edible gardening fanatic. She started out her life with a Mom that had a frugal-lifestyle. Her first job, at 14 years old, was working in a nursery propagating plants. Since then she has been a non-stop edible gardener and is honest enough to admit that she has been killing plants ever since.
Karen successfully ran a freelance graphic design business for over 30 years and retired at age 50. But did she really retire? Read on.
After moving from Pennsylvania to Lehigh Acres, she couldn't explain why she was unsuccessful growing veggies that she used to grow. With a hint of selfishness, she started the Edible Gardening Exchange as a means to acquire professional speakers on topics of interest to edible gardeners.
Wanting to reach more people with her newly obtained knowledge, Karen and Edible Gardening Exchange members began teaching a 12-hour Grow A Gardener program. The program, originally designed for youth, took on an older audience because of a typographical error in the newspaper stating "ages 8 and up".
Karen became a UF/IFAS Lee County Master Gardener and Leader of the VegHeads 4-H youth club. As a Master Gardener, she began teaching about tomatoes, propagation, organic controls, a crash course on veggie gardening, and growing vitamins.
For a year, Karen assisted the Lee County UF/IFAS Extension office as Volunteer Agriculture Program Coordinator until the need for edible gardening education expanded to beyond just Lee County. In addition, Karen cleared an adjacent 1/4 acre and installed a food farm of fruits and vegetables. She honestly notes that everything is still a work in progress and she is pooped.
Recently, Karen has focused on educating youth on edibles and she runs several 4-H youth programs. The program includes
Karen's 6-hour educational class on growing citrus. The adult Edible Gardening Exchange, after 96 classes taught, was retired in 2017.
Currently Karen is organizing a youth summer gardening camp day for Lee County 4-H youth members, coordinating the free Lee County 4-H Seed Bank, teaching both the Citrus and Tomato Programs for SWFL Fair.