In 1989, Jill Coughlin enthusiastically dove into her new job as Plant*Grow*Eat coordinator at the San Diego County Fair. She developed a curriculum that met science guidelines for elementary schools. Then, bearing soil, seeds, pots and instructions, she visited classrooms throughout San Diego County in advance of the fair to show students how to plant and nurture their edible plants. Several weeks later, when the eager young farmers stepped off their school buses to scamper to the Infield Farm, proudly display their bounty to the judges, receive ribbons for their efforts and dash off to enjoy a memorable agriculture adventure, “Miss Jill” was there to welcome them.
Coughlin was honored on June 23 by her fair peers for 30 years of service and for growing the program to help the fair provide agricultural education to the community. Flabbergasted by the heartfelt accolades, not to mention her festive cake decorated with real radishes, Coughlin revealed, “Over 331,000 children have participated in Plant*Grow*Eat. I have so many delightful memories!”
A longtime Del Mar resident, Coughlin has recruited dozens of volunteer judges from the Del Mar Garden Club and Village Garden Club of La Jolla. This community stalwart is a member of both as well as Del Mar-based Friends of the Powerhouse.
Retired Deputy Fairgrounds Manager Chana Mannen states, “Jill’s passion for agriculture, coupled with her love of children and her organizational skills, have made Plant*Grow*Eat a successful program that has grown in popularity and participation. Her work represents an enduring legacy of the fair.”
More information about the program can be found at sdfair.com/educational-programs/plant-grow-eat/ and dondiegoscholarship.org/product/plantgroweat/.