By Anna Grace Usery
Though many of the Lafayette County Master Gardeners began their gardening careers out of necessity, many say they couldn’t give it up now even if they had the opportunity.
MGs and Lafayette County residents Sandra Roy, Peggie Ann Roder, Tyce Buntin and Joe Ann Allen are on the executive board and responsible for the 50-plus member group.
The Master Gardner Program was introduced to Mississippi in 1991 and serves to provide research-based educational programs and information to improve the economic, social and cultural well-being of all Mississippians, according to the Master Gardeners website.
County Agent Lance Newman oversees the group, along with several other outdoor and agricultural programs at the Mississippi State Extension Office near the Mississippi State Veterans Home of Oxford on Highway 7.
The essence of the organization’s mission statement is to learn, share and grow in conjunction with the community, but LCMG’s say the group provides them an opportunity to form solid friendships.
“I’ve made lifelong friends I may not have ever made in another walk of life,” said Allen, a 14-year member of the LCMGA.
Many landscaping projects over the past 14 years have been advised, and some completed, by the local Master Gardeners. Those projects include the Medical Ministry, several area schools, Burns-Belfry Museum, the Boys & Girls Club, The Pantry, the Powerhouse, the Pregnancy Center, Cedar Oaks, a few Habitat for Humanity homes and the Veterans Home and adjacent park, Allen said.
Roy, the new appointee to the State Master Gardener Board of Directors, said LCMGs are in the northeast district, which is comprised of 22 counties. It is the second largest district in the northeast out of 16 organizations.
Nearly 43 counties in the state have approximately 970 active MG groups, which Roy said could equal some 1,300 master gardeners in the state of Mississippi.
They emphasize the aspect of producing and harvesting local, saying some of the big box stores distribute plants not akin to this area. Contacting a Lafayette County Master Gardener can rid you of choosing ones that will not be fruitful, Roder said.
“People want to promote local,” Newman said. “(Contacting a LCMG) is just another opportunity to promote local.”
To become a master gardener, one must complete 40 training hours offered by the MSU Extension Service. In turn, the future MG must volunteer at least 40 hours over the span of a year.
“It takes all of us to make one horticultural brain,” Allen said.
The LCMGs have a long list of events coming up this spring, including the annual training class that begins Feb. 19. The training includes an interactive video series and visits from several Mississippi State specialists.
The session begins Feb. 19 and runs until March 26. Classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. The fee for the session is $100 to cover educational materials.
“This is college-level education you don’t pay for,” Allen said. “You pay back 40 hours of horticulture level service.”
In April, the organization is partnering with the University Museum for a museum series focusing on birds, blooms and butterflies. On March 27, there will be another day of education in Verona, and the MG spring schedule wraps up with the state conference in Cleveland May 8-10.
Later in the year, on Oct. 22, the Master Gardeners will host a Day of Education. Speakers will include Jeff McManus, the director of landscape services at Ole Miss, Mitch Robinson of Strawberry Plains, Anna Haller, a master gardener, and Dr. Jeff Wilson, an extension agent and state master gardener coordinator.
The MGs encourage community members to join their monthly meetings held on the first Monday of each month at the extension office at 9:30 a.m. For more information on how to get involved, contact the Mississippi State Extension Office.