Gardens can add value to state's agritourism
VICKSBURG, Miss. -- Mississippians from a wide variety of backgrounds spent a day thinking of new ways to use landscapes and gardens to bring more profit and better value to agricultural enterprises and historic homes.
Know Your Roots: Build Your Business brought 29 participants together for the daylong workshop June 13 at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center. Sandy Havard, Warren County agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, coordinated the event.
“Our hope is that business owners can take a lot of information home to improve their businesses and their communities,” Havard said. “We hope the exhibits and activities will spark some creativity and give them something to take back to their businesses.”
The event had four primary speakers, nine exhibits by Warren County Master Gardeners and a tour of the Heritage Demonstration Garden at the Vicksburg National Military Park. The Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau was a generous sponsor of the short course and hosted events for conference participants.
“The Master Gardeners in Warren County were key in putting this event together, because they saw how they could connect the Extension Service with horticulture and tourism,” Havard said. “Our goal is to help owners add value to what they already have.”
Participants included Master Gardeners, agritourism business owners, mayors of two small towns, and bed and breakfast owners from Vicksburg, Natchez, Rolling Fork and beyond.
Jim Farmer and his wife, Lynn, own Jim’s Pumpkin Patch in Sharkey County.
“I’m always looking for new ideas,” Farmer said. “We’ve had our pumpkin patch for 10 years, and I’ve gotten a lot of ideas of other things to get into besides just pumpkins.”
The workshop was set up to expose participants to a wide range of ways to add interest and value to agritourism enterprises. Master Gardener stations displayed container gardening, orchid growing, composting, glass etching, miniature succulent gardens and more. Participants were encouraged to interact with each station and learn ways to add beauty or new activities for visitors at their enterprises.
Jim DelPrince, MSU Extension assistant professor of horticulture at the MSU Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, gave a floral design lesson.
“I’m not here to talk about how to raise the flowers,” DelPrince said. “I want you to consider how you can make some additional income in your operation through flowers and floral design.”
He demonstrated basics of floral design while encouraging participants to use the best products available, find better ways to market events beyond local venues, and consider all sources of flowers and greenery.
“We live in Mississippi, and our weeds are pretty,” he said.
Gary Bachman, Extension horticulturist and host of Southern Gardening, urged owners of historic homes and agritourism enterprise to use pockets of color to beautify existing locations.
Brent Fountain, MSU Extension nutritionist, discussed a variety of ways to eat locally, whether growing your own or buying produce that is grown nearby.
Natasha Haynes, Rankin County Extension agent and host of The Food Factor, addressed ways to put a twist on existing foods to make them exciting and better tasting.
At the Heritage Demonstration Garden, visitors browsed a garden that combined vegetables, herbs and flowers in a way that paid homage to gardens of the antebellum era while remaining fresh and modern.
Rachel Carter, MSU Extension community planning specialist, explained the economics of running tourism businesses from historic homes. She gave participants formulas they could use to determine appropriate price points for goods and services they offer at their agritourism enterprises.