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New software aids Master Gardeners
By John Hawkins
VERONA -- North Mississippi residents with horticultural questions and the volunteers who help them will benefit from new software that keeps records on callers to a popular gardening hotline.
Master Gardeners at Mississippi State University's North Mississippi Research and Extension Center will use the program developed and donated by Miguel Guerreiro, a Tupelo Internet consultant.
"The new software is being used in conjunction with a telephone system recently installed at the Extension office," said Lelia Kelly, Extension program specialist for the state Master Gardeners. "The system, commonly referred to as the home-hort line, made its debut in the fall of 2001 and is now maintained from April 1 until Oct. 31, the peak gardening months."
Kelly said volunteers at the Center use the software to record horticultural and demographic data from callers to the home-hort line. The caller's history, including past questions and the Master Gardeners' recommendations, can be recalled if the caller has future questions. This was an asset not available with the previous pen-and-paper system.
The home-hort line's telephone number is (662) 566-0143 or toll-free (888) 920-4678. Master Gardeners are available weekdays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
"This new software for Master Gardeners serves as a great reference and research tool. They are able to document caller and gardening information, and the solution given. The capability to track where we get calls from and what type of calls are coming in really aids our ability to help the public," Kelly said.
The program is the result of a request from Reggie Rose, president of the North Mississippi Extension Horticulture Center, to Guerreiro for help in creating a database to automate the process of gathering and compiling gardening information. Throughout the development of the software, Guerreiro worked closely with the Extension staff as well as with the Master Gardener volunteers.
"This has been a very rewarding experience, and I have enjoyed getting to know and work with people in the horticulture field. I am also glad that I have had this experience to help give something back to my alma mater," Guerreiro, a 2001 MSU graduate, said.
Using the phone line, Master Gardener volunteers trained in horticulture help answer questions the public has on a variety of gardening topics.
"People call in seeking answers for anything from pest control to what type of mushrooms are growing in their yard," Kelly said. "The home-hort line really goes back to the original concept of Master Gardeners, which was to assist the agents by handling these types of questions."