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Master Gardeners return to college
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Master Gardeners know one of the basic principles that university students around the country are discovering: Education is about more than books.
Mississippi’s horticultural educators and volunteers recently returned to campus for the Master Gardener University, hosted by the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Like many college students, Master Gardeners take part in a variety of community service projects. The educational volunteers shared these projects along with their accumulated knowledge at the conference.
“Master Gardeners serve their communities and train others in a wide variety of horticultural topics,” said Lelia Kelly, state Master Gardener coordinator and Extension horticulture professor. “This meeting provided them with the tools they needed to enhance and expand their service outreach in their counties.”
Kelly said the conference offered educational seminars, a variety of tours and networking opportunities for Master Gardeners from around the state.
DeSoto County Extension agent Joy Anderson, a seminar speaker, coordinates an active group of volunteers in her community.
“Master Gardeners serve on the front line of a variety of horticulture issues, and they have the full support of MSU as they help neighbors with questions related to plants,” Anderson said. “They are an important part of Extension’s outreach efforts and often conduct library lectures, deliver school programs and work in the community garden.”
Anderson said volunteers from DeSoto County shared their experiences with youth day camps that have generated young people’s interest in gardening.
“We see improved nutritional choices when young people have had a hand in growing produce,” she said. “Master Gardeners’ efforts play well with renewed interest in locally grown food and farmers markets.”
Lynn McMahan of Vancleave is serving as the state president of the Master Gardeners. He has been involved with the program since 2003, shortly before he retired from Ingalls Shipbuilding.
“Teaching the kids about growing food is very rewarding,” he said. “Young people just don’t know about gardening anymore, but they are eager to learn. Even adults have just about forgotten how to grow vegetables.”
As for McMahan, he said he has realized that he will never be too old to learn.
“Every classroom I sit in, I learn something that I can put into practice,” he said.
Topics covered during the two-day Master Gardener University included storm-water runoff, nonnative insect invasions, plant nutrients, volunteer management, plant diagnostics and youth camps. Participants could tour the soil testing lab, plant pathology lab, greenhouses, Veterans Memorial Rose Garden and campus landscape.