Despite unusually cold March temperatures and snow predicted to be on the way, Parkland Master Gardeners held their annual Master Gardener Symposium this past Saturday at Mineral Area College with more than 100 in attendance.
The morning began with attendees listening to lectures by landscaping business owners, university extension agents and other professionals from the home and garden industry, as well as learning about and purchasing products being sold by several vendors set up in the concourse area.
The afternoon consisted of hands-on demonstrations, along with a tour of the greenhouses at the MAC Agriculture Department.
Master Gardener Faye Worley, one of the event coordinators, explained about the Master Gardener Program.
“Anyone who has gone through the Master Gardener Program may join us, although they don’t have to,” she said. “We meet once a month. We put this on once a year for educational purposes, as well as to help fund a scholarship to the college in an ag-based field.”
This year the scholarship was awarded to MAC student Billie Jo Voyles, an agricultural student who works at a local greenhouse.
According to Worley, the symposium was not limited to gardening enthusiasts, but open to anyone with an interest in any type of plants. Because of the wide range of interests, the symposium attracts garden enthusiasts from a large geographical area.
“We have people from St. Louis, Warrenton, down to Cape Girardeau and from Illinois here,” she said.
Dr. Chad Follis, horticulture instructor in the MAC Agriculture Department, explained why having the symposium at MAC works well with his field of instruction.
“From the perspective of MAC, as the ag department chair, we’re excited to have it on campus,” he said. “We really enjoy the fact that this many people are exposed to agriculture … that they’re interested in agriculture.
“We’re going to partner up and have a greenhouse tour this afternoon. We’ve been planting annuals and perennials. Folks can see what the classes look like and some of the real projects that students do.”
Follis noted that the Master Gardeners are a very active group of volunteers.
“It’s also community involvement from the Master Gardeners, too,” he said. “Outreach and education not only today, but throughout the year.
Katie Kammler, field specialist in horticulture with the University of Missouri Extension, is based out of her Ste. Genevieve office from which she covers eight counties in the area.
She explained several facets of the symposium.
“This is [its] 21st year — which predates me,” she said. “I’ve been here 11 years. [Participants] come from all over — there’s a symposium in Perryville and in Cape Girardeau. They’re all very different — some go to all three. This one has the most selection of classes, they work very hard to figure out what new classes to offer every year, to attract new people and to keep them coming.
“They really try to make a diversity of topics, also on their evaluations the year before they have options to put in ideas for next year. This year we’ve got quite a few native trees, glades — also about hummingbirds and native landscaping, mushrooms. We’ve got several things with seed starting. Doing some different lotions and potions and infusions with native plants.”
There are courses and information for gardeners of every age and at every skill level, according to Kammler.
There’s a Gardening 101 [that offers] some basic gardening tips,” she said. “Regardless how many times people come to this, they still like the basics.”
Kammler explained how to become a Master Gardener and went over the annual requirements necessary to maintain the designation.
“The Master Gardeners are a volunteer organization,” she said. “They have to go through 30 hours of training and 30 hours of volunteer work the first year. Then after that, they have to give 20 hours of volunteer service per year to remain active. Most of them do way more than that.”
Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at email@example.com.