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Extension Agent: Lunch and Learn programs begin Monday

Jan. 3, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 3, 2011 at 7:04 p.m.

Joe Janak

By Joe Janak

This begins our fourth year for the free-to-the-public Lunch and Learn with the Masters programs. Coordinated by the Victoria County Master Gardeners through Texas AgriLife Extension Service-Victoria County, they have been an astounding success with nearly 800 people attending last year's programs from as many as 13 counties.

As in previous years, the 2011 programs will be held from noon until 1 p.m. at the Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro St., in Victoria. The programs will be held on the second and fourth Mondays of the month January through May. From June through August, they will be held on the second Monday of each month. There is no charge to attend these programs. They are designed so you could attend during your lunch break from work, so pack your sack lunch and join us.

The first session on Jan. 10 will be on "Soil Preparation and Fertilization" by me, Joe Janak, Victoria County Extension Agent-Ag/NR. The second training on Jan. 24 will be on "Pruning Shrubs and Trees" by Charlie Neumeyer, Victoria County Master Gardener. Additional programs for the rest of the year till August include the following: roses - planting, pruning and care, planting and growing fruit trees in Victoria, spring vegetable gardening, propagating plants you can use in the landscape, hardy plants for butterflies and hummingbirds, beautiful flowering landscape plants, citrus greening, growing and enjoying herbs, bulbs: Daylilies, Irises, etc., fall vegetable gardening and question-and-answer session by a panel of master gardeners.

2010 Master Gardener successes

Few really realize what the Master Gardener program is. Most think it is a program for someone to come into and learn a lot about plants in a short time period. And it is, but it is so much more.

A direct quote from the Texas Master Gardener website: "The Master Gardener Program is a volunteer development program offered by Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and is designed to increase the availability of horticultural information and improve the quality of life through horticultural projects." Essentially, we as County Extension Agents train volunteers in horticulture (plant growth, care, etc.) to help us go out and amplify our efforts to train more residents of the county thereby increasing their quality of life. And boy did the Victoria County Master Gardeners in 2010 do just that.

These volunteers held 129 educational events in 2010 (more than twice the number of educational programs than in 2009) reaching 7,803 people (nearly twice last year's number) at horticultural-related educational events. All contacts (except media) total more than 24,000.

Just to name a few of the last year's events for your recollection: 12 "Lunch and Learn With the Masters" public programs; the two-day Victoria Garden Tour; Theatre Victoria's Lonestar Night Xeriscape Plant Exhibit; 44 Junior Master Gardener programs at Devereux Foundation; Environmental Gardening presentation at Earth Day Expo; the Master Gardener Spring Fever Symposium; 19 VEG School and Adult Tours; 12 programs at the South Texas Farm and Ranch Show; two educational plant sales; more than 10 programs to area garden and civic clubs, 19 school and adult tours of Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG), plus numerous other events. In addition, they maintained and expanded VEG, built a pavilion for educational purposes, wrote 52 weekly news articles for the Victoria Advocate and applied for and won seven state awards (50 awards since 1997).

Hats off to the now 167 Victoria County Master Gardener volunteers. In 2010, they donated more than 16,300 hours providing educational programs for community residents. Since 1997 when the program was started, they have volunteered more than 98,000 hours valued at more than $1.8 million, and along with their new 6,000 square foot VEG Pavilion, the Master Gardeners have more than a $2.3 million investment in providing horticultural education to our community.

See you at the next Master Gardener educational program - "Lunch and Learn With the Masters" on Jan. 10.

Joe Janak is a Victoria County extension agent.

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