Gardeners' Dirt: Our mission is to educate
By Charlie Neumeyer - Victoria County Master Gardener Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
Jan. 5, 2012 at midnight
Updated Jan. 4, 2012 at 7:05 p.m.
Fifteen years and counting. It is hard to believe that the Victoria County Master Gardener Association has been active in Victoria and the surrounding counties for that long. Over the years, we have established a reputation in the local area for providing quality educational and community outreach programs. Our goal is to educate both our members and the public on the best gardening and horticultural practices.
As the new president, I am looking forward to continuing and refining the programs we have in place, as well as looking for new and appropriate ways to work with the public to enhance our position as a leader in horticultural education.
The Gardeners' Dirt
Our most successful educational program is what you are reading right now. Published weekly in the Victoria Advocate, more than 450 articles have been written by 103 members in nine years for the benefit of thousands of area residents. Edited by Master Gardener Charla Borchers Leon and County Agent Joe Janak, the weekly article has never repeated a publication. All of the articles are posted on the master gardeners' website (vcmga.org) and are available to the public.
Lunch and Learn with the Masters
Another popular and successful outreach program is the "Lunch and Learn with the Masters" series. Held at noon at the Pattie Dodson Health Center in Victoria, these programs focus on topics that are appropriate for the season. Master Gardeners Helen Boatman and Jolene Molder have done an excellent job of providing speakers on a wide-range of topics. These sessions generally feature PowerPoint presentations and often have a hands-on aspect. The topics for this year were announced in last week's column, and the series promises to be both educational and entertaining.
Equally as successful are the various symposia that we sponsor. Last year's, "It's All About Trees - and More," offered six sessions on a variety of topics, as well as well-known keynote speakers who shared their expertise with the attendees. Master Gardener Sara Meyer and her committee did an incredible job of planning and managing a full-day workshop that was both entertaining and informative.
Contact with the community
While much of our contact is through scheduled programs, individual members are often called upon to answer questions about a specific issue or problem or to present programs to selected groups. The Victoria County Extension Office often connects a person having a gardening problem with a member who has some expertise in that area. Members also help neighbors and friends by supplying information or possible solutions to problems. And frequently, members are the featured speakers for civic groups and garden clubs. Last year we presented programs at 11 different civic groups and clubs.
Educational projects, activities
Victoria Educational Gardens
The center for many of our educational programs is the Victoria Educational Gardens. More than 700 students and nearly 200 adults toured the gardens in 2011. Twenty-nine guided tours were arranged by Master Gardener Edna LaFour, who enlists the aid of fellow master gardeners to act as docents. Hands-on activities for the student tour groups are age appropriate, as well as educational. Adult tour groups interact with the guides and talk about various plants and their characteristics.
Pasture to Plate Program at the South Texas Farm and Ranch Show
The South Texas Farm and Ranch Show also provides an opportunity for our members to interact and educate elementary-age students from Victoria. The "Pasture to Plate" program at the show touched more than 600 third-graders from Victoria area elementary schools. Headed up by Roy Cook, the Master Gardeners taught various aspects of gardening to the third-grade students.
Junior Master Gardener program
A relatively new program for this area is the Junior Master Gardener Program. Aimed at elementary students, the program covers a wide variety of gardening topics and includes hands-on activities in gardens established at the site. Pat Blanchard was the first local master gardener to bring this national program to the group. Currently, Gloria Spell and Barbara Buethe are overseeing this project at Torres Elementary School. Likewise, Paul and Mary Meredith conducted an extensive program on water conservation at Stroman Middle School.
Victoria Garden Tour, plant pales
The Victoria Garden Tour and the spring and fall plant sales are also opportunities provided by the Master Gardeners for the public to learn about appropriate plants for the area and landscape design. Educational information is distributed about the various highlighted plants and the plants at the sales are tagged with planting and growing information.
More than 17,000 volunteer hours in 2011
The Victoria County Master Gardeners have become a mainstay in the area for accurate information on the best practices in gardening. Our members have logged more than 17,000 volunteer hours this past year conducting 138 educational events, reaching 5,270 people in group events, plus more than 10,000 individual contacts. As the group matures, we are continuing to add members and increase the scope of our program. I am looking forward to another interesting year as a Victoria County Master Gardener.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.