Master Gardener Program kicks off in Barry County

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Local chapter aims to work in Cassville areas gardens

The Barry County Master Gardeners Program has formed to assist the University of Missouri Extension with area educational programs in horticulture, gardening, small-scale food production and consumer environmental issues.

"[The Master Gardener Program] is one of the most popular programs by the University of Missouri Extension," said Reagan Bluel, Barry County MU Extension program director. "There are quite a few active master gardening groups in the region. But, this being the first class offering in Barry County, we're really excited about getting this chapter up off the ground, so that everybody interested in learning about horticulture can do it here locally rather than traveling to an adjacent county. We're hopeful to foster that learning and education of horticulture."

The MU Extension hosted local master gardener classes twice a week from Dec. 2 to Jan. 20 before the new graduates organized the Barry County Master Gardeners. The members are required to give back to the community by volunteering a minimum of 30 hours to the horticulture programming efforts in Barry County, such as community, school, church landscaping and beautification; assisting the elderly in lawn care or landscaping; general public assistance and consultation; teaching workshops or short courses; or youth gardening activities.

The Barry County chapter's officers are: Chair Linda Stuart, of Golden; Vice Chair Steve Soutee, of Fairview; and Nancy Grace Kirkpatrick, secretary and treasurer, of Cassville.

The new chapter has about 15 members, Stuart said. She and her husband, Barry Stuart, had been in the Arkansas and Kansas master gardening programs before joining the Barry County chapter.

"Some of them here are more vegetable based, [and] they want to grow more of their own food," said Stuart, who has a plant science degree. "Some of them are more ornamental based, and they want to be involved with more gardeners. You learn a tremendous amount in the class, but through interactions with a group of other gardeners, you learn over the years more than you learned in the class. It's all of their shared experiences."

Stuart said she wants to inform the community about the Barry County Master Gardeners to make the group even bigger.

Bluel said the MU Extension is looking forward to hosting yet another master gardening class session in Barry County.

"As long as I have interest in the region to continue to have classes, then I will have a second cohort of Barry County Master Gardening offered probably as early as April, I imagine," she said.

The MU Extension also offers online training classes to become a master gardener. The next session begins Sept. 1. The deadline to register at extension.missouri.edu/mg is Aug. 21. Each session is 14 weeks. The cost is $175 to become a certified master gardener, or $325 to only learn for personal enrichment.

The Barry County chapter had its first official meeting on Feb. 24. The group plans to work on projects at the Bayless-Salyer House and at the Cassville Branch Library community garden.

The local chapter is looking at ideas for fundraising, Stuart said.

"One of them would be to sell plants at the farmers market of Cassville," she said.

Kirkpatrick is gathering information concerning the fiscal responsibilities and procedures of the Barry County Extension as it relates to master gardener funds.

Different states do it differently, Stuart said.

"We didn't know if we would have our own bank account or if we would run our funds through the extension account and just have a separate category," she said.

The Barry County Master Gardeners meet at 6 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month in the lower level meeting room of the Cassville Library. The next meeting is at 6 p.m. Thursday.

For more information about the local chapter and the Master Gardener Program, people may contact Bluel at BluelRJ@missouri.edu or 417-847-3161.

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