(10/10/22) HAMMOND, La. — Each year, Louisiana Master Gardeners provide nearly 85,000 hours of volunteer service to the people of Louisiana through the LSU AgCenter.
To thank them for their efforts, the AgCenter recently hosted a Master Gardener appreciation and education day at its Hammond Research Station.
The Sept. 16 gathering drew more than 275 attendees — the most ever recorded for this event, said Sara Shields, an AgCenter horticulture agent and state coordinator of the Louisiana Master Gardener Program.
Louisiana Master Gardeners receive extensive horticulture training from AgCenter experts and share their time and knowledge with their communities.
Similar programs are found nationwide.
“On a national scale, Master Gardener volunteers provide 4 million volunteer service hours on an annual basis,” Shields said. “They are involved in everything from plant health clinics to manning booths at fairs and festivals to assisting with school and youth gardening initiatives and so much more.”
The appreciation day concept began about a decade ago at the Hammond Research Station to show Master Gardeners how much their volunteerism means to the statewide horticulture programming efforts of the AgCenter. The event moved online in 2020 and was not offered in 2021 due to pandemic restrictions.
Activities for this year’s event included guided tours through the sun garden trials, evaluating pentas demonstrations and learning more about blueberry and tea production research at the station.
After lunch, attendees heard from several AgCenter speakers, including Heather Kirk-Ballard on current horticulture initiatives, Damon Abdi on landscape design, Alessandro Holzapfel on vegetable trial updates, Tristan Watson on nematodes and Yan Chen on Louisiana tea production.
Attendees were able to vote for their favorite plants in the trials, though the list of winners is not yet available. They also had the opportunity to compete in several educational contests, including plant identification, entomology and botany challenges.
Additional information about the Louisiana Master Gardener Program is available on the AgCenter website or by contacting Shields at LMGCoordinator@agcenter.lsu.edu. Individuals interested in registering for the Master Gardener course should contact their nearest AgCenter extension office to inquire about upcoming classes or to be placed on a waiting list.
Jeb Fields, assistant research coordinator and extension specialist at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station, visits with AgCenter horticulture agent Will Afton and two Louisiana Master Gardener volunteers. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
LSU AgCenter horticulturist Yan Chen gives a presentation on tea production. Photo by Randy LaBauve/LSU AgCenter
Louisiana Master Gardeners listen to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Jason Stagg during a tour of the Hammond Research Station sun garden. Photo by Mariah Simoneaux/LSU AgCenter