Industry professionals and elected officials learned about the work at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station at an appreciation event on April 14.
“We wanted to let the people know what the LSU AgCenter is doing in their community,” said Regina Bracy, resident coordinator of the station. “This is a very small part of it.”
Some who have benefitted from the work at the station gave testimonials about how valuable the research at the station is to Louisiana.
“I served on the advisory committee here when they were first deciding what to do with this experiment station,” said Pat Newman, general manager of Folsom Nursery in St. Tammany Parish.
She compared the gardens at the station with the famous Calloway Gardens in Georgia.
“This garden is in its infancy now, but the research here really helps the green industry in Louisiana show what the possibilities are,” Newman said. “It also helps the homeowner come and envision what they can do in their own landscape.”
The idea for the garden actually began in 2003 when landscape horticulture research at the station was proposed, according to Bracy.
“Two years later, we had a master plan and began construction of research areas and gardens,” Bracy said.
LSU AgCenter vice chancellor Paul Coreil also expressed his appreciation for the work the staff is doing at the station.
“These are exactly the type of stories we want told,” Coreil said. “We’ve had some pretty tough times with the budget lately, and we’ve had to close three research stations. But this is one that we will continue to invest in.”
Senator Ben Nevers said he’s concerned about closing LSU AgCenter research stations and will do all he can to see that no other stations are closed.
“We hear the testimonies from people here in the region this evening who are so excited about the new products that have been developed right here in Hammond, and we can see the importance of the work that is going on here at the Hammond Research Station,” Nevers said.
Newman said she hopes that more landscapers will bring their clients to the gardens to let them see what the mature plants will look like at their homes or their commercial buildings.
Even though vegetable research is no longer conducted on the station, Bracy explained, “There is still help available for those who need information to improve or increase their vegetable production.”
Sandy Sharp, owner of Covey Rise Farms in Husser, recently had an idea to produce vegetables for the restaurants in New Orleans, and he came to the station for help, Bracy said.
“At first, Dr. Bracy was concerned I didn’t know the complexity of vegetable production, but she put me in touch with the right people at the LSU AgCenter, and Covey Rise Farms became a reality,” Sharp said.
“We are now growing vegetables on 25 acres of land for 20 restaurants in New Orleans, in addition to our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members,” Sharp said.
Along with providing research-based information to producers, Bracy said she and her staff are continuing to expand the research gardens at the station.
“Upcoming plans at the station involve an expansion of the Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden from its current two acres to 10 acres, and we plan to continue installation of the Easy Care Rose Garden,” Bracy said. “We also plan to become the largest herbaceous plant evaluation trial garden in the southern states and to continue the Louisiana Super Plants evaluation and promotion, which began in 2009.”