Master Gardeners give Lafayette city-parish $5,000 to develop park

Schultz Bruce, Roberts, Gerald

LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Raj Singh, at left, and AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings answered questions from the public on plant problems during the Plant Fest, held in Lafayette on Saturday, Sept. 14.

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Marc Wiley, president of the Lafayette Master Gardeners Association, at left, presents a check for $5,000 to Joey Durel, Lafayette city-parish president. The funds are to be used for developing the Horse Farm into a park. The presentation was made during the Master Gardener Association’s Plant Fest, held at the Horse Farm on Saturday, Sept. 14. (Photo by Bruce Schultz)

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A youngster at the LSU AgCenter school gardens tent makes an etching during the Lafayette Master Gardener Association’s Plant Fest on Sept. 14. (Photo by Bruce Schultz)

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News Release Distributed 09/16/13

LAFAYETTE, La. – Thousands of gardening enthusiasts attended the Master Gardeners’ Plant Fest in Lafayette, held Sept. 14 at the Horse Farm.

The Lafayette Master Gardeners presented a check for $5,000 to Joey Durel, Lafayette city-parish president, to be used for development of the 125-acre Horse Farm into a park.

Lafayette City-Parish Government acquired the Horse Farm last year from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for a park. The property near Johnston Street and College Drive now is pastures and wooded acreage surrounded by commercial and residential property.

Durel said a private non-profit organization will determine what will be done to the property, and a plan will be presented to the city-parish government on Dec. 16. He said actual work could start in less than a year.

Marc Wiley, president of the Lafayette Master Gardeners, said 140 vendors were selling plants and handmade items at the Plant Fest. Plants propagated by the local Master Gardeners were among those being offered for sale.

Wiley was pleased with the attendance. “We expect we have 5,000 people here today,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a huge success.”

The LSU AgCenter had a visible presence at the event.

Debra Taghehschian, LSU AgCenter nutrition educator in Lafayette Parish, was at one booth to provide visitors with suggestions about how to prepare food from their gardens.

“We’re trying to get people to focus on eating fruits and vegetables,” she said. “This is the perfect venue to do that.”

The LSU AgCenter 4-H program had a booth for youngsters to learn about gardening. Paula Guidry, teacher at L. Leo Judice Elementary School, said the garden at the school provides a good learning experience for students, and the science of growing plants is included in classroom curriculums.

The LSU AgCenter also staffed a booth to diagnose home gardeners’ problems. LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Raj Singh said many of the questions he fielded dealt with plant diseases, such as sooty mold. A wide variety of fact sheets were available to the public to provide detailed assistance for problems.

“It’s a service we provide for all these garden shows and plant festivals,” Singh said.

In addition, Gerald Roberts, LSU AgCenter county agent in Lafayette Parish, lined up several LSU AgCenter experts to make presentations on a wide variety of topics, from lawn care to controlling armadillos to landscaping.

Roberts said the day-long event exceeded expectations. ”The turnout, the interest, the community support provide another opportunity for the AgCenter to fulfill its mission.”

The Master Gardener program shows the strength of volunteerism when a common goal is at hand, he said. “This tells me the community embraces greenspace and horticulture.”

The enthusiasm at Saturday’s event further strengthens the Master Gardeners’ role at the Horse Farm and its future at the park, Roberts said. Durel has said the park board will decide what happens at the Horse Farm, but Master Gardeners will have a significant presence at the facility.

Bruce Schultz

9/17/2013 1:38:38 AM
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