(04/08/2020) WEST MONROE, La. – When the Northeast Louisiana Master Gardeners had to cancel their Spring Fest 2020 garden sale due to the COVID-19 outbreak, members knew they would have to develop another plan.
The stay-at-home order issued March 22 by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards allowed only for the performance of essential activities, of which the obtainment of food, medicine and other similar goods were included.
With the onset of spring and many homeowners looking to get vegetable garden plans underway, the Master Gardeners group decided to move forward with a virtual format for their 12th annual spring garden sale focusing on edible plants only.
To comply with social distancing guidelines and reduce the spread of the virus, members opted to offer vegetable and herb plants for sale via Facebook, limiting sales to Ouachita Parish and the immediate surrounding areas.
“The plant list was posted and has been updated daily, and buyers simply send an email to place an order,” LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Kerry Heafner said.
All but a few members who have been responsible for making deliveries were asked to stay home and refrain from visiting the greenhouse to insure everyone’s safety, said Heafner, who also serves as the AgCenter’s Northeast Louisiana Master Gardeners Program coordinator.
Deliveries are made with no interaction between seller and buyer. Volunteers pull the order from the greenhouse, deliver it to the consumer and collect payment without ever having personal contact with the homeowner, Heafner said.
“It has worked surprisingly well and exceeded all our expectations, but I wouldn’t want to do it again,” he said, adding that the person-to-person communication between group members and the public has always been the foundation of the Master Gardeners program.
Now well into the second week of the sale, the group still has a number of tomato varieties available along with hot peppers and a good selection of herbs.
“The spring plant sale is a major fundraiser for the association and the only option we have to support events and activities throughout the year, including the popular January seminar held in conjunction with the Northeast Louisiana Ag Expo,” Heafner said.
The LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Master Gardeners Program trains volunteers to provide high quality, proven, research-based educational programs to Louisiana residents. The program has trained 325 new volunteers as of 2019.
For more information, contact the Northeast Louisiana Master Gardeners Association Facebook page.Kerry Heafner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pepper plants for sale through the Northeast Louisiana Master Gardeners virtual plant sale on their Facebook page. Photo provided by Kerry Heafner.
Plants in the greenhouse await delivery as part of the Northeast Louisiana Master Gardeners virtual plant sale. The sale was moved online after the COVID-19 outbreak canceled their sale scheduled for March 29. Photo provided by Kerry Heafner.