Master Gardener plant sales blossom across the state
By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
April 7, 2017
- Annual plant sales coming soon to a county near you
- Major fundraising and educational opportunity for participants
- See the plant sale calendar at https://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/master-gardeners/
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LITTLE ROCK — Between April showers and May flowers, one of Arkansas gardeners’ favorite perennial phenomena blooms, as Master Gardener programs in counties across the state begin holding their annual plant sales.
Janet Carson, extension horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said about half of the Master Gardener programs throughout the state hold annual plant sales, which function as both fundraisers and educational opportunities for buyers.
“Many of the Master Gardeners participating in the plant sales are bringing plants dug from their own yards,” Carson said. “So they’re selling plants that they know work in those counties.”
Master Gardener programs are organized through the Division of Agriculture. There are Master Gardener programs in 65 of Arkansas’s 75 counties, plus a state-wide advisory group known as County 76.
To become a Master Gardener, applicants receive 40 hours of horticultural training from their respective county organization, and must donate 40 hours of volunteer service to the organization in return. After the first year, current members in good standing must receive 20 hours of training and volunteer for at least 20 hours of service each year.
For some Master Gardeners, volunteering can become a full-time occupation. Linda Soffer, president of the County 76 organization and a member of the Jefferson County Master Gardeners, said she donated about 340 hours of service to the the former and about 400 hours to the latter in 2016 alone. Across the state, Master Gardeners donated about 164,000 hours of service last year, Soffer said.
Saturday, three Master Gardener organizations will hold plant sales, including Franklin, Nevada and Pulaski counties. Randy Forst, Pulaski County Cooperative Extension Service staff chair, said organizers for the Pulaski County Master Gardener sale, often one of the most popular in the state, chose to advance the date of their sale by a week due to unseasonably warm spring temperatures.
“We had to move it up a week because of the early warmer temperatures,” he said. “Plants do better in that greenhouse — it heats up, and they’re blooming and getting lush.”
The Pulaski County plant sale will take place at the State Hospital greenhouse, located at West 7th and South Palm streets in Little Rock. The sale will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 11 a.m. Forst said that while the organization typically sells out its entire stock of plants, volunteers will schedule a second sale date if there is any unsold stock.
Sales in April and May 2017
Plant sales in nine other counties, including Saline, Sebastian, Marion, Baxter, Benton, Craighead, Garland, Independence and Montgomery counties are also scheduled to take place in April.
The sales continue in May, with two of the state’s largest plant sales, those held in Faulkner and Van Buren counties, being held May 13. For a list of upcoming plant sales, contact your local Master Gardeners organization or visit https://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/master-gardeners/events.aspx
Plant sales are typically the primary “maintenance and operations” fundraising opportunity for individual Master Gardener organizations throughout the state. The largest, the aforementioned Faulkner County plant sale, typically earns between $20,000 and $30,000 for that organization. In addition to further education opportunities for the organizations, the profits also help to fund scholarships for college students.
“It’s a great way of advertising our programs,” Carson said. “And it’s a great way for Master Gardeners to extend their knowledge back to their communities.”
To learn more about the Master Gardeners organization, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service office or visit www.uaex.edu.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your (insert appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service