By Ginna Parsons
TUPELO – The Lee County Extension Service is currently accepting applications for the training course for those interested in becoming Master Gardeners.
The 40-hour course will begin Feb. 4 and will meet at the Lee County Extension Office each Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. for six weeks. Each day’s instruction lasts about four hours, except for the last class, which is two hours.
Folks sign up for the training for different reasons, said Susan McGukin, program associate for volunteer management at the Lee County Extension Service
“I love gardening and I’ve always got my fingers in everybody else’s yards all the time so I thought I’d take the classes,” said Cindy Ballard, 48, who took the training in 2013. “I learned how much I didn’t know about gardening. You think you have a really broad knowledge until you sit under people who actually have that knowledge.”
Connie Marion, 62, and her husband had just moved back to Northeast Mississippi from New Jersey, where she also had MG training.
“I wanted to meet new people in the community,” she said. “I grew up in a garden and this was an opportunity to learn Tupelo and get into more of the educational aspects of gardening instead of the recreational aspects of it. It’s such a great group of people caring and sharing, and not just food and plants.”
When the Master Gardeners were first forming in Lee County, Sadie Buchanan, 71, wanted to take the training, but she was busy raising a family and working on the family farm and she knew she couldn’t devote the volunteer hours necessary to be certified.
“Now, some 20 or 30 years later, I had the opportunity,” she said. “And it’s put me in a great fraternity/sorority of fellow gardeners. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to be involved. The training provided the benefit of what I could do to my own place, but also gave me a chance to give back to the community.”
McGukin said the training courses are offered only once a year and it’s always early.
“You’d be surprised at how many people call in April and want to do the training,” she said. “That’s when they’re thinking about gardening. I try to time the classes early so when the training is over, it’s time to get out and work in your garden.”
The cost is $85 and covers the cost of training, supplies, a light lunch each day and a one-year membership to the state Master Gardener Association. The class is limited to 15 participants.
After training is complete, an additional 40 hours of volunteer service in a one-year period is required for certified Master Gardener status. In subsequent years, 20 hours of volunteer service and 12 hours of approved training is required.
For more information or to request an application, call McGukin at (662) 841-9000. The deadline to register is Tuesday, Jan. 21.