With a water hose, Mary Burke-Bass spent a moment to water plants inside a greenhouse near the Cooperative Extension office.
Throughout the year, Burke-Bass and members of the Sampson County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers (SCEMGV) enjoys showing plants tender loving care. Soon, the azaleas, geraniums, supertunias, herbs will be in people’s home after the first official day of spring. This time of year is always a special time for the organization, which provide assistance to homeowners improve their gardens, lawns, and landscapes. SCEMGV’s annual plant sale begins March 26 and is one of the biggest fundraisers.
For any group such as the Master Gardeners, funding will continue to be a need. To grow plants in the greenhouse, it requires soil, seeds pots, gas to keep everything warm and other need. As a 501c3 organization, SCEMGV accepts donations, which are tax deductible for donors.
“Funding is an issue and we’re trying to look at different routes to get more funding,” said Brad Hardison, horticulture agent for Sampson County Cooperative Extension.
With more than 80 Master Gardener groups in North Carolina, the Sampson County group is one of the smallest units. But Hardison said the group puts in as much time as larger groups.
“We’re the eighth smallest in the state,” Hardison said. “But we’re in the top 10 in hours and giving back to the county. Our members really get out here and they work hard. For a lot of them it’s almost like a part-time job. They’re working for the residents of Sampson County.”
So far, 11 people have signed up to sit through a 16-week course to learn about horticulture topics. After completing the course they will join 20 active SCEMGV members. Hardison said the membership continues to grow becuase of their presence in the community.
“People in the community are actually seeing what they’re doing and it has great awards,” Hardison said. “If you have any free time, it’s a great thing to do and way to give back to the people of Sampson County.”
The organization’s work in the school system is very well-known. Some of scheduled stops include L.C. Kerr School, Union Intermediate School and Hargrove Elementary. During the spring and fall, the volunteers provide education about raising plants and where their food comes from.
Hardison and SCEMGV President Dempsey Craig agreed about the importance of providing education to students, since it’s a major part of Sampson County’s economy. He added that more people were involved in farming decades ago. Although there’s many large farmers in the area, he said there’s less smaller farmers.
“These kids today don’t know the difference between cabbage and broccoli when it’s growing the field,” he said. “They don’t know where their food is actually coming from.”
Efforts are also made to improve the appearance of the area. A welcome garden was established in Clinton’s Industrial Park on U.S. 421. Plants for the 3-Sister’s Garden were also placed at the Sampson County History Museum. The local Law Enforcement Center also received plants from SCEMGV.
Near the extension office building, volunteers built a greenhouse and added a park, which was once a wooded area. It’s known locally as the “Happy Park” and is the site of Art in the Park, which includes displays of yard art created by members; and Scarecrow in the Park, a contest open to Members from SCEMGV, 4-H clubs, extension staff and FFA clubs. The area is also utilized by youth groups to take a break or to enjoy an outside classroom environment.
“It’s to beautify it and make it more welcoming to the public and to give the public a place to come sit and enjoy, while seeing the fruits of our labor,” said Burke-Bass, former president of the organization.
In 2017, SCEMGV put in more than 1,500 hours of time with projects throughout Sampson County to beautify the area.
SCEMGV is in the planning stages of building a pollinator garden to use as teaching tool for Four-H and other groups. Another plan is to have another herb workshop. Improvements will be made based on the feedback of guests. Some of the topics include cooking, reducing salt and sugars and storing herbs.
Members will be available during Ag Day on Saturday, April 21, with information booths, herb tasting and how to use them.
“We get show our stuff, but we also get to interact with the community and answer questions dealing with their residential areas and flowers, Craig said. “It’s a big day, not only for us but for the Extension Office too. There’s going to be a lot of activities going on at the same time.”
For more information about the organization or the upcoming events, visit the SCEMGV Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SCEMGVA or call 910-592-7161. The plant sale begins March 26 and will continue through April from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, near the Extension Office, 55 Agriculture Place, Clinton. Pre-orders are being accepted at 910-214-1963.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.