Master Gardeners offer Growing Green event in place of spring short course

Even before the doors at the First Baptist Church Ministry Center opened at 10 a.m. Saturday, people were clamoring to get into the Growing Green Fair.

By 10:10, at least 100 people had come in, picked up a schedule of speakers and spread throughout the building to the tables where they could learn about starting seeds, propagating plants, composting, growing earthworms to aerate the soil, keeping bees and a host of other topics.

“It has surpassed what we thought,” said Joyce Schaefferkoetter, who chaired the event for the Phelps County Master Gardeners, organizers of the fair. “I’m very happy with the turnout.”

Schaefferkoetter said if the crowd continued to stream in as it did, total participation would likely be at least 400 people, maybe 500, before the doors closed at 3 p.m.

“Without the help of all the Master Gardeners, this wouldn’t have been possible,” Schaefferkoetter said.

Inside the Ministry Center, Master Gardeners, University Extension, 4-H, Mid-Missouri Beekeepers Association and private companies set up tables to distribute information and demonstrate techniques to visitors.

Some of the people visitors could talk to were Sue Goodman, of Dixon, known as “The Worm Wrangler,” who explained the benefits of worms in the garden; Laura Lackey, St. James, president of the chapter, who worked with a 4-H club to show how to start plants; Karen Clancy and Bethany Schindler, University Extension staffers, who educated fairgoers about nutrition.

Also present was Rolla Daily News gardening columnist Charlotte Wiggins, who talked with visitors about “bees and blooms,” and Dale Carpentier and Jerry Hendershot, who showed the equipment needed to keep bees.

Just outside the Ministry Center, Master Gardeners conducted a plant sale and gave away seedling trees.

Schaefferkoetter told of one man, a new gardener, who stopped to thank her and the Master Gardeners for the Growing Green Fair.

“He said last year his garden did not do well,” she said. “Today, he said that he had learned what he did wrong and he was going to try again. Hopefully, lots of people will learn something today that they can use in their gardens.”

The schedule of speakers included a survey form asking people for their assessment of the fair. The surveys were used in a drawing for a prize later.

“We want people to fill out that survey and tell us what they liked and what they’d like to see added if we have this again next year,’ Schaefferkoetter said.

The Growing Green Fair took the place of the usual spring short course offered by the Master Gardeners.

A fall certification course will be offered to people who want to become Master Gardeners, Schaefferkoetter said. Part of the requirements to be a Master Gardener is volunteerism, and Schaefferkoetter said many members of the chapter work on flower gardens at their churches.

The chapter also keeps the flower garden at the Rolla Visitor Center.