Hard work pays off with successful seminar and show, Master Gardeners say

More than six months of work by the Master Gardners of Jefferson County paid off Saturday at the group’s 25th annual Home and Garden Seminar and Show at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

“This has been our biggest show ever,” Master Gardner Lloyd Wessels said. “We’ve got more vendors than ever, and the public has really turned out.”

More than 150 different vendors and organizations were expected to set up booths for the event, which carried the theme “25 Years and Still Growing.”

Arkansas First Lady Ginger Beebe was one of the attractions Saturday, presenting a slide show on the gardens at the Governor’s Mansion and cutting an anniversary cake.

“This was our 25th anniversary and we wanted somebody special to talk and she’s special,” Wessels said.

The annual event supports the Master Gardener’s garden, located at the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Services offices on East 6th Avenue, a garden created so that school kids can plant seeds each year, then return later and harvest the items they’ve planted.

“This pays for all the seeds, all the fertilizers, all the things we need for the garden,” Wessels said.

“This is a lot of work but working with the kids is a lot of fun,” Linda Soffer, president of the county group said. “The garden gives the young people a chance to know where their fruits and vegetables come from.”

Bob Purvis, director of the convention center, was impressed with the turnout Saturday, and with the work of the Master Gardener’s organization.

“It’s amazing what people with determination can do,” Purvis said. “When they started out, they struggled a bit but they stayed at it and every year it’s gotten bigger.

“Everybody is tired of winter and this sort of puts the idea of spring and gardens in people’s minds.”

One of the newest members of the Master Gardener’s group is Assistant Pine Bluff City Attorney Daryl Taylor, who completed the group’s training course last year.

“I was the youngest person in the class and I’m excited about this,” Taylor said. “They gave us a huge book and I’m going to do a raised bed garden and a herb garden.”

Taylor, who in addition to her work for the city teaches at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and is a lieutenant in the Army Reserve assigned to the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, said she didn’t have a lot of free time but plans to use the gardens for relaxation.”

“I’m trying to wind down a bit,” she said.

Soffer said the Master Gardner Training Class will begin Feb. 14 from noon to 5 p.m. and classes will continue through April 6.

“Gardening is coming back,” she said. “We were one of the first four Master Gardener program in the state and we have a lot of projects people can get involved in,” she said.

“My personal favorite is working with the kids in the garden,” Soffer said. “They pay attention and they know what they did and it’s extremely satisfying.”