Farewell and Good Gardening!
About 20 years ago my career with North Carolina Cooperative Extension started with an article written by Mitch Smith, now retired County Extension Director of Pitt County. In the article he introduced me as the new Horticulture Agent for Pitt County, he mentioned my background of training at Auburn University (War Eagle!) in Landscape Design, Horticulture, Urban Forestry, and Nursery and Landscape Weed Management. He also challenged the readers of the Daily Reflector by daring them to call me with home gardening, lawn, and landscaping questions. Over the years many of you did just that.
The questions that I received over the years led to an interest in a more intense way to educate those interested about gardening. Out of that grew our Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program in Pitt County. Over 200 volunteers have been trained since 1997 when we had our first class. A few years ago we had 76 active volunteers at one time at the peak of the program. Currently there are 64 active volunteers in the program. Even now as I get ready to depart the Horticulture Agent position in Pitt County our volunteer group has planned a class that will train 10 new volunteers starting on March 2nd.
Also out of the desire to educate about gardening came an interest in having demonstration areas to display plants that grow well in eastern North Carolina and show how to garden successfully. In 1998 the first planting volunteers and I did was a perennial border. The next planting area we did was the Certified Plant Professional Collection, then the mixed border, kitchen garden, centipede plot, rose garden, and so on. By November of 2002 we had enough areas planted that it was time to give what we had created a name and take on more space. That month the Pitt County Commissioners declared the grounds surrounding the Pitt County Agricultural Center as the Pitt County Arboretum. Since then we have continually added on, including the Pitt County Arboretum Plant Sale run by the Master Gardeners, and even added our January speaker event. On March 5th, the Master Gardeners will be at the 2016 Home & Living Expo at the Convention Center. The plant sale this year will be on May 14, 2016 and information can be found by visiting http://pitt.ces.ncsu.edu. In January of 2017, Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery will be the speaker on January 28, 2017.
Also through the arboretum I started teaching Certified Plant Professional courses along with other agents to train nursery and landscape professionals to become proficient in plant identification skills and plant care. This led to training landscape professionals such as Certified Landscape Technicians and Landscape Contractors. It has most recently led to helping landscape professionals upgrade their skill by receiving training for the new North Carolina Landscape License.
Of course along the way I have had my share of other Extension Agent duties like identifying bed bugs, snakes, spiders, plants of every type, weeds, insects, diseases, and even questions about canning, getting out stains, and turkey thawing. I have even seen transition in technology over the years. One of the funniest messages I ever received was from a client when we first installed a voice mail system. There was a short pause and then the statement, “He ain’t got nothin’ but a dang machine”, then a hang up. Needless to say, I have had tons of fun over the years here.
So here I am somewhere over 1000 articles later, writing my last one for the Daily Reflector as Horticulture Agent in Pitt County. It has been a fun ride from being a young, wet behind the ears, agent in the early days to now being the seasoned, gray and thinned haired, old timer in the Extension office. Despite that, I remain young at heart and ready for my new challenge starting on March 1. I am sure by now you are wondering where I am headed. Well, I am not going too far. I will still be working with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. However, I will not be in the Pitt County Extension Office. I will be working only with Commercial Greenhouse and Nursery operations as an Area Specialized Agent in a 44 county area of eastern North Carolina.
If you have questions about your lawn, garden, trees, or landscapes give the Pitt County N.C. Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteers a call at 252-902-1705. You can leave a message anytime to have your call returned. Questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find more information about gardening in Pitt County http://pitt.ces.ncsu.edu. Thanks to Pitt County, the Extension Staff here, the Master Gardeners, and all my fellow Gardeners out there for a fun 20-year journey. Farewell and Good Gardening!