Published June 19, 2014
By Devin Corbitt, News Editor
The Texas Master Gardener State Conference has found its way to Bell County, and planning is already underway.
“We’ve gone to two ends of Texas – McAllen and Midland/Odessa – and I think people will be glad to come here in the middle,” Karen Colwick, 2013 Bell County Master Gardeners Secretary, said.
The conference will be held at the Bell County Expo Center April 16-18, 2015 and the Bell County Master Gardeners are looking for 60 vendors to fill the arena during the Saturday portion of the conference.
“Sixty would almost fill the arena,” Colwick said. “We’re looking to get a well-rounded group of vendors. We’ve invited vendors with plants, things related to garden care, some just-for-fun things like bling, seed companies; there will be something for everybody.”
Prices for renting a booth space range from $150 for a 10×10 spot to $400 for a 10×30 and $450 for a 10×20 prime corner area. Sponsorships are also available.
The conference will feature speakers from across the United States in order to cover topics that appeal to a wide variety of people, including the former curator for the gardens at Monticello.
“It’s difficult to (host a state-wide conference) because a lot of the times, the information is area-specific, but there are some things that we can do that are appropriate to the state,” Gary Slanga, Bell County Master Gardeners President, said. “Take for example, the presentation from Monticello. He’s now retired, but he was the curator of the gardens up there. What he talks about is how to go about maintaining this type of garden, the number of hours you have to put in, what kind of problems they had, what they did to solve the problems, what kind of unique things they came up with for things like propagation, seed conservation, because a lot of these plants were put in by Jefferson himself, so we need to preserve the genetics of those particular plants. That kind of information is applicable to anywhere you’re at. Water conservation is something we do, too; that’s applicable all across the state.”
The conference will also offer workshops on Saturday, such as flower arranging and beekeeping, and tours to various places in Bell County, including a trip to Fort Hood. Space will be limited for these events, so they will be available on a first come, first served basis.
Tickets will be also available to the public for the first time.
“This is the first conference where we’re actually going to invited the public to attend the speaker education sessions,” Slanga said. “Normally, those were just attended by the Master Gardeners themselves, but the state organization has decided that, because it’s an educational event and our purpose is to educate, that we might as well invite the public and let them sit in on it, too. There will be a separate price for folks who want to do just the one-day session.”
The Bell County Master Gardeners Association is an educational organization based in Belton. They offer a variety of services, including classes for teachers interested in gardening with their students.
“A lot of times, people think that we will go out and do gardens for them – put them in and maintain them, stuff like that – but that’s not really what we do,” Slanga said. “We are an educational organization; that’s what our charter says we’re supposed to do: help educate people on how to do their gardening here in this specific area.”
The Master Gardeners also maintain the Killeen Municipal Court Garden.
“When juveniles get into some difficulty and they’re required to put in some community service, then they can do that in this garden,” Slanga said. “We have Master Gardeners who mentor these kids while they work in there. All the produce is donated to kitchens around the area. They produce tons of food out of there, two and a half tons I think they pulled out of there last year. They have onions that they compared with a football because the onions were so big. That’s one of our major projects.”
For more information on the Master Gardeners Conference or to download vendor and sponsorship forms, please visit txmg.org/ 2015tmgaconference.