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The President’s Corner — “We Put the Spring in Spring Fair”

By the time you read this it will be June. The sixth month suggests many things – we’re halfway through the year, kids get out of school on summer vacation, the summer solstice gives us the longest day of the year – and it’s gardening time!

All around the valley gardeners are out tending their newly planted tomatoes, squash, cukes, eggplants, melons and peppers, thanks in part to our Spring Garden Fair held May 6th on the OSU Extension campus. It was an incredible feat, considering it had been 4 years since the last SGF was held at the Expo. The Jackson County Master Gardener Association took a leap of faith that the community would remember us, even though the fair was smaller and only open for one day. Our motto was “If we grow the plants, they will come!” Of course, a large part of the picture was having a full class of 55 students enrolled in the Master Gardener Program and a Practicum that ran eight sessions a week, including weekends to accommodate everyone’s schedule!

This Practicum was very different this year as we lost our old classroom due to asbestos. Everything that had been packed up and placed in storage now had to be found and unpacked. Supplies were given a home in greenhouse 1, which served as our new “classroom”. Mentors came back – but at half the numbers – yet still we persevered with Jane Moyer and Lynn Kunstman as our valiant leaders. There was much to do, but the students and mentors did the work. The results were two greenhouses of beautiful, lush vegetables, herbs, ornamentals, and of course native plants in the Native Plant Nursery.

But that wasn’t the only setback. We were on uncharted ground, literally, as the SGF would be on the SOU Extension grounds. How many vendors could we accommodate? Where do we put them and where do we park all the cars?  Thanks to the partnership with SOREC, Alec Levin, our new director, granted us the use of a 20-acre field for parking. Surprise – it required driving over a one lane bridge to get in and out!  Sandy Hammond, Chair of the SGF Committee, arranged for volunteer traffic controllers and event signs from ODOT. They did an amazing job parking over 3000 cars successfully!

Sandy Hansen contacted the vendors and brought in some of our very favorites. With the help of Lucy Pylkki, they organized the site and volunteers, the use of two-way radios and how to run Square for credit cards at the cashiers’ stations. Janine Salvatti’s Garden and Grounds people did an incredible job tidying up the grounds and several of the gardens too, so the place shined.

Many attendees told us they were so happy our fair was back and that they loved seeing all the gardens and experiencing the Extension for the first time. Without our many volunteers we could not have made this happen – especially our student volunteers who really stepped up to the plate. We are so lucky to have such a great bunch!

So let summer begin! We are off to a terrific start! We can sit back and enjoy our gardens, listen to the birds and bees, and think about next year’s Spring Garden Fair!