22nd Annual Missouri Master Gardener Conference

2017 State Master Gardener Conference in Review by Debi Kelly, Horticulture/Local Food Specialist

The 2017 State Master Gardener Conference was themed “Master Gardeners Go to College” and yes, we did. The conference was held right in the middle of the University of Missouri campus in Columbia. Over 116 Master Gardeners (MG) and Master Gardener Coordinators attended the 2-day event. The first day consisted of breakout sessions in three different tracks: Fruits & Vegetables; Trends; Ornamentals and Turf. While Master Gardeners attended sessions on unusual berries, monarchs & way stations, bee & pollinator preservations; landscape design principles, and elderberries, the MG Coordinators attended their own track to an overview of the updated MG Coordinator’s Manual & Operations Policy, Fund Raising Ideas for MG Chapters, Volunteer Management and A Look to the Future. After the breakout sessions, everyone attended a Title IX Training with Brittani Fults who gave an excellent presentation about inclusiveness, knowing your civil rights and safe environments. Following this was the Missouri Master Gardener Association’s business meeting.

A highlight was traveling to the MU Bradford Research Farm, 11 miles southwest of Columbia where we enjoyed a fried chicken dinner. Both Dr. Rob Kallenbach, Associate Dean for the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and Dr. Marshall Stewart, Vice Chancellor of Extension and Engagement, gave welcomes to the group. The fun began with tractor pulled trams to tour the research farm. The Bradford Research Center is 591 acres where research is done, among other things, on drought resistance, organic research production, vegetable production, and a new research project started just this year on hops.

The second day continued with the same first day tracks and breakout sessions on soil, diseases, mushroom growing, wildflowers in the landscape and woody plant maintenance. I facilitated the Fruit & Vegetable track. Tim Schnackenberg, Agronomy Specialist and MG Coordinator in Taney County, presented on Keys to Soil Improvement. The 4 keys were 1. Soil quality is the bedrock of gardening; 2. Compost provides fundamental building blocks for healthy soils; 3. Soil testing is fundamental to knowing your soil’s needs; and 4. Soil amendments will enhance and rejuvenate garden soil. Patti Hosack, Director of the Plant Diagnostic Lab, gave a very insightful presentation about diseases on fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals. The key to remember with diseases of all kinds is that they need the following to become viable: a susceptible plant, pathogen itself and a favorable environment. If any one of the three are missing or not “in sync” then the disease will remain dormant. Patti brought in microscopes, magnifying glasses and samples of plants with diseases. Each sample came with a description of the plant and the sign or symptom of the “issue”. Participants were given time to investigate the disease to see if they could figure out what was wrong with the plant. A few of the diseases were nematodes on tomato plants, elderberry rust and hail damage on watermelon. At the end of the session, Patti went over each sample explaining the sign or symptom and disease. You can never learn enough about plant diseases. Lunch was served at the Student Center.

After lunch MG selected from 4 different tours they could take:

  1. MU Botanical Garden
  2. Shelter Gardens – on the property of Shelter Insurance;
  3. Elderberry Farm and
  4. Pierpont Farm – owners Rob & Angela Hemwall who market through a CSA (community supported agriculture), the Columbia Farmers’ Market and to several restaurants in the area.

It was a good conference with lots of learning and companionship.

Be sure to mark the dates of Sept 28- 30 for “Harmony in the Garden” in Branson at the Chateau on the Lake Resort, Spa & Conference Center located on Table Rock Lake.  Visit www.momg18.org for more information. Hope to see you there!