Winston County Extension Service ‘cultivating’ community and more

By Mike Skipper
Winston County Extension Director

The Winston County Extension Service has a long standing commitment
and dedication to the citizens of this great county in regards to
informal education and improving the overall quality of human life.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service is part of MSU
which is actually composed of three major components which are
teaching, research and Extension. Extension is simply the outreach of
the land grant system by which science researched based information
is provided to the local community.

Extension works to serve clients of all ages and walks of life in the
areas of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, Family and Consumer
Science, 4-H Youth and Economic and Community Development.

The newly established Cultivating Patch is a unique opportunity for
the Winston County Extension Office to partner with the Winston
County Board of Supervisors, Winston County Farm Bureau, Tabor
Drug’s, Firewise, Winston County Self Help and the Winston County
Master Gardeners as well as other volunteers. The overall goal of
this project is to provide a positive educational experience for
youth and adults in the wonderful world of horticulture.

Emphasis is being placed in several areas to accomplish this. One
aspect will be the raised bed gardening project where youth and
adults will have the opportunity to learn how to grow, produce and
harvest home grown healthy fruits and vegetables. With a high poverty
rate coupled with the fact that data indicates that we have a 31
percent obesity rate moves us to teach and demonstrate ways to
improve the quality of all of our lives.

As many families continue to struggle with the current economic
situation that we are faced with, they are looking for ways to
stretch their food dollar budget.

Gardening can be one major component of this, particularly raised bed
gardening or container gardening. Individuals can utilize small
spaces to produce fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year. We
are quite fortunate in the fact that we can grow spring, summer and
fall crops quite well here in Winston County.

The Winston County Extension office has the expertise and resources
to help individuals make sound and wise choices on healthy eating,
budgeting and planting decisions.

Another aspect of the Cultivating Patch is the creation of the Pizza
Garden. This area is designated for exposing Headstart and
Kindergarteners to the real world of production agriculture and where
their food comes from. Youth will see first-hand a planted pizza
garden growing onions, herbs, wheat for grain, tomatoes and peppers,
all the great fixings for a pizza.

Youth will see where paper, napkins and cardboard boxes come from as
they will see the tall standing pines at the back of the garden. Cut
out figures will be displayed to symbolize meat and dairy products.

A unique component will be the Firewise landscaped area showing youth
and adults plant material that is designated as low, medium and high
flammability. Various mulch materials will be showcased as well.

Finally, what’s a great meal without fruit? Established in the
garden will be plantings of blueberries, blackberries and
strawberries. The beauty of these fruits is that they can be grown in
smaller areas with relative ease.

This project is designed to challenge and inspire individuals to get
involved in activities that can greatly benefit not only themselves
but their families and friends as well. Together we can improve the
quality of life for everyone.

Cultivating Patch
Article Submitted By:
Brenda G. Keen, Master Gardener
Louisville, MS

Brenda G. Keen is a Master Gardener, when she heard about the new
Cultivating Patch that was underway and in the development stages,
she was excited to see how the program would develop. It has also
been interesting to see the diversity of the group that has come
together to be involved in the Cultivating Patch. There are youth
involved, Extension workers, retired individuals, physically
challenged, our local law enforcement, farmers and the list goes on.
So as you can see, this is a very eclectic group of individuals that
can all learn from each other as well as help each other. The
expertise of the Winston County Extension Office will be and already
has been extremely valuable to the group as they progress with the
planting and harvesting in the days to come. Her hopes are that the
program is so effective in this charter state that it will grow and
become even more effective in helping people to learn in the years to
come. She encourage her children to always be involved in areas to
make them better students as well as adults one day. This program
will provide knowledge for them to learn how they have the food they
eat each day and how to grow it. Her son, Isaac, is already making
plans to sell his tomatoes he grows and if, she knows him, he will in
fact sell his tomatoes and will enjoy doing it.

Her daughter, Iris, will just have a good time learning how to grow
vegetables. She is also excited because she has friends that are
going to grow and learn with her. The Extension Office does a great
job for the community and this is just another way that they continue
to provide excellent service to the people of Winston County.

New knowledge will be gained, new friendships made, old friendships
renewed and most of all we will be growing vegetables that are good
for our health. Our health is greatly linked to our diet and what we
eat, so The Cultivating Patch will benefit us tremendously as we
learn information that we can bring home with us and duplicate these
beds in our own yards and start our on “patch.”

It has been so rewarding to see the excitement of the people in the
program. Participants have brought yard art to decorate their bed,
sticks to identify their plants, and even chairs to rest as they
watch their garden patch grow.

The pizza garden will be a great highlight. It is a garden shaped
like a pizza. It is also divided like a pizza and in each division
there are various items planted that you would find in a pizza. We
will also add yard art or animal cut outs to the project at the pizza
garden so that students from Headstart and others schools that want
to tour the garden will be able to see everything that will be a part
of making a pizza.

My father was a huge gardener and being involved makes me smile to
think about all the times I remember him tending to his gardens. Yes,
she meant gardens. He actually planted three large gardens each year
and shared with everyone! She wants her children to have a love for
being outside but more importantly, wants them to enjoy being a part
of a program that can provide them with great information for the
future that they will be able to share with their children one day.

The support for the garden has been incredible. Many people have
provided support and are anxious to see the progress. We have even
talked about having a day where we cook our “veggies” and have a
meal from our garden together when harvest arrives.

Perhaps after reading this information, you might decide that you
want to be a part of this Program. Just call the Extension Office and
see if next year you can join! Remember, as the sayings goes, “If
you build it, people will come,” and the people did come to
participate in this worthwhile effort!

• Heidi Phelps, an 8th grader at Winston Academy,when asked what
she hoped to learn from being a part of a community garden, she
responded by saying that she would like to learn when would be the
right time to plant a garden and also how to take care of a garden.
She also stated that she would enjoy doing this with her friends.

Heidi has a very positive attitude and will interact well with all
the participants in the program.
• Tanner Belding likes the Cultivating Patch, a community garden
for all ages. Tanner was asked how she learned about the program and
what she planned to gain from the program. She related that one of
her friends, Iris Keen, had told her about the garden and Tanner felt
it would be a good learning experience for her. She even went on to
say that she could learn how to garden and hopefully learn how to
grow food so she would not have to go the store and spend money on

• Iris Keen says the Cultivating Patch is a good way to learn more
about growing things. It is also a great way to meet new people and
learn from them how to grow plants. Iris shared that she told other
friends about the program so that they could learn the knowledge as
well as her but also so they could have a great time while learning.
said “It is always fun to learn new things, but when you learn them
with friends, it makes the experience even more fun.” Iris also
related that she knows the information she learned would be helpful
in the future.

• Isaac Keen was asked “What benefits of the program do you plan
to reap?”
He stated, “This is a great way to get involved in the community as
well as learn new things.” Isaac also said that he had learned from
his mom that it is always good to be involved. He stated that his mom
volunteers a lot of time to help other people and he wanted to be
that way as well. Isaac said he plans to grow tomatoes in his patch,
might even sell them.

• Evangelist Maria Triplett was also at The Winston County
Community Garden (The Cultivating Patch) is an integral part of Local
Organizations with Private Owners coming together to demonstrate
strength in UNITY. I believe the church has a responsibility to
exemplify stewardship and leadership in God’s Natural Resources by
example. Calvary Apostolic Church is committed to teaching our youth
seed, time and harvest.

• Janice Hopkins , comments, “The Cultivating Patch will provide
a valuable learning experience for residents in the county.

The young and old will have an opportunity to socialize as they learn
skills to help them raise fresh produce. It will provide for
cooperation, respect, and honesty as assigned plots are cared for
during the plantings.” She grew up on a farm and looks forward to
showing the grandchildren how to produce fresh vegetables in a
controlled setting with the expert knowledge available through Mike
Skipper, MSU Extension Office County Agent. Hopefully, the people
participating will preserve, share with the elderly and sell some of
the produce.

Thanks to the Board of Supervisors, Farm Bureau, Mary Tabor and Frank
Taylor for sponsoring this project.

• Mrs. Evie Daniels stated, she likes about gardening, it gives
her an opportunity to be outside and she can also get some exercise.
She also said that you know your vegetables are fresh and free from
chemicals and food additives. Mrs. Evie remembered back to when she
was in 4-H and grew up planting a garden. She had a love for it then
and still has a love for it now. Another good thing Mrs. Evie talked
about is the fact that if you grow more than you need, you can freeze
it, can it or share and give it to someone else. She stated, she was
really glad she could participate in the garden and said she wanted
to say a big “thank you” to Mr. Mike Skipper for all his hard work
on the project and his willingness to help other people.

• Mrs. Bonnie Fulton shared that she wants to learn how to grow
tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. She said that she had tried to grow
these vegetables at her house and had not had any luck. She also
enjoyed the fellowship, and emphasized was great to be with the other
people in the program. Mrs. Bonnie previously worked with the
Extension Office as an Associate and said she later went on to teach
Home Economics in the school and served in the capacity for 18 years.
She is excited about the program and feels she will learn a great deal.

• Alexandra Cunningham as everyone knows Alexandra, states that he
is interested in growing lettuce, onions and cabbage. He stated that
as everyone grow their plot and does well with it, that the
vegetables grown might be shared between the growers. Cunningham said
this program is a great way to get to know other people and have a
good time while learning great information about growing.

• Gloria Turnipseed states,” The reason I wanted to be a part of
the program is because I like to grow vegetables and one of her
favorite vegetables to grow is okra. She related all vegetables are
good for your health, but that they are also good to eat. Mrs. Gloria
enjoys making soup and said that putting okra in your soup makes it
taste really good. She also likes it fried. She is very involved in
the community and likes to stay abreast of programs since she is the
District 4 Supervior. She stated this program will be a great
enhancement to the community as well as to the people that
participate in it.

• Mrs. Joyce Johnson always has a positive attitude about anything
she does. She wanted to be involved so she could have an association
with people that are interested in gardening and to be a part of the
community. She and Brenda Hunt are working on their raised bed
together so that they can learn together.

• Brenda Hunt related that she has never grown anything before and
that she doesn’t know how. She is excited about learning how to
garden and thinks this will be fun interacting as well with others
involved in the program.

• When Johnna Williamson was asked about being in the program stated
that the community garden is a great opportunity to get together and
learn things and share them with other gardeners. Johnna said,
“Growing spring vegetables is a new experience for me and since the
beds were already prepared, it was easy to start planting. With help
from more experienced gardners and the information provided by the
Mississippi State University Extension office staff, I am hoping to
have lots of veggies to share with friends and family this year!”

• Jean Harper states, the community garden allows youth hands on
learning garden skills, plant identification and the importance of
growing fresh vegetables.

• Lee Earl Jackson, Jr. has always been curious about how plants
grow and loves playing in the dirt. The raised bed will give him the
opportunity to learn by doing. Working in the garden will give him
the opportunity to learn the life cycle of plants and the process of
taking care of them. It will also let him see the process from
thetime the plants are planted until they are actually harvested

• Stella Jackson stated that this year she wanted to get her son,
involved in gardening. She also states there was no better
opportunity than to begin with the raised garden bed. Stella also
shared that she wanted him to experience what it is like to grow your
own vegetables and then prepare them to be eaten.

She also said she is excited that because it is a family project
makes it even greater. The hands on experience for Kevon growing his
own vegetables maybe the turning point for him to become a farmer in
the future Stella stated.

• Sandra Jackson related that she thinks the raised bed garden
project will be a great opportunity to bring the community together
to share skills, knowledge, and ideas about gardening. She stated,
not only will everyone be growing vegetables, but new friendships
will be formed.
• Howard Marshall has an interest in doing raised gardens but I
wasn’t sure about what was needed to make them successful. made
himself a note to ask Mike Skipper about making up raised gardeners,
as fate would have it, was patrolling on Old Robinson Road behind
the MSU Extension Office about 2 or 3 weeks ago and there was Mike
working on several raised garden beds, stopped and talked with him
about raised garden beds. He informed me about the program that he
had going on. Marshall told him he would love to participate in the
program. Being a part of such a program gives the opportunity to grow
the nutritious vegetable to help make my family healthy. It will
also allow me to save money in the long run by growing my own

• L. C. Hines decided to sign up for the Mississippi Extension
Service raised garden project because it provided an opportunity to
sow and plant those vegetables that we love to eat first of all and
are healthy for me. He also stated that the fact that no chemicals
will be used in the growing process was another attraction to him.

• Nancy Bearden says, “The raised bed gardening sounded like a
challenge for me and also hoping she can teach my great
grandchildren where fruits and vegetables have their beginning,”
She also stated this can be a hands on experience for them and give
them something constructive to do during the summer. It will be
economical as it will save money that would usually be spent in the
grocery store and help people eat healthier. Nancy also related that
if she was successful with this adventure, she would like to have her
own raised bed gardening project at home.

• Beverly Estes stated while reading the Winston County Journal,
an article on container gardening drew my interest. She thought it
was something she might enjoy doing. She stated she had never had any
experience in gardening and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity
for me to develop a new hobby. Beverly said with the promised help of
County Agent Mike Skipper, and excellent volunteer master gardeners,
she plans to learn how to grow and produce tomatoes, potatoes,
cabbage, lettuce, greens and other delicious and nutritious foods to
share with her family and friends. She also hopes to be able to
enlarge her garden and produce a greater quantity of food right in
her own back yard. She plans to involve her young great grandchildren
in this project. Beverly said she would like for her “grands” to
grow up utilizing the resources God has given us to provide healthy
food for our use.

She also stated that she hopes gardening will not be a lost art, but
will become the norm for years to come.

• Elmetra Patterson states,”The community garden (The
Cultivating Patch) near the Extension Office adds a resource to the
community that I am very excited about. She stated that it opens the
door for many people to garden and for others to get ideas from
garden to home, that being physically challenged, she ispleased to
have one of the “raised” bed gardens which is 26 inches tall. She
stated ,it will allow her to tent the garden without bending since
she has a lower and upper back fusion as a result of disc
degenerative disease. Her thoughts were that this is perfect for me
to grow the red bell peppers that she loves to season foods with or
even to eat raw. Elmetra praised Mike Skipper and his staff and
stated they are to be commended for the creativity and hard work that
went into building the garden. She can’t wait to see all the gardens
planted and ready for harvesting. She was happy that something else
wonderful and interesting has been added to our small town!

• Kayla Sullivan noted she wanted to help with the raised garden
beds so I can learn to do my own. I have planted regular gardens and
tried to keep them up, but they are just to big and make me feel
overwhelmed. The raised garden beds are great because you put them
wherever you want to – not just where a tractor can go. You can
control the weeds better because you can use a weed-free soil since
the garden is not that big and won’t cost as much. The better soil
will also make you be able to yield more. My artistic side likes all
the creativity you can do with them. They also look neat and tidy
unlike a conventional garden.

•Alonzo and Peggy Miller like being a part of the Winston County
Self Help Cooperative. It has afforded them the opportunity to
collaborate with Mike Skipper on the Raised Bed/Community Garden

Mr. Miller indicated that he was actually responsible for planting
the plants in the raised beds. He and Peggy also indicated that the
individuals were assigned a bed, then selected the vegetables they
wanted and that Mike provided the plants for the beds and then the
beds were planted.

Alonzo stated it was his job to also assist the owners of the raised
beds and to provide advice on growing, cultivating, fertilizing,
maintaining as well as harvesting the gardens.

Alonzo and his wife Peggy think the Raised Bed Gardens (The
Cultivating Patch) is a worthwhile project and an avenue that it
provides is a means for others in the community to grow fresh produce
who might not otherwise have the means to do so, whether it is due to
limited resources such as land, knowledge, materials, supplies,
equipments, etc.

Alonzo stated his wife’s desire is for more single mothers to
participate in the program so that they can plan healthy meals
centered around fresh vegetables for their children on a regular
basis. Peggy stated, “Eating healthy meals is essential when it
comes to our children’s performance in school. Even their ability to
pay attention has been linked to what our kids are eating. Even the
kids can get involved in this project to make it a family affair. We
think this is the beginning of something larger to come. It is
definitely a thing of the past, present and the future. More of us
just need to catch the spirit of eating healthier by eating locally.
What better way to accomplish this than by growing our own food.”

• Robert Spiva states, Gardening is a good way to get exercise and
have food to eat. He also stated that he has always tried to eat what
is healthy.

Mr. Spiva related that growing your own vegetables is a way to save
money and you can also be sure of what you are eating. He enjoys
getting to talk with other people and felt this program with the
Cultivating Patch is a good way to get to interact with the community.

• When Harry Owens talked about the Cultivating Patch, he
stated , he could learn information about gardening through the
program. His friend, Howard Marshall who is also in the program told
him about the program and he decided he would like to participate in
it. Harry plans to use his knowledge to grow vegetables and also
enjoys interacting with people.

Dee Dee Bryd believes the garden will be a great way to gorw
community relations.

“This will be a great way to associate with people in the community
and be able to interact with them,” stated Dee Dee Byrd.
She and Mrs. Rebecca Graret will work on their bed together and have
already had a great time doing this. Dee Dee enjoys people and this
will be a great way for her to encourage others and also to learn
from them as well.

• Rebecca Graret related that the Cultivating Patch will be a
great way to associate with other fellow participants and get to know
more people within the town.

She also stated this will be a great way to gain knowledge that she
can use later. She and Dee Dee Byrd are working on their bed together
and plan to have a great time doing this.

• Frank Taylor partnered with the Winston County Extension Office
through a group he works with which is the Winston County Self Help
Group. The emphasis of the group is “saving rural America”. Their
goal is to teach individuals how to increase income on the rural
farm. Frank is working with Alonzo and Peggy Miller who are in the
program and decided that the Cultivating Patch would be a great way
for them to learn about raised bed gardening and apply it to
increasing income on the rural farm.