Master Gardener shares love of gardening
Arkansas's 2015 Master Gardener Rookie of the Year Dedric Davis finds relaxation, stress relief, exercise and much more as he works his 1-1/2 acres of gardens.
The volunteer hours spent by Davis is not for profit but to give back to the community.
Davis, a Blytheville native, has been part of the Mississippi County Master Gardener program for four years. He works for the EOC and on his off time can be found working the gardens.
He has turned his new found passion for gardening into an educational tool for area youth as well as adults. Hundreds of children have visited the gardens having the opportunity to see where their food actually comes from. They learn color, shape, size, texture and much more. He teaches the young people about the soil and what is good and not good.
Davis stresses to the youth the importance of healthy foods. He practices organic gardening.
From the field to the table is the message he wants visitors to learn.
Davis has a large garden behind the Head Start facility on Byrum Road in Blytheville. He has a smaller community garden on the corner of Wall and Myrtle Streets. People in the neighborhood enjoy the fresh vegetables grown in the community garden.
In the larger garden he raises red Mexican chili plants, Knock-Out roses, cherry tomatoes, a variety of herbs and spices, banana pepper, cantaloupe, egg plant, jalapeno pepper, cucumber, cabbage, lettuce, watermelon, purple hull peas, squash, okra, sweet basil, lemon mint, corn, bell pepper, zucchini, watermelon, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and much more. He will be planting greens soon.
Several large, donated scarecrows can be seen throughout the garden. He commended Tamaki Mathis and Jerry Marshall, two new members of the Master Gardeners, for their volunteer hours.
"They have put in at least 120-130 hours each," Davis said. "Without them I could not do all of this. Sam Scruggs and Shirley Pulliam with the EOC have been great supporters of the garden."
Davis shares his produce with people who need it as well as with the Head Start children.
Last week children from Head Start visited the gardens and had the opportunity to pick and shell a large plot of purple hull peas.
"They love the cherry tomatoes and seem to really enjoy learning about the garden," Davis said.
Davis did not have a gardening background but said it must have been passed down in his genes.
"I do remember there was a woman in our neighborhood who always raised a garden," he said. "At the time we boys didn't think much about walking through her garden and even throwing tomatoes at each other. Now I realize the work and care she put into her garden and she has become an inspiration to me."
He has worked with the county prison system helping inmates learn about gardening and raising their own food.
"Knowing about gardening can be helpful when they get out," Davis said. "Sometimes it is hard for them to find employment and gardening and landscaping can be another avenue for them."
He is planning to work with residents at the Butterfly House in Manila to start a garden for the residents to enjoy.
"I think you appreciate your food when you raise it yourself," Davis said. "Also, raising and selling vegetables can be a great way to learn business practices."
Davis stressed the health value of homegrown vegetables.
"Growing our own food is affordable health care," he said. "Arkansas has one of the highest adult obesity rates of all of the states. It is important we teach the children good nutrition and healthy eating."
Mississippi County Extension Agent Jason Osborn expressed his appreciation to Davis for his volunteer hours and being part of the county Master Gardener program.
"It is estimated that every volunteer hour is valued at $21 coming back to the county," Osborn said.
Davis has 506 volunteer hours with his gardening. He has fed over 300 people from the gardens and wants to continue to learn how to use each and every part of the vegetables grown.
Davis also uses photography to record every phase of the gardening as well as visitors to the gardens.
"The kids love it when I enlarge and display pictures of them working in the garden," he said.
Davis and Osborn encourage anyone interested in becoming a Master Gardener to contact Osborn at the Mississippi County Extension office for more information.