500 green thumbs plant themselves in Natchez

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, May 1, 2012

NATCHEZ — Local home gardeners have the chance to grow their gardening knowledge and load up on all gardening supplies their green thumbs desire while the Southern Region Master Gardener Conference is in Natchez this week.

County Supervisor and Adams County Extension Service Director David Carter said 500 Master Gardeners from 15 states across the South will be rolling into Natchez today for the biennial conference.

The conference participants will be attending workshops, presentations and forums at the Natchez Convention Center, but Carter said the convention will be incorporating the entire community.

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The gardeners will visit antebellum homes, the Natchez Trails Project and go on walking and bus tours to historic sites and attractions in the city.

The conference is also hosting a garden expo for the public from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.

Carter said the public can purchase gardening tools, art, plants and more. Expo-goers can also receive expert advice about pests or other gardening questions and get soil samples tested by Mississippi State University Extension Cooperative Service specialists.

The conference, Carter said, will not only be an opportunity to show off Natchez to out-of-towners, he said it will also have a positive impact on the city’s economy.

“We’re providing some meals, but we’re also sending a lot of people out to our local businesses so they can get a little taste of how great Natchez is,” Carter said.

Master Gardener Elaine Gemmell said many of the 500 registered Master Gardeners are bringing family members with them. She said that combined with the more than 30 out-of-town vendors for the conference is going to put a lot of people on the streets of Natchez over the next four days.

“You’re talking at least 600 people, 600 people staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants and shopping at our stores,” she said. “They come and stay a few days and go back and spread the word about our beautiful little town.”

Gemmell said the Master Gardeners’ preparation for the conference has been beneficial to the city as well.

“We started the whole downtown tree-planting project to get the city looking nice for the conference,” she said. “We’re just so glad it’s finally here and is going to have a great impact on the city.”

Tickets are still available for the Friday’s bus tours and can be purchased at the Expo on Thursday at the MSU Extension Service booth.