Extension specialists are charged with developing programs and publications based on audience needs. In consumer horticulture it can be difficult to gauge the needs that are client driven rather than extension driven. This study was an attempt to gather herb gardening information directly from gardeners. In total, 188 Master Gardeners completed a questionnaire that included questions ranging from the use of OTC herbal supplements to preservation methods. Analysis of data indicated that, based on sex, age or household income, participants were not different in most of their responses. When asked to check all the reasons they grew herbs, the top two were culinary and ornamental. Thirty-seven percent took OTC herbal supplements and 35% of those did so without their doctor's knowledge. Twelve percent indicated they treated themselves or family members for a medical condition using homegrown herbs. There was a significant difference between male and female when answering this question. Thirty-two percent of the male sample compared to just 9% of the females provided this home treatment. Primary propagation method was transplants. Pesticide use was minimal with only 2% using these. Easiest herbs to grow were rosemary, mint and basil in that order. Most popular herbs for cooking were basil, rosemary and chives. Top preservation method was drying, but freezing, vinegars and even herbal liquors were popular methods. Study results indicate that information dealing with cooking or ornamental uses of herbs would be popular. New ideas for old favorites as well as including new herbal cultivars would be useful. Nutritive and health issues, in particular involving herbal supplements, would be an opportunity for collaborative work with health and nutrition specialists.
Lelia S. Kelly, Michael Newman, and Ken Hood
Richard Snyder*, David Ingram, Blake Layton, Ken Hood, Mary Peet, Mary Donnell, Gene Giacomelli, Joe Kemble, Pat Harris, and Frank Killebrew
The Mississippi (MS) Greenhouse Tomato Short Course has been held every March since 1989. The purpose of this 2-day, intensive training is to educate growers so they will be able to successfully grow greenhouse tomatoes as a viable horticultural business. With a mixture of experienced, novice, and prospective growers, it is just as important to provide current growers with research based, practical information, as to expose potential growers to the realities of the business, helping them make an informed decision before investing time and money. Beginning as a small program for a handful growers in the conference room at the Truck Crops Experiment Station, it has gradually grown in number and diversity of participants and invited speakers, depth of subject matter, and geographic origin of growers and speakers. The 2003 program had 142 participants from over 20 states and 4 countries, making it the largest such program in the United States. This is in keeping with the recent trend. The typical lineup of topics includes the basics of producing a commercial crop of hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes, the budget for establishing and operating a greenhouse business, marketing and promotion, pest and disease identification and management, and the grower's point of view. Other topics, varying year to year, include heating, cooling, and ventilation of greenhouses, record keeping, new technologies, biological control, diagnostics, and alternative crops. For 2004, the subject of organic production will be introduced. With targeted extension programming such as this Short Course, the greenhouse tomato industry in MS has grown from 15 growers in 1989 to 135 growers today, producing $6.5 million in annual gross sales. Complete information can be found at www.msstate.edu/dept/cmrec/ghsc.htm.