A trip to the Boydton Demonstration Garden

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, July 13, 2023

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By Randi Clifford

South Central Master Gardener

There is a hidden gem in the middle of Boydton that most folks do not even know about – The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Demonstration Garden.

“It’s really a learning garden,” said Sherry Stover, from the Southside Master Gardeners Association. “The purpose was to combine the needs of the community with the skills and experience of others in the industry. What a great way to not only provide a healthy source of food to those in need, but to also educate the community, especially the younger generation, about horticulture. We could be creating the next generation of skilled farmers.”

Back in 2013, Mecklenburg County offered the use of the land, about half an acre, and water source to help start this educational opportunity to teach horticulture and gardening techniques to 4-H children and community volunteers.

Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) heads this collaborative effort which is supported by dedicated volunteers, such as Master Gardeners and local volunteers eager to learn and share the knowledge. While it is physically located in Mecklenburg County, it also supports community food pantries and not-for-profit organizations located in the counties of Nottoway, Lunenburg and Brunswick.

The Garden is not open to the public. However, volunteers can make arrangements to come and help out. These volunteers learn from skilled extension agents and local experts. They are taught valuable tips such as how to select the best seeds, when to plant for success, how to monitor growth and how to deal with garden pests. Taylor Clarke, Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent for Mecklenburg, teaches the volunteers that planning is critical for a successful crop. Volunteers often get the opportunity to take a sample of products home to try.

“This is a great opportunity for those volunteers who want to help build community relationships and share the fun of garden duties all while learning at the same time,” Taylor said.

The garden is an annual project for the Mecklenburg VCE office staff supporting education programs in all three program areas, Agriculture (Taylor Clarke), 4-H and youth development (Jennifer Bowen) and nutrition and food safety (Amy Hawkins).

Of course, there have been challenges along the way such as small critters and deer, but ultimately they were prevented from sharing the delicious bounty. David Goodman, long-time resident of Boydton and known as a “go-to person” for horticulture information, can often be found in the garden cultivating one thing or another. David says that community partnerships have been strong and several local companies have also chipped in with their support. Wooten Brothers Greenhouse in Chase City usually provides assistance with starter plants, plastic trays and other valuable supplies. That kind of community involvement is crucial for the Garden’s success.

The Garden is always in need of an extra pair of hands to stay on top of the planting successions. Several volunteers from the South Central Master Gardeners Association have come out to lend a hand, but anyone wanting to use their talents to provide educational opportunities for the programs are always welcome. Likewise, if youth groups, educational groups or residents are interested in broadening their horticultural horizons while helping to feed their community, please contact Taylor Clarke at the Mecklenburg Office of VCE by calling 434- 738-6191 x4371, or by email at cclarke@vt.edu.

If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Taylor Clarke, VCE-Mecklenburg at (434-738-6191 x 4371/TDD*) during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event. *TDD number is (800) 828-1120.

Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, military status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.