On the road again… This past weekend, I attended the Arkansas River Valley Lawn and Garden Show in Fort Smith, Arkansas. It isn’t a very big show, however the vendors that I have seen there in years past return every year because of the venue and the folks there—mainly the Master Gardeners. By all intents and purposes, all of the Master Gardeners throughout the nation, whom I have met and worked with, are dedicated, hard workers who share a passion for gardening.
The Fort Smith group is one of the most enthusiastic, industrious groups that I have ever encountered. They plan, organize, and put this show together, maintain the grounds of the convention center the year round, help vendors unload, set up, and reload, are helpful in every way possible, including putting the speakers up, and providing us with hot meals and snacks all day long. They arrive everyday with crockpots of homemade soup and chili, casseroles and sandwiches and array of desserts from rice pudding and cakes to cookies, brownies and scones. In many ways, it is like returning to visit with old friends.
Although these types of events help businesses to promote their products, they are held to educate the public. This year’s theme was “Urban Gardening” and speakers ranged from local master gardeners to well known personalities and subjects varied from making compost and Rose Herb of the Year 2012 to Raising Backyard Poultry or Basic Beekeeping to Growing Herbs for Tea.
I worked with my friend and co-author, Tina Marie Wilcox at the Ozark Folk Center booth, where we sold herb and native perennial plants, heirloom seeds, books, essential oils and other garden and herb-related items. I did notice that we sold more seeds than ever before. The gardeners at the OFC save seed from the native and heirloom plants, harvest and winnow them and store them in canning jars. They are sold by the 1/4 teaspoon-to 1 tablespoon-full, depending on the size of the seeds, or by the number of beans. Over the years, the number of varieties of seeds that they have to offer has slowly increased. Folks really like that they can purchase an old heirloom dill seed that came from a gardening friend in Texas or a handful of whippoorwill cow peas like their grandma used to cook.
Also, we had a bench of native plants, which really sold well. The natives like Asclepias, Solomon’s Seal or beauty berry adapt easily to the locale and offer blooms and/or seeds for our pollinators and wildlife. It’s time to plant the Mediterranean herbs and the annuals, although it is just a tad too early to put out tenders like basil. The warm and early spring has made us antsy to put out tender plants just a little too soon, so remember in some areas there is still a chance of frost even!
If you have a garden show, plant sale or seed swap happening in your area, these are worthwhile events to attend; you can gather ideas, learn new things, network with other like-minded individuals, obtain plants and seeds, not to mention get inspired!