AUTHOR: CUMMIN

HED:Center offers variety of services

By John Cummins

Daily Journal

VERONA - Nancy Evans had a professional interest in Thursday's AgFest '97, even if she was volunteering for the event.

Evans, the owner of Evans Design landscaping firm in Tupelo, helped North Mississippi Research and Extension Center staff answer questions from the public on the center's "Mississippi Medallion" plants.

The plants, she said, are grown by the extension service horticulture specialists, and evaluated for their progress in the state's soils and weather conditions.

Those that "pass" with healthy growth are awarded Mississippi Medallion status, and the plants are then marketed by extension service staff to the state's plant nurserys, greenhouses and other retailers.

As a landscaper, Evans sees the results of promoting plants such as Little Gem Magnolias and scaevolas first hand.

"I try to buy all my supplies locally, and I can see the result trickle down to the homeowners," said Evans, who is designated a master gardener by the extension service.

Such observations are fine with Crofton Sloan, a horticulturist with the Research and Extension Center. He said the event was designed to show the public what the center can offer to non-farmers.

"Traditionally we've done the research on the row crops - the corn, the soybeans and the cotton," Sloan said. "But because of increased interest by commercial businesses and homeowners, we've added the turf, the vegetables, and the ornamentals to the programs we offer."

In addition, the center offers instruction on consumer education issues such as arranging flowers, making dried fruits, jams and jellies, and many other topics.

"We're trying to reach the non-farmers with the events like these," Sloan said, adding the center will probably make AgFest an annual event.

Clay County Agent Perry Kimbrough said AgFest and similar events answer a basic question for people.

"People drive by here every day and wonder what's going on, what we're doing," Kimbrough said. "But taxpayers' dollars pay for all this, and that's what we're here for - to answer questions."

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