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Master Gardeners donate $1,000 to Hickory Hills for grow lights

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 Master Gardener Kay Johnson explains to students in Beth Zeh’s class that they can bring home green bean plants in a month. Master Gardeners have donated $1,000 to help with the school's greenhouse.

Master Gardener Kay Johnson explains to students in Beth Zeh’s class that they can bring home green bean plants in a month. Master Gardeners have donated $1,000 to purchase grow lights for the school’s greenhouse.

Members of the Master Gardeners of Greene County have donated $1,000 to the Hickory Hills School Greenhouse.

“Five or more members of the master gardener chapter volunteer on a regular basis at the Hickory Hills School Greenhouse so we thought this was a worthwhile project,” says Missy Sanford, chapter president.

The donation will help pay for the purchase of professional greenhouse grow lights. The installed lights will make K-5 classes possible during the winter at Hickory Hills Elementary so students can now have longer projects.

According to Kay Johnson, a master gardener that leads the Hickory Hills project, the greenhouse project is giving students experience in growing a vegetable plant they get to take home and care for during the summer.

“It is usually a cherry tomato plant so the kids can go out and pick and eat from the plant. Sometimes they choose to plant a green bean for the summer,” says Johnson. “This is the first time some of these kids have ever seen vegetables grow. Now with the new lights we can grow things for the kids to eat in the cafeteria thru the fall, winter, and spring.”

As part of the raised beds already installed at Hickory Hills, students have seen how popcorn, peppers and other vegetables grow. They also learn how flowers draw insects, and watch butterflies feed and lay eggs that hatch into catapillars that eat leaves.

“Each year we have about 400 students that participate in the greenhouse activities. I feel that it will get more kids to eat more veggies if they have a hand in growing them,” says Johnson.

Johnson has invested hundreds of hours at the Hickory Hills School. A Master Gardener since 2010, he has a passion for native plants and landscapes. His work is evident throughout southwest Missouri – including his efforts at Hickory Hills and Holland Elementary – and as a volunteer on the master gardener hotline answering questions from members of the public.

“Kay Johnson leads a dedicated team of trained volunteers on the Hickory Hills project,” says Kelly McGowan, horticulture educator with University of Missouri Extension. “The local Master Gardener board thought using some of the monies raised from the annual plant sale to support the Hickory Hills project was appropriate.”

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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