She is one of several in Polk County that is committed to serving the community by sharing knowledge received as a part of the program where volunteers are trained by experts with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Ricky Ensley, Extension Coordinator, said volunteers can sign up for the three-month program during the fall but the classes are held two days each week during the spring.
Each participant completing the program commits 50 hours the first year and 25 hours the second.
Ensley said the program is great for people who have a passion, not just for gardening, but working with others in a variety of ways. Some do speak at group meetings, including civic clubs.
Fran Forsyth first received her training in Texas and - after moving to Polk - decided to update her knowledge about growing plants without spraying or using chemicals.
“I had to change a lot of things I knew and learned about new plants,” she said. “I took courses that provided different information about the soil here.”
Classes also included facts about shrubs and best types of flowers and landscape design.
Today, Fran is using this knowledge to grow culinary herbs for sale through Consumer Supported Agriculture (CAS).
On Monday, she harvests herbs and puts three of four different types of plants into mixed bundles. These are transported to CAS in Carrollton on Tuesday. There, the herbs are packed for distribution.
“The knowledge I gained through the master gardener program helps me grow plants without using chemicals or things CAS does not allow,” she said.
To Fran, herbs are easy to grow since most are drought resistant and are great additions to the landscape around her home.
Among the herbs she grows are parsley, parcel that has the taste of parsley and celery, dill, rosemary, sage, variety of thyme and winter savory. Some grow better in winter and others are better suited for warm weather.
“Many are very fragrant,” Fran said. “This is how I started. I was in a stressful job and that was my release. It was wonderful to get out and work around the plants and enjoy the aroma. Lavender is a great one to send out its smell.”
While in Texas, she worked with an educational park and grew native plants for that location. In Polk, Fran has utilized her knowledge at the Battered Women’s Shelter.
This year, she and other gardeners plan to work with Keep Polk Beautiful at Van Wert and Young’s Grove schools. She has also been a speaker at different meetings where she shares information about organic gardening and growing herbs.
For more information about the Master Gardener program or to schedule a speaker, call Ensley at 770-749-2142 (Polk County Extension Office).