The River Valley Master Gardeners held their first gala fundraiser event on Saturday (June 9), and 75 guests toured the gardens and enjoyed entertainment and finger foods.
Guests also were given the chance to bid on pieces of artwork produced by Master Gardeners or a Master Gardeners spouse.
The River Valley Master Gardeners is a volunteer organization dedicated to serving the community through horticultural work. Their members come from Crawford and Sebastian Counties in Arkansas and the adjacent counties in Oklahoma. The Learning Fields is a hands-on horticulture education center operated by the Master Gardeners. The Learning Fields is a registered non-profit corporation in Arkansas.
“The purpose of the event was to get people to realize that they are located at Fort Chaffee and to help people learn about gardening for a hobby and to have fun gardening,” said Leta Caplinger. “The funds of the event will be used to make a pathway around the gardens and for the path to be handicap accessible. We are hoping to raise $5,000.”
The Learning Fields has a total of 17 gardens. The gardens were started in 2004 as a greenhouse. The gardens are used as demonstration gardens with different gardens with different ideas. There are flower gardens, a butterfly garden, strawberry garden, and vegetable gardens just to name a few.
Isaac Witt, a River Valley Master Gardeners member, manages the blackberry garden.
“This is the second growing season for the Kiowa Blackberries. Blackberries with Native American names were propagated by the University of Arkansas breeding program at Clarksville,” he explained.
The blackberries come in either thornless or with thorns and are bigger than wild blackberries. Isaac explained that the use of wire “helps the blackberries grow straight.”
Some of the classes at the Learning Fields includes wine making, gardening 101, strawberry patch, and herb garden.
The Learning Fields are open to the public on the morning of the first Saturday of every month during the growing season. They also provide group tours for groups with advance notice. To learn more about Master Gardeners, contact the Sebastian County Cooperative Extension Service at 479-484-7737.