Extension in Action

A large group of children outside standing in front of buildings. A man in a blue plaid shirt holding a carrot, standing behind a red outdoor sink full of carrots and surrounded by a group of children. Two boys outside, holding paper towels with seeds, and three boys in behind them, one holding a shovel and another with a paper towel, all smiling. Two girls putting dirt on top of the paper towels in the raised planting bed, while a man in a plaid shirt and another student look on. Children lined up and holding paper towels with seeds beside a raised bed garden with paper towels covered in dirt. Two boys crouched down feeding two chickens in front of a blue picket fence. Photo credit: Kevin Hudson
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Extension is here to serve the community, and that's what this program is doing. These Junior Master Gardeners are learning more than growing vegetables; they are learning mathematics, science, nutrition, economics, entrepreneurship, and ethics.

— Dixie Lloyd, school volunteer and Madison County Master Gardener


All third, fourth, and fifth graders, about 650 children, participate in the Junior Master Gardener program, led by Coach Roland “Ro” Román as part of the children’s physical education instruction.

About 40 students volunteer to continue working in the school garden through the school year by joining the Garden Club, which meets before and after school. Master Gardener Dixie Lloyd volunteers each week to teach children learning to care for the garden, and Master Gardener Janine Lambert focuses her efforts on working in the garden.


The Junior Master Gardener program, developed by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, is led by Coach Ro and Ty Jones, Madison County agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and local organizer of the Master Gardener program.

Children engage in a gardening lesson, ask questions, exercise, and go outside to apply the lesson in the garden. Students plant seeds, transplant seedlings, and harvest the produce. Then, they sell it at their own farmers market. No pesticides or herbicides are applied to the plants or vegetables. The garden has 39 raised beds, a greenhouse, three compost bins, and 13 hens with one rooster.

So many kids don’t know where food comes from; so many need to learn what work is. When I started teaching here, I wanted to create pathways of opportunity for my students. These kids are learning life skills and developing a real relationship with nature. I want to see more schools adopt the Junior Master Gardener program. The beauty of life is learning something. When you teach it to someone else, that’s giving back to the community.

Roland “Coach Ro” Román, Mannsdale Upper Elementary School physical education teacher and Madison County Master Gardener


Coach Ro is at school most days by 5 a.m. Garden Club members come around 7 a.m., and other club members stay after school to help.

Children rotate in classes at school, and, each semester, each student will spend 4 weeks in physical education with Coach Ro. Both Master Gardener volunteers serve 4 hours each week.

Garden Club members also help Coach Ro sell the vegetables they’ve grown to community members at their school farmers market on Saturdays during the school year.


Mannsdale Upper Elementary School
371 Mannsdale Road
Madison, MS 39110
Facebook: Madison County Master Gardeners


Coach Ro is passionate about using gardening lessons to teach life skills to young people. He applies for and is awarded grant money for specific projects, such as the greenhouse, and all the proceeds generated at the farmers market go back into the school garden. Along with students and Master Gardeners, parents have supported the Junior Master Gardener program by helping with larger gardening projects, such as putting up the greenhouse.

This garden is on a totally different level, and the vision Coach Ro has for it and for the children is immense. He is developing their character by teaching them patience and teamwork. All these Junior Master Gardeners will be better people because they’re learning that, the more care you take with the outdoors, the more care you take with your life.

— Janine Lambert, retiree and Madison County Master Gardener


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Extension Matters Volume 8 Number 3 Cover.