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Longtime gardener gets ‘back in the dirt’
May is Older Americans Month…
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- After pharmacist Jim Murray’s legs gave out at a Mississippi State University tailgate in 2007, his doctor told him his gardening days were over.
However, Murray is gardening again, thanks to the Pine Belt Master Gardeners’ salad table project.
“For anybody with any kind of limited mobility, these tables are an advantage,” Murray says. “The doctor told me not to get down on my knees again, but now I’m able to get out, plant plants, work in the dirt, pick my vegetables and enjoy the meal. These tables have given me back something that had been taken away.”
The Pine Belt Master Gardeners include residents from Lamar and Forrest counties. They are part of a network of Mississippians who attended horticultural training offered by the Mississippi State University Extension Service and earned their Master Gardener certifications.
“I had always gardened before my knees gave way,” Murray said. “I always had fresh flower gardens and fresh vegetables growing in my yard, but I had to stop all of that -- even mowing my own yard -- and all the other outdoor things I had enjoyed doing for so many years.”
Once Murray’s medical team diagnosed a recovery plan, including pain relief, a series of surgeries and continued rehabilitation, he could no longer bend down to take care of his plants. Years passed.
Then, in 2014, Murray noticed a salad table during a visit with his cousin, Master Gardener volunteer Vickie Foster. She told him that the Master Gardeners were building and distributing the tables to serve the community.
Murray decided he needed his own table soon after his cousin asked him to help harvest her table while she was out of town.
“She had her lettuce started and said, ‘Come by and pick some because I’m going to be gone on a trip,’” Murray said. “So I came back and picked lettuce and helped take care of it while she was gone. It was so easy for me, I knew I had to have my own table.”
He contacted Pine Belt Master Gardener Paul Cavanaugh, active member and recent organization president, to request a table, and the rest is history.
The salad tables are basically weed-free, and they are functional in full sun, shade or any combination of the two. Murray planted several types of lettuce, summer squash and a variety of herbs in his salad table garden.
The salad table project is so popular that it drew the attention of the International Master Gardeners. At its September 2015 conference in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the Pine Belt Master Gardeners accepted the international second-place award in the Search for Excellence Program. The Mississippi group was selected for its dedication to constructing, donating and teaching clients with special needs to use the tables.
“The Pine Belt Master Gardeners greatly appreciate this formal recognition of the salad table project,” Cavanaugh said. “But the smiles and thanks from those who have benefited from the tables have been our inspiration.”