Cameron County Master Gardener receives top honors in state

SAN BENITO — Master Gardener Lori Murray was honored recently as the first place winner in the Texas Master Gardener Association, Inc.’s Search for Excellence award.

Murray, a Valley Morning Star gardening columnist, won a state-wide competition in the written education arena for spearheading a weekly Sunday gardening section in the Valley Morning Star, which began four years ago.

She has chaired the Cameron County Master Gardener Association committee and writes the majority of the articles. She inspired association members to contribute articles by offering writing clinics, editing and motivation to local members.

Under Murray’s guidance, the team has published more than 200 articles using Aggie Horticulture principles to teach readers about local gardening in this area that differs so greatly from the rest of the state, according to Cameron County Master Gardener President Charles A. Malloy III, who presented the award.

“Lori’s articles promote Texas and Cameron County Texas Master Gardener goals,” Malloy said.

The Master Gardener Association educates communities about local plants, gardening practices, earth-kind gardening principles and encourages environmental friendly practices for landscape design. In addition, they generate awareness of sensitive emerging and environmental issues such as citrus greening and Asian citrus psyllid.

“Lori has created quite a following with local readers and our educational events have seen a steady increase in participation due to this dissemination of information to the public,” Malloy said. “Readers call to report on a gardening situation or a plant they feel we should know about.

“We have acquired a strong voice to the community via Lori’s gardening articles to the public.”

Murray had high praise for her fellow members who have helped submit articles, photographs and diagrams. As a volunteer opportunity, the 500-word weekly submission is a hefty obligation that includes research, factual editing and commitment.

“It is a labor-intensive activity, but very rewarding and an excellent way for our members to self-educate,” Murray said. “I want to continue to inspire and encourage more of you to get involved in discovering the benefits of writing about what we feel is important. I’ll help every step of the way.”

The Master Gardener Association of Cameron County is a nonprofit educational and charitable association working with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to improve gardening skills throughout the community. Program objectives are implemented through the training of local volunteers known as Master Gardeners.

The association collaborates with AgriLife Extension to conduct community & youth education; establish and maintain demonstration gardens; and provide a speakers bureau.

The Master Gardeners maintain a demonstration garden, The Arboretum, which is located at the corner of Williams Road and Expressway 77 in San Benito at the County Annex. It contains butterfly gardens, a self-guided compost demonstration, vegetable gardens, and labeled trees that grow well in Deep South Texas.

AgriLife County Extension Horticulture Agent Jennifer Herrera is the Cameron County AgriLife sponsor to the Master Gardeners. In addition to a variety of workshops and demonstrations, the local association holds semi-annual plant sales and annual training for new members.

The 2016 classes will begin in the fall with an awareness orientation for prospective members at the San Benito extension office meeting room August 30. Classes also are available in Hidalgo County. For more information, call 956-361-8236 for Cameron County or 956-383-1026 for Hidalgo County.