September 2014
Homeplace & Community

Honoring the Garden Lady

 
  Left to right, Jay Conway, 4-H regional Extension agent in Cullman County; Luci Davis, JMG State Coordinator; Cindy Tubbs and Tony Glover, Cullman County Extension Coordinator, when Cindy was awarded the honor of induction into the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame.

Cindy Tubbs Inducted into Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame

Volunteers play a vital role in the success of the Junior Master Gardener program here in Alabama. A long-time volunteer, Cindy Tubbs, received a special honor this past spring. She was inducted into the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame. This honor goes to volunteers, Extension employees or donors to 4-H who have contributed either their time or money to improve the lives of the children of Alabama.

Ask the children in Cullman County who Cindy Tubbs is and they will tell you she is the "Garden Lady." For the last 8 years, Tubbs has been the driving force for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Junior Master Gardener program in Cullman County.

"I’m blessed to work with children and the garden," Tubbs said. "Junior Master Gardener is a constant in my life and I’d never dream of giving it up."

Junior Master Gardener

Tubbs started as a Master Gardener before bringing her passion for gardening and children to the JMG program in 2006. She began volunteering at the Childhood Development Center in Cullman County and has since helped organize programs in four Cullman County schools and two homeschooled groups helping about 250 young people every week throughout the school year.

Luci Davis, JMG state coordinator, said having an experienced Master Gardner is a benefit Tubbs brings to the program.

"Teachers often don’t have the training in horticulture and, if they’re not avid gardeners themselves, they are often intimidated by the garden and using it as a teaching tool," Davis explained. "Master Gardeners can come in and assist teachers in those areas that are out of their comfort zones."

The program aims to meet with children once a week for about an hour during the school day to provide a love of gardening and an appreciation for the environment through hands-on learning experiences. Tubbs has taken on the responsibility of creating lesson plans that reinforce what the children are learning in school and organizing materials for the volunteers every week.

Growing Knowledge

Getting children to put down their "gadgets" and step outside is something Tubbs hopes the program will encourage.

"They need to open the front door and use their five senses to soak up nature," she said.

The program curriculum outlines include plant growth and development, soils and water, and landscape horticulture, but Tubbs takes the lesson a step further to show the children the big picture – the farmer.

"I use the garden to stretch the role of the farmer, to teach the children to appreciate the farmer," Tubbs said. "I tell the children if it weren’t for plants and farmers we wouldn’t have this."

Although JMG is designed to teach school children to appreciate their environment, the values commonly trickle over to their families, a side effect Tubbs is more than all right with.

"It not only opens the youths’ eyes but the eyes of their families," she stated. "It gets them aware of farming, gardening and how to make healthy food choices."

The Future

As for the future of JMG, Tubbs hopes every school will have an outdoor classroom providing the children with a space to grow as a gardener and as a person.

"With an outdoor garden area, the youth can get out there and get their hands dirty," Tubbs said. "It will give them the opportunity to put what they learn in the classroom to use."

Nomination

Davis and Alabama Cooperative Extension System Regional Agent Jay Conway nominated Tubbs to be inducted into the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame because of her unique dedication.

"She works effortlessly to make the program strong, has a true passion in teaching children about gardening and does all this without asking for anything in return," Davis said. "It was time to recognize all the hard work and time she puts into making Cullman County have one of the strongest JMG programs in the state."

Conway added Tubbs’ dedication is what makes her a special volunteer.

"It’s amazing the amount of time and effort she puts into what she does," he said. "It’s unusual to find a person who volunteers that long and is so involved. Junior Master Gardener is one of the best programs in the state because of Cindy."

Although aware of her nomination, Tubbs wasn’t getting her hopes up.

"I always thought you had to be older and be involved for a long time to be inducted," she said. "But when I got the letter back saying I had been accepted, I was absolutely thrilled and honored."

Being one of the youngest and the first inductee from Cullman County, Tubbs said it is all the more reason to continue her hard work.

"It gives me the extra punch to do even more," she said.

Casey Whitaker is a student writer for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.