Master Gardeners aim to reach more through new website

Published 4:56 pm Monday, February 25, 2013

Chilton County Master Gardeners President Sondra Henley said she never gave much thought to how a website is developed or maintained, but that changed last September.

The Chilton County Master Gardeners Association – local group that provides volunteer services through horticulture-based assistance, education and community projects – needed a new web master.

Master Gardener intern Leo Phillips had started and managed the website since 2009 but was ready to move on to manage First United Methodist’s web page and other interests.

In the spring of 2009, then-Regional Extension Agent Taylor Hatchett had a vision to spread the knowledge of gardening to more Alabamians, and she wanted a web page for the Chilton County Master Gardeners.

Although few sites were developed at that time, Hatchett had seen web pages of other Master Gardener associations and liked the Limestone County group.

Hatchett enlisted the help of Phillips, a graduate of the University of Florida and a retiree from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who was fit for the task having done computer programming as a hobby since the 1970s.

Phillips contacted Jim Markestad, the driving force behind the Limestone County web page.

“Mr. Markestad graciously shared everything he had, including all source files,” CCMGA President Sondra Henley said. “This allowed the CCMGA to get off to a great start in a short period of time.”

Henley said Phillips edited Limestone County’s source files to reflect Hatchett’s vision; a few major changes were made, but a large amount of the informative data from Limestone County was preserved.

“Within a month, CCMGA, with the help of Auburn University technical folks, had a web page up and running in Spring 2009,” Henley said. “Since that time, the page has evolved to the point it stands today.”

Enter Steve McAnally, a Master Gardener intern enrolled in the 2012 Master Gardener Program sponsored by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University.

A graduate of Southern Methodist University, McAnally had much experience with computers and web pages from a 40-year professional career in the computer field.

Since retiring, he has held several voluntary elected positions with the American Legion, and he became interested in web development and turned his computer skills in that direction.

Recently, McAnally developed a new website for the American Legion Riders of Alabama which can be viewed via the URL.

In 2012, McAnally became certified as a Chilton County Master Gardener. He worked with Phillips, Henley and Audrey Giles to develop a new website for the CCMGA.

The development started in September 2012, and the site went live in December 2012.

Henley said the aim of the website is to promote Master Gardeners and gardening knowledge.

“It’s a way to be able to reach out to the public,” Henley said. “We want to let people know that we’re around.”

The site is hosted by Auburn University and can be accessed here.

“I am quite honored to work with so many talented people,” Henley said. “Today, there are so many ways to communicate. Having a website that shares the CCMGA services to their community along with education links gives us the opportunity to reach more lives than we could talk with one-on-one.”

For more information or to get involved with Chilton County Master Gardeners, visit the group’s site.