By Jessica Groover
About 2,000 more people than last year were expected at the Cabarrus County Master Gardener Volunteer Association’s 4th Annual Herb and Plant Festival on Saturday.
“The parking lot was full at nine this morning, and that’s never happened, so I know it’s bigger than last year,” said Bill Hickok, chairman of the event.
The event was held at Piedmont Farmers’ Market on Winecoff School Road. Some of the people there had reasons other than the sunny weather for the larger crowd.
Robert Davis, of Kannapolis, visited the festival at for the second time and noticed a difference in the amount of people this year.
“I’m thinking more people, this year, are thinking about growing their own vegetables,” Davis said. “With the economy, I think a lot of people are budget conscious. You grow a pepper, and you can go to the grocery store and see one for more than your whole plant costs.”
Davis was not one of the new gardeners at the show. He and wife, Cathy Davis, came to buy more tomato, squash and other edible plants and herbs for their garden.
Even though they have experience gardening, Davis and his wife spoke with some of the farmers or master gardeners at the festival about the plants.
The exchange between shoppers and gardeners was one of the benefits of shopping at the festival instead of at a store, according to Nancy Patel, of Charlotte.
“I went to the master gardeners, because they dig up the plants from their gardens, and they can tell you (about it),” Patel said. “If you go to Lowe’s or Home Depot, they have no idea.”
Patel also said she has confidence the plants and herbs she buys at the festival will grow well at her home, because they have been growing in local soil.
She tries to shop for plants and herbs at the festival before going anywhere else.
“This is my first stop in the spring for plants,” Patel said. “It’s like coming to school because you get to learn so much.”
While there were experienced gardeners, like Patel, who had been to the festival before, some people were buying their first plants and herbs.
“I got sweet basil,” said Ian Hedrick, of Concord. “I’m going to see if I can finally find my green thumb.”
Hedrick is attempting to grow her first herb garden. While she did not ask the master gardeners for advice, Hedrick is counting on people at home or the Internet for tips if she struggles with it.
That is fine with Hickok. He said he enjoys seeing people getting excited about the plants.
“We sell what we (grow), and we give it all away to four high schools,” Hickok said. “We do this for the education. (My hope) is that people find a new plant, something new or something they’ve always wanted.”
• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.