Springtime at the Agriplex

W.C. Mann

Seedlings waiting to be planted in the upgraded garden beds

CULLMAN – Springtime is almost upon us.  That’s planting season in the agricultural world, and it’s a busy time for the North Alabama Agriplex in Cullman as well.  They’ve got a lot of stuff coming up, including (of course) planting stuff!

The Tribune sat down with Mandy-Shea Riggins, Americorps Vista volunteer and the Agriplex’s educational liason to Cullman City Schools, to talk about what’s happening.

Riggins defined the facility’s purpose: “The Agriplex is here to help preserve heritage skills and promote the history of agriculture.”

Right now, Riggins is working on the Agriplex’s school garden project, which builds raised bed gardens at local schools to create outdoor classrooms for science.

“The year that we’re planning,” she explained, “we can start talking to them about agriculture in the classroom, about the history and what we do at the Agriplex, the history of Cullman County and the history of agriculture, then moving on to a curriculum on the actual outdoor classroom: how to plant things, how the garden works.  We can expand it to history, reading, art, music; so, they can have the outdoor classroom as part of their overall experience.”

The Agriplex has just installed new aluminum-walled raised beds on its own grounds (replacing deteriorating all-wood beds, and is installing trellises between them for climbing plants.  In the back of the building is a mini indoor greenhouse full of seedlings that will be planted in the next few weeks.  It won’t be long before folks can come and see corn, beans, cucumbers, peppers, herbs, tomatoes, eggplants and squash.  The garden will feature native plants grown from seeds supplied by local farms, and emphasis is given to heirloom and heritage varieties of plants.

This year, the garden will also feature historically southern crops, including several varieties (and even colors) of cotton, mulberry bushes, indigo, sorghum, cane and possibly even tobacco (just for show, not for sampling).

Upcoming Agriplex events for the spring season

For children ages 3-4

March 10 – Weather: learning about wind, rain, clouds and the morning dew

April 7 – Cottontails: learning about bunnies

May 12 – Flowers: learning about why plants make them, and what they do in the garden

For children 5 and up

March 4 – Tractor Time: learning about what tractors do and how they help farmers.  Kids will even get to try out a tractor!

April 1 – Playing in the Band: recycling everyday objects into imaginative musical instruments

May 6 – Busy Buzz: learning about the bee, and how important he is to us

For homeschoolers

March 23 – Whole Food Cooking: learning what whole foods are, and preparing delicious treats.  Students will help cook a meal.

April 27 – Nature Notebooks: taking a hike and recording what you find

May 25 – Flowers: learning about the importance of native wildflowers

For adults

March 9 – Companion Planting: interplanting different plants to enhance plant growth and protection from pests

March 16 – Survival Skills: surviving on your own in the woods

April 4 – Organic Gardening: fertilizing and pest control without the need for synthetic products

April 11 – Pysanky Eggs: a traditional Ukrainian egg-dyeing art for Easter

May 16 – Growing and Harvesting Sorghum: learning the value of sorghum and sugar cane

May 18 – Strawberry Jam: making fresh strawberry jam (everybody gets some to take home)

For more information about Agriplex programs, visit www.agriplex.org, www.facebook.com/NorthAlabamaAgriplex or call 256-297-1044.  The Agriplex is located at 1714 Tally Ho St. in Cullman, at the entrance to Peinhardt Farm.

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