HOUSTON – They are learning to grow in the right direction.
The MSU Extension Service has taken its horticulture class into the Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility to teach inmates the finer points of developing, managing and growing a landscaping business.
“For the man who knows his stuff and will get out and work, there is good money to be made in landscaping and lawn care,” said Scott Cagle, Chickasaw County Extension Agent. “As with any business, you have to know your business and you have to have a plan to reach your goal.”
Cagle pointed out there are 104 certified landscaping/horticulture producers in Northeast Mississippi and it is a lucrative business. He said yardwork can also be done part-time during the growing season for cold, hard cash.
“I’ve told these guys they need a lawnmower, T-shirt and a truck,” said Cagle. “Seriously, for about $500 you can get started.
“If you can find 10 yards for $50 a week, you can recoup your investment in your first week,” he added. “Of course there is a little more to it than that, and that’s what we try to teach in this course.”
The 20-week class saw a Mississippi State University professor teach the course. Of the 15 inmates who started, 10 completed the class and now hold a landscaping/horticulture certificate.
“The course taught turf grass management, shrubbery care, flower plots, nursery management, basic fruit and vegetable gardening, pest entomology and basic knowledge of herbicides and pesticides,” said Cagle. “This is a pretty broad course and it’s not easy.”
Cagle said the class also taught basic bookkeeping and business management.
Brandon Stroup said he plans to mow yards and felt his knowledge of turf grass, flowers and fertilizer would give him an advantage over the competition.
“Knowledge really is power and if you can give your customers a little something extra and it makes his yard greener than the guy next door, you’ve got a customer for life,” said Stroup. “This course went into a lot of details and taught us how to contact the Extension Service if we have questions or need to know about a certain plant or shrub.”
Melvin Turner said his goal is to develop a truck garden raising tomatoes, squash and okra.
“I’ve got access to a little plot of ground and I think I can make a go of it,” said Turner. “They also gave us the contacts we need to market our produce.”
Cagle said most of the students in this course grew up in rural Mississippi and have a basic knowledge of gardening and lawn maintenance.
“Like I told them, they can use this as a primary job or they can use it to make a little extra cash on weekends and after work,” said Cagle. “There are a lot of people in this line of work and if they do it right they make a lot of money.”
Cagle said he is working with the administration of the Chickasaw Regional Correctional Facility to offer this course on a regular basis to inmates.