Horticultural Hero’s Dedication Benefits Everyone
NEW HANOVER COUNTY FARM BUREAU Vice President Durwood Baggett should be thanked for his hand in developing the state’s thriving Master Gardener program, but he isn’t done educating people about horticulture.
His generosity will continue through the recently established Durwood Baggett Extension Horticultural Program Endowment for New Hanover County.
Baggett retired from Cooperative Extension in 1978 after a 30-plus year career, but his work was not finished. Even today, he is a familiar presence at the Extension Center Arboretum.
Baggett was born in 1922 on a Sampson County farm near Spivey’s Corner, and he went to work as an assistant agricultural agent at Yancey County Cooperative Extension in 1946, after serving in World War II with Patton’s Third Army in Europe, where he was awarded a Bronze Star.
In 1950, he took the New Hanover County Agent job, which would later be re-titled County Extension Director.
By 1974, New Hanover County was becoming more urban, and he found himself fielding an increasing number of non-traditional horticulture questions. During a visit to an Extension office in Florida, Baggett learned about a program that could work in his agency.
He returned to Wilmington, and following a conversation with the county manager, he visited garden clubs to look for volunteers willing to be trained to answer questions from the public. The response was strong, and North Carolina State specialists came in and trained the volunteers to work two at a time answering calls to a sort-of horticultural hotline.
Thus, the idea for the Master Gardener program was born, and Master Gardener programs are now flourishing nationwide.
In retirement, Baggett has served on the County Extension Advisory Council and helped establish a horticultural therapy program and a 4-H junior Master Gardeners program.
In addition to his involvement in Farm Bureau, Baggett served 20 years on the Soil and Water Conservation Board of Supervisors and is a long-time Lions Club member. He is the father of three children—David, Dudley and Deborah.