Since 2006, Vijai Pandian, UW-Extension Agriculture Agent, has delivered horticulture teaching, research and outreach education to nearly a quarter million residents in Brown County, including the City of Green Bay, the third largest metropolitan area in Wisconsin. The $45 million horticulture industry in Brown County supports more than 1,000 full-time employees through 28 retail garden centers, 15 wholesale nursery farms, 4 commercial greenhouses, and many more landscape and lawn care service providers.
To expand the use of research based cultural and pest management practices, Vijai publishes an award winning bimonthly newsletter distributed electronically to more than 220 local landscape professionals and is shared with an additional 2,500 Extension colleagues and horticulturists throughout the state. He also produced a bilingual DVD and brochure on proper tree planting techniques for local landscapers that has been used to train 136 employees, including 48 Hispanic workers. His weekly garden column published during the growing season reaches nearly 80,000 subscribers in the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Vijai’s consumer horticulture education outreach also includes responding to more than 2,000 personal phone calls each year and coordinating the Northeast Wisconsin (NEW) UW-Extension Master Gardener (MG) Volunteer program. In 2008, he worked with local MG volunteers to establish and teach a hands-on gardening project at a Brown County school for children with disabilities. As a result of this project, parents and school officials reported students enhanced their motor skills, improved observation techniques and improved their overall attitude. The program is now integrated into the classroom curriculum.
Vijai also cooperates with other faculty members in Green Bay and Madison, as well as other Brown County departments and non-profit organizations, to conduct applied research, develop educational fact sheets, public displays and presentations on local emerging issues related to invasive plants (garlic mustard) and insects (Emerald Ash Borer). He has shared his work at several regional and national conferences.