University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener –
MG Program Featured in Industry Publication

Below is the article Dr. Jack Payne wrote for the June 2015 issue of Greenline, the industry publication for the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association (FNGLA).

By Jack Payne, @JackPayneIFAS

A friend of the FNGLA is the new statewide coordinator for Florida's 4,000 Master Gardeners.

Wendy Wilber has 15 years of experience as a horticulture agent in the Alachua County Extension office, but her awareness of FNGLA goes back to her childhood in Miami-Dade County, when it seemed that the association logo was on the door of every nursery.

She inherits an operation that is already doing outstanding work. But one thing I want from leaders is new ideas, and Wendy has them.

Wendy would like to launch a Master Gardener university on campus here in Gainesville. The students would visit campus for about a week, using horticulture department classrooms and other Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences facilities to study fruit trees, roses, citrus, irrigation, or other subjects.

Another vision she has is for a demonstration garden. The idea would be that when Master Gardeners and others visit campus they'll have an academic and recreational home. It would be a place where visitors could see new plants or learn about the latest gardening techniques. It could also be a strong venue for marketing IFAS to alumni and other potential supporters who may not realize that the master gardener program is an IFAS Extension operation.

As I write this, I'm still seeking an increase in IFAS funding from the Legislature. If I'm successful, there will be a lot great IFAS ideas in need of funding to make them reality. So I can't say if or when Wendy's plans will come to pass. But I couldn't be more pleased with the initiative Wendy shows in bringing great ideas to her new position, which she started on April 10.

We do national searches to fill IFAS positions as important as statewide master gardener coordinator. Often, though, I discover that the talent we seek is already here.

Jack Payne is the University of Florida's senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. You can see the article in the online version of Greenline June 2015 here.

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