2008 Outstanding Master Gardener Named

Marion County Master Gardener Josephine Leyte-Vidal received the 2008 Outstanding Master Gardener Award at the annual Continued Training Conference in October.  Jo, as she's known, has volunteered more than 2,200 hours since she became a Master Gardener in April 2003.

Dr. Dusky and Jo Leyte-Vidal

Dr. Joan Dusky presents Jo Leyte-Vidal with the 2008 Outstanding Master Gardener Award at the conference.

"Jo represents the very best that the Master Gardener has to offer Florida," said Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator Tom Wichman.  "She's passionate about gardening, very organized, stays on task with her projects, and is really creative.  We appreciate everything she does for the program and Florida gardeners."

Norma Samuel, the Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator for Marion County, also complimented Jo.  "Jo has a passion for plants and enjoys sharing her plants and knowledge with people.  She understands and works with the membership, extension faculty and staff and the general public very well," she said. "These are the attributes that make her an outstanding Master Gardener."

In the five years that Jo has been a Master Gardener, she has been involved with a variety of projects. She has served on several board positions, assisted with the Marion County Spring Festival, and has participated in the speaker's bureau. She also served as acting Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator for one year when the Marion County Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator retired in 2007.

In 2007, Jo coordinated a grant application that resulted in a mobile plant clinic. She designed a five-foot by ten-foot building that could be built on a trailer and be towed anywhere. The trailer carries gardening literature, soil test kits, publications for sale and brochures, and is designed with shuttered windows on both sides so that a Master Gardener can sit and interact with the public. Jo and two other Master Gardener volunteers tow the clinic to shows, festivals, sales, and libraries around the county. Since its inauguration in March 2007, the plant clinic has been a part of  28 events around the county from Salt Springs to Dunnellon, including being a float in the annual Christmas parade.

Jo writes a column titled "Tips for the Garden" that appears the first Saturday of each month in the Ocala Star Banner and includes timely and localized gardening tips.

Each year, Jo assists in training the new Master Gardener classes. She teaches segments on fertilizers and basic landscaping design, and compiles and edits the plant identification portion of the materials. She also develops reading assignments, study guides, quizzes, and the final examination. Jo serves as grade keeper for the training class.

"I enjoy being a Master Gardener for the opportunity I have every day to interact with people that love what I love," Jo said.