Florida Master Gardener Volunteer 2019 Awards

On October 20-23, 2019, Master Gardener Volunteers from all over Florida gathered in Kissimmee for advanced training and networking at the 36th Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Continued Training Conference. A number of them left the conference with an Award of Excellence in one of twelve categories:

Listed below are the twelve winning counties and a description of the fantastic work they did.

A flower bed with native flowering plants

The library's butterfly garden in mid-summer. Photo courtesy of Bill Silberman.

Beautification: Osceola County – Books and Butterflies: West Osceola Public Library Butterfly Garden

Eight Master Gardener Volunteers (Lisa Barry, Ashley Brant, Rebecca Feldkamp, Kim Heinrich, Sharon Mantia, Lorna Sauter, Harold Sauter, and team leader Bill Silberman) worked with two local Girl Scout troops to plant a butterfly garden in front of the West Osceola Public Library. The Master Gardener Volunteers selected plants that would both attract butterflies and provide excellent hosts for larva. They collected the materials for the garden and then taught the Girl Scouts how to plant their garden.

The garden now serves as an educational resource for programs at the library and helps beautify the entrance. The project was successful, as many butterflies have been spotted and children have been checking out books at the library to help them identify the different butterflies and caterpillars.


Communication: Leon County – Five-part series of articles in the Tallahassee Democrat detailing the planting of a spring garden at the Tallahassee Museum's 1880s Farm

three people working in a freshly plowed bed of soil for planting

Master Gardener Volunteers plowing and hand watering the newly planted tomatoes. Photo courtesy of Brenda Buchan.

Master Gardener Volunteer Brenda Buchan published a series of articles in the Tallahassee Democrat on planting a spring vegetable garden at the Tallahassee Museum. She depicted the process of planting with detailed descriptions and photos. Readers could follow her lead and start their own vegetable gardens or simply learn more about gardening.

Her project not only reached many readers, it also encouraged more visitors to the Tallahassee Museum and inspired interest in the museum's 1880s farm garden. In addition, public awareness of the Master Gardener Volunteer program in Leon County has increased, which will hopefully inspire more people to volunteer.


Demonstration Garden: Leon County – Redesign of VegHeadz Demonstration Garden

Four women in a sunny garden with a full raised bed of lettuce

Master Gardener Volunteer harvesting mustard greens in the VegHeadz garden. Photo courtesy of Peggy McDonald.

A team of Master Gardener Volunteers in Leon County worked together on the process to design and implement a new vegetable demonstration garden. The project included building a storage area, rebuilding the compost bins, creating small demonstration beds, building new raised beds, and planting an "edible forest" garden.

The project's emphasis is on redesigning the area to be more sustainable, easier to maintain, and produce healthier plants. The garden serves as a tool for educational programs within Extension and a place for visitors to explore gardening. According to Extension records, 2,522 people have visited the gardens for various activities since the redesign.


Diversity and Inclusion: Martin County – Indiantown Community Garden

A woman standing and smiling in a garden alongside a family of a man, woman holding a baby wrapped ina pink blanket, and a young boy.

Photo courtesy of Paula Smith.

Master Gardener Volunteers in Martin County (Paula Smith, Patty Beonde, Dave Welter, and Tony Beonde) worked tirelessly to invigorate an unutilized community garden space in Indiantown, a small village in western Martin County. The location suffers from food insecurity, and the Master Gardener Volunteer saw an opportunity to help.

They formed connections with nearby community organizations such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, KinDoo Catholic Family Center, Habitat for Humanity, and the Boys and Girls Club to work the garden and connect the plots with families who are interested in growing their own food.

Since many of their community participants don't speak English, they also developed fliers in their native languages and translated any demonstration sessions. They developed a highly successful community garden with 30 plots, many fruit trees, a Little Free Library, and a sandbox for children. Their efforts benefit a diverse audience of varying ethnicities, ages, cultures, economic levels, and disabilities.


Educational Display/Exhibit: Pinellas County – Lobby Display Case

Three smiling women in front of a glass display case, the woman in the middle holding a plaque

The winning team in front of their latest creation. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County.

A trio of Master Gardener Volunteers (Jeanne Jones, Penny Cathey, and Anne Swain) took on the project of creating educational displays for the shared lobby of the Florida Botanical Gardens and Pinellas County offices. The display theme was changed every few months, with some of the topics being fall vegetable gardening, spring wildflowers, succulents, and "The Master Gardener Volunteer Program is 40."

The intent of the project was to inform visitors of horticulture topics they may not have been aware of previously. The Master Gardener Volunteers have successfully run the project for two years and plan to continue it.


Educational Materials: Okaloosa County – Handbook, Handouts, and Curriculum for the Landscape Design Workshop in Okaloosa County Life Long Learning Center

A ranch style red brick home with a green turf lawn and a landscape bed full of green plants

A successful landscaping project completed by a graduate of the class. Photo courtesy of Mary Sharma.

Karen Kirk-Williams, a Master Gardener Volunteer in Okaloosa County, created and teaches an interactive Landscape Design Workshop at Northwest Florida State College. She leads her course every fall and spring semester with the help of other volunteers.

The six-week-long class teaches students how to design and implement their own landscape plan. Each class includes an hour of instruction and an hour of one-on-one time with participants for individual planning. She has created educational materials such as the course curriculum, a handbook, and handouts. She has been teaching the course since September 2017 and her materials have been used approximately 380-400 times since.


Florida-Friendly Landscaping™: Bay County – Ask a Master Gardener Volunteer Booth

Three gentlemen and one woman sitting behind a table with a blue Master Gardener Volunteer logo, at a boat dock

Ask a Master Gardener Volunteer booth at St. Andrews Farmer Market. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS Extension Bay County.

Master Gardener Volunteers (36 total) donated over 600 hours of service in Bay County by providing research-based gardening advice to the community. They focused on educating the public about Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles. They set their booth up at various businesses in Northwest Florida to be easily accessible. People learned how to make good landscaping choices after the destruction caused by Hurricane Michael. The volunteers reached 775 people in 2018 and 1,304 people in 2019.

The methods used to advertise their program included Facebook, television, yard signs, and banners. These Master Gardener Volunteers identified a need in their community and answered it by providing their advice in a place that is convenient to their target audience.


Service to 4-H and Youth: Clay County – R.C. Bannerman Learning Center School Garden

Woman in garden surrounded by white plastic tubs each full of plants

Laurie Edelman in the vegetable garden. Photo courtesy of UF/IFSA Extension Clay County.

Master Gardener Volunteers (Glenn Thigpen, Barbara Beyerl, Marti Whipple, Laurie Edelman, Amy Morie, Victor Robers, Olena Sirianni, Karen Rook, and Don Clark) successfully established a garden with the Bannerman Learning Center, which is a school for students with different educational needs. They secured the funds for the project through writing grants. Using those funds, they built the garden with students and staff at the school and university.

Students have enjoyed working in the garden and learning from their mentorship with the Master Gardener Volunteers. The students have also exhibited 700 plants in the Clay County Fair since 2016 and earned over $800. Through this program, students learned about horticulture from Master Gardener Volunteers and had the opportunity to apply their skills.


Newsletter: Manatee County – The Master Gardening Bench

Newsletter cover image with title and five owl photos

Master Gardener Volunteers in Manatee county worked together to produce "The Master Gardening Bench" ten times a year. Their purpose is to educate home gardeners and the general public about recent research-based information on gardening. Their newsletter is distributed by email to over 5,500 recipients. They also produce 300 paper copies that are available at libraries and Master Gardener Volunteer events.

Articles included "Grapes for Manatee County," "Post-Hurricane Care for Trees and Shrubs," and "Pests in the Pantry." Articles are usually one page or more in length to provide in-depth information that will benefit the reader. This team of Master Gardener Volunteers found a new way to disseminate their expertise to the public.


Outstanding Master Gardener Volunteer Team: Bay County – Hurricane Michael Landscape Recovery Series

Many people seated in a tiered classroom

Landscape recovery class. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS Extension Bay County.

A team of Master Gardener Volunteers (CA. Whitehurst, J. Green, Wood-Putnam, L. Tubridy, C. Biegler, H. Longo, and C. Sims) in Bay County educated residents on how to repair their landscapes after Hurricane Michael. As a team, they planned and carried out four sessions (each lasting three hours) that covered trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcovers, and turfgrass. The sessions reached over 5,200 people through both in-person sessions and online coverage on Facebook. The Bay County Audubon Society bestowed its 2019 Conservationist of the Year Award to the team for their excellent efforts.


Outstanding Master Gardener Volunteer: Santa Rosa County – Suzanne Spencer

Four smiling women standing with a man man behind them, one woman holding a plaque

Suzanne in the middle with plaque and her fellow Master Gardener Volunteers from left: Jean Ann Hartman, Rachel Coggins, Mike Burba, and Annie McIlhenny. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS Extension Santa Rosa County.

Suzanne Spencer of Santa Rosa County shows her passion for the Master Gardener Volunteer program through her exemplary volunteer efforts, which total 1,661 service hours. Some of her projects included assisting clients at weekday plant clinics, working in the greenhouse, preparing presentations for a speaker's bureau, and fulfilling positions within the Executive Committee, including President in 2019. She also planned and carried out a native tree sale that promoted Extension services, and mentored a new student during their certification year.

Most remarkably, she developed the Santa Rosa County Roadside Wildflower project and received the 2019 Volunteer of the Year award from the Florida Wildflower Foundation. She established 70 miles of roadside wildflowers, saving the Florida Department of Transportaion an estimated minimum of $1,000 per mile every year.


Personal Communications: Polk County – Betty Harrison

Four smiling people with man in center handing a plaque to a short older woman

Betty receiving her award. Photo courtesy of UF/IFSA Extension Polk County.

Betty Harrison has volunteered at the help desk in Polk County for five years, with two shifts per week. She typically receives two phone calls per hour and responds to one email per shift. For the award, she used her expertise to answer three difficult questions in detail and followed up with a comprehensive email. Betty's communication has reached many people and helped further the success of the Master Gardener Volunteer program in Polk County.