Orange County Celebrates Living Legacies

Earlier this summer at the UF/IFS Extension Orange County Master Gardener program's Summer Team Building event, program coordinator Amy Vu presented three Master Gardener volunteers each with a Legacy Award. These awards acknowledge Master Gardener volunteers for outstanding achievements and sustained dedication in support of the Master Gardener Program’s Vision and Mission Statements.

This year's recipients are Ed Paulson, Ed Thralls, and Alicia Yeatman.

Photo of the award winners holding framed certificates and standing with Amy Vu

From left to right: Alicia Yeatman, Amy Vu, Ed Thralls, and Ed Paulson

Ed Paulson, class of 2011, has been twice named "Master Gardener of the Year," and served on the Advisory Committee for three years. In that time, he created or led several initiatives that proved to be so successful, Orange County Extension is still using them. These include a Master Gardener recruitment program, which has now become a yearly event every April, a monthly advanced program for longtime Master Gardener volunteers to brush up their skills, and an annual "Sunday in the Garden" Team Building event.

Fellow Master Gardener Nancy Bauer had this to say about Ed: "He is immersed in MG, totally committed to the program and able to see how it can grow and change to be a more powerful, meaningful program serving the community. If there are other ways to strengthen and promote the program, I have no doubt Ed will bring them forward."

Ed Thralls, class of 1998, has truly dedicated his career to the University of Florida and the Master Gardener program. From his first days of volunteering with the Adopt-a-Tree program and in the "Ask an Expert" booth at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, he was continuing his education at community college and then at UF. Even after taking a full-time position with UF/IFAS at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (MREC) in Apopka, Ed continued to contribute volunteer hours to the Master Gardener program.

With his technical skills, Ed brought the program into the information age. He continued to update the file system he had initiated, making it easier to provide research-based documentation to Orange County Master Gardener volunteers. Over the years, Ed has taken the program from a paper form of workflow to an almost solely computer-based operation.

Ed's long-time friend Tom McCubbin writes, "He has been innovative in designing new programs that have included the mobile clinic, educational garden, and organizing a Master Gardener Center. He has devoted tireless hours to the volunteers and residents served by this program. It would be hard to find anyone more deserving of this Master Gardener Legacy Award than the Certified Master Gardener, Master Gardener Friend, and Program Leader Ed Thralls."

Alicia Yeatman, class of 2005, has many years of leadership with the Orange County Master Gardener program. She first volunteered for the Adopt-a-Tree program January 2005 under Tom McCubbin's leadership, and continued until December 2015, and that's only because the program ended. She started volunteering at the Central Florida Fairgrounds Demonstration Garden in 2007. For ten years she worked in the gardens, and again, only stopped when the fairground's administration ended the garden.

Her vast experience and knowledge of vegetable gardening helped inspire the most inexperienced master gardener. Her commitment to the demonstration garden is a clear example of what Alicia does best, and the Master Gardener volunteers appreciated how she encouraged them. Barbara Wilson is just one of the volunteers that found Alicia to be so welcoming. "Alicia created a unique environment at the Fairgrounds," she wrote in a recommendation letter. "Each participant—from those who were there for years to those of us that were 'newbies'—were welcomed, appreciated and encouraged. As a result, we got to know and care about each other. Everyone chipped in and supported the others in garden duties."

As Amy Vu concluded in her presentation of the awards, "All three have been extremely involved in showing comradery and leadership—these individuals have gone above and beyond in our Master Gardener Program."