And the Winner is...

Luke Connor with his plaque for Outstanding Master Gardener of 2015Last October, Florida Master Gardener volunteers were recognized for their time and effort at the Continued Training Conference. One special recognition is the Outstanding Master Gardener Award, which recognizes a volunteer who has made outstanding efforts in projects and activities. The 2015 Outstanding Master Gardener Award was presented to Luke Connor of Marion County.

Luke graduated with the Marion County Master Gardener class of 2009 and in the time since, has served nearly 2,000 volunteer hours, as well as 589 education hours.

Luke has served on the Marion County Master Gardener Board in a number of positions: first as director of propagation, then vice-president, and currently as president. And his involvement doesn't stop with the board. He presents as part of the program's speakers bureau and has served multiple years as a member of the Spring Festival Committee, the Master Gardener Applicant Interview Committee, as well as the spring and fall plant sale teams.

Luke has held leadership roles in two statewide Master Gardener Leadership Conferences, as well as the Central District Continuing Education Conference in 2014, held at the Marion County Extension facilities.

In June of 2015, Luke helped host 28 soldiers from the Delta Company 436th Civil Affairs Battalion of the U.S. Army Reserves. Of the visit, Luke wrote, "Our mission was to educate the reserve personnel in basic agriculture practices, enabling them to evaluate the agricultural needs of countries in which they may serve. At the start of the training, three participants indicated by a show of hands they had prior gardening experience. At the end of the training, they all expressed their intent to practice what they learned to prepare for deployment."

As president of his county's program, Luke has worked on improvements such as adding new positions to the board and instituting a mid-year budget review. He also provides reports to his Master Gardener coordinator, the Board of Directors, and 4-H agents on educational/volunteer hours, demographics, and youth activities.

In the community, Luke regularly speaks on subjects such as invasive plants, and works with groups like the Forest Public Library and the Senior Food Drive Program.

Other people might be overwhelmed with such a busy volunteer schedule, but Luke approaches them with positivity. As he says, "I don't view challenges as a problem. I look at problems as opportunities, a positive, and address opportunities in that manner."

Congratulations to Luke Connor; all of us at the Florida Master Gardener program thank you so much for all that you do!

Return to the January 2016 Neighborhood Gardener

See a full list of the programs and projects recognized at the 34th Annual Florida Master Gardener Continued Training Conference.