Forty Years of Master Gardener Volunteers

This year marks the 40th year of the Master Gardener Volunteer Program in Florida. Additionally, April is Volunteer Appreciation Month and we are highlighting the memories of a few of our long-serving volunteers. Thank you to all the Master Gardener Volunteers who serve throughout Florida, whether you've been serving a few days or a few decades!

Bert Orcutt – Brevard County

Bert Orcutt has served as a Master Gardener Volunteer for 32 years (since 1987) in Brevard County. As a Master Gardener Volunteer, Bert's primary project has been manning the Plant Clinic at Patrick Air Force Base (AFB).

Bert retired from military service and moved to Florida in 1986; his status allowed him to to set up this weekly plant clinic on the base. In his words, Bert feels "the clinic provides valuable information for both active duty and retired [military] personnel since many of them have never lived in Florida previously and are unfamiliar with our sun, heat, and sandy soil."

Bert has encased dozens of insects of different types to show people up close what they look like. He's also interested in the wide variety of bromeliads. Beyond gardening, Bert collects antique tools, primarily planes. In addition to his Master Gardener Volunteer work, Bert volunteers for the Red Cross and worked at the pharmacy at Patrick AFB for 14 years.

When asked what his fondest memory of working as a Master Gardener Volunteer is, Bert told the story of how he was able to comfort and educate a young military wife on the challenges of edible gardening in Florida.

He recounts the story of a "young lady, the wife of an airman, who came to our clinic almost in tears. She had come to Patrick AFB from an assignment in Alaska. She described in detail how she had grown virtually all the vegetables needed for her family and how beautiful and large everything grew. I fully understood her frustration because I grew up in the Midwest." Bert was able to sit with the young woman and "acquaint her with the realities of gardening in Florida."

Older man standing and holding crystal vase award

Bert Orcutt, receiving his 30 year service award.


More Memories

Or, return to the April 2019 Neighborhood Gardener

April is National Volunteer Month, when we celebrate the work that volunteers do year-round. Volunteer Month recognizes and promotes the spirit of service, and raises awareness about how volunteering changes lives and strengthens communities.