Extension Master Gardeners receive recognition for many hours of volunteering in Upper Peninsula communities

Extension Master Gardeners contributed over 1,000 volunteer hours in 2020 amounting to nearly $29,000 to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula communities.

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Extension Master Gardener trainees in February 2020 (pre-COVID-19) presenting to the class about composting. Photo by Rebecca Krans, MSU Extension.

Extension Master Gardeners from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula were recognized on Nov. 20, 2020, for their many volunteer hours and continued assistance with Michigan State University Extension’s public gardening outreach and educational efforts. Although Extension Master Gardeners were not required to complete any volunteer hours during this past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many opted to continue volunteering while following the MSU COVID-19 guidelines. No face-to-face volunteer efforts were allowed during 2020. Despite these restrictions, Upper Peninsula Extension Master Gardeners volunteered over 1,000 hours with an economic impact of nearly $29,000 to communities. Volunteer projects focused on food gardening, gardening with children, improving communities through beautification and assisting MSU Extension with public education of the gardening public.

The virtual recognition event began with remembrance of Phyllis Johnson, an incredible Extension Master Gardener from Houghton, Michigan, who passed away in 2020. She was a very dedicated Extension Master Gardener who took the Extension Master Gardener training in 2014 after retiring from Michigan Tech as a research librarian. Johnson’s main volunteer project involved organizing and coordinating volunteers and school groups to beautify and maintain over 20 gardens along Highway 41 in Chassell, Michigan. She was also an Extension Master Gardener Smart Gardening Volunteer educating gardener at numerous venues and was a member of the specialized team that answers gardening questions on the MSU Extension Lawn & Garden Hotline. Her community impacts were significant and she will be sadly missed for her community spirit and kindness.

Following this time of remembrance, newly certified Extension Master Gardeners were recognized. To gain certification, trainees successfully complete the Extension Master Gardener Training Course consisting of 50-plus hours of educational content and then completing 40 volunteer hours. Their volunteer hours must focus on educating others on the science-based, environmentally friendly gardening practices they learned while in the course. Upper Peninsula Extension Master Gardeners earning their certification include: Crystal Geroux (Baraga, Michigan), Jodi Dessillier (Houghton), Gina Kerr (Houghton), Deb Kinzi (Houghton) and Jean McParlan (Houghton).

Advanced Extension Master Gardener status is earned after initial certification by those volunteering an additional 50 hours and earning 25 educational hours in five consecutive years. Those earning this title in the Upper Peninsula include Brenda Hershey (Marquette, Michigan), Peg Hertel (Houghton), Gene Kuiper (Houghton) and Susan Miko (Houghton).

Extension Master Gardeners also receive recognition for specific numbers of volunteer hour contributions over their service. These milestones are 250, 500 and 1,000 or more volunteer hours. Newly recognized Upper Peninsula Extension Master Gardeners contributing 250 total hours include: Henry Knoch (Delta, Michigan), Marci Niemi (Marquette) and Linda Roncaglione (Marquette). Newly recognized Upper Peninsula Extension Master Gardeners contributing 500 total hours include Jan Peck (Marquette). Extension Master Gardeners who have volunteered 1,000-plus hours include Jeannette Hauver (Marquette), Linda Andriacchi (Marquette) and Karen Moore (Delta). Congratulations to all these Extension Master Gardeners for their continued dedication and outstanding volunteer efforts that make a difference in Upper Peninsula communities!

Extension Master Gardeners assist MSU Extension consumer horticulture staff with public outreach to help meet the escalating demand for gardening information. They contribute in various ways, such as becoming specially trained Smart Gardening Volunteers, answering online Ask an Expert questions, or phone calls on the MSU Extension Lawn & Garden Hotline. In whatever manner they choose to contribute, these Extension Master Gardeners gain additional training to provide consistent, research-based answers to public questions. Upper Peninsula Extension Master Gardener Smart Gardening Volunteers provide information on earth-friendly, sustainable gardening practices to the public at various events (pre-COVID-19) to expand MSU’s educational outreach capacity.

Extension Master Gardener Smart Gardening Volunteers include: Amalia Anderson (Houghton), Linda Andriacchi (Marquette), Greta Arntzen (Delta), Carolyn Bissell (Delta), Ruth Botbyl (Delta), Jeannie DeClerck (Houghton), Steve Gordon (Chippewa, Michigan), Vicky Gordon (Chippewa), Lisa Gregg (Houghton), Peg Hertel (Houghton), Lisa Johnson (Marquette), Deb Kinzi (Houghton), Henry Knoch (Delta), Jackie Manchester-Kempke (Houghton), Erin Minne (Houghton), Jan Peck (Marquette), Carol Plitz (Chippewa), Ron Rossway (Marquette), Claire Shefferly-Twohey (Marquette), Elizabeth Slajus (Dickinson, Michigan), Hilary Sproule (Houghton), Cathy Starrett (Marquette), Sue Wanic (Delta) and Linda Winslow (Marquette).

Ask an Expert responders serve on a statewide team of specially trained Extension Master Gardeners and MSU Extension staff. Over 9,000 online questions are answered annually. Upper Peninsula Extension Master Gardeners who serve as Ask an Expert responders include Carolyn Bissell (Delta) and Henry Knoch (Delta).

Those recognized for serving as responders on the MSU Extension Lawn & Garden Hotline include Carolyn Bissell (Delta), Henry Knoch (Delta), Elizabeth Slajus (Dickinson), Deb Kinzi (Houghton), Lisa Gregg (Houghton) and Erin Minne (Houghton). These responders assist callers immediately with gardening questions, providing them research-based responses and references.

The recognition was an enjoyable event spent celebrating the many contributions that Extension Master Gardeners provide across the Upper Peninsula. Following the recognition, participants shared meaningful garden-related photos and provided a year’s highlight. Fueled with a passion to garden, Extension Master Gardeners’ zest for learning and desire to help others while volunteering spans across generations, communities and lifetimes.

Thank you for all your hard work and dedication! If you would like to learn more about the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program, please contact Rebecca Krans, Upper Peninsula Extension Master Gardener Program coordinator and MSU consumer horticulture educator, at kransr@msu.edu.

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