Honoring Extension Master Gardeners for providing science-based gardening education to communities

Upper Peninsula contributions from Extension Master Gardeners amounted to more than $41,000 to communities in just one year.

Flower bed in a park.
Newly certified MSU Extension Master Gardener Anna Seidel-Quast designed and created this native flower educational bed near the Ryan Street Community Garden in Hancock, Michigan. Photo by Anna Seidel-Quast.

The Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Program in the Upper Peninsula recently held a virtual recognition event to highlight and celebrate the achievements and volunteer efforts of MSU Extension Master Gardeners across the Upper Peninsula. Pandemic restrictions limited the ability to volunteer in 2021, yet these volunteers still provided over $41,000 in economic contributions to communities across the Upper Peninsula.

Currently located in 12 of the 15 Upper Peninsula counties, MSU Extension Master Gardeners follow the mission of the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program to educate communities about environmentally and economically sound gardening practices through horticulture-based volunteer activities they facilitate. The Upper Peninsula has over 100 approved MSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer projects that focus on community beautification, youth gardening and community gardening. Through these projects and volunteer service on the MSU Extension Lawn and Garden Hotline and the Ask Extension resource, they provide on-going public outreach and education.

To become certified as an Extension Master Gardener, you must successfully complete the MSU Extension Master Gardener basic training course with 80% or greater proficiency, followed by 40 hours of volunteer service within a year following the training.

At our virtual event, the following received recognition for earning Basic Extension Master Gardener certification: Betsy Dayrell-Hart (Mackinac County), Steve Lawry (Marquette County), Anna Seidel-Quast (Houghton County), Gail Razavi (Marquette County), Kayce Reinertsen (Marquette County) and Stephen Slajus (Dickinson County). Their volunteer work took place respectively at the St. Ignace Public Library Beautification Garden, the Park Cemetery Beautification Effort in Marquette, the Ryan Street Community Garden in Hancock, the Native Plant Retention Pond & Pete’s Pass Raingarden in Marquette, and the Woodland Childcare Center Garden in Kingsford.

To earn an Advanced MSU Extension Master Gardener title, volunteers must complete an additional 50 volunteer hours and 25 educational hours within five years of earning their basic certification. Earning their Advanced Extension Master Gardener title in 2021 are: Kathleen Perry (Mackinac County), Carol Plitz (Chippewa County), Gail Razavi (Marquette County) and Dawn White (Marquette County).

Perry contributes to the St. Ignace Public Library Beautification Efforts, noting that, “The gardening event became a ‘therapy’ session for all of us.” This reflection came from her experience during the 2021 virtual MSU Master Gardener College during a horticultural therapy session taught by Mike Maddox from the University of Wisconsin. She learned how “gardening was therapeutic for people who had experienced loss, trauma and any difficulty in their life.” Taking that message back home, she and other volunteers found their gardening experiences healing as they gardened together.

A raised garden bed.
A raised bed and perennial garden designed, implemented and maintained at the St. Ignace Public Library by Kathleen Perry, advanced Extension Master Gardener, and Betsy Dayrell-Hart, Extension Master Gardener. Photo by Betsy Dayrell-Hart.

Plitz is a very active Smart Gardening volunteer assisting at the Upper Peninsula State Fair’s MSU Extension Smart Gardening outreach booth. Razavi helps with the Park Cemetery Beautification Efforts, Pete’s Pass and other projects. She notes, “As we gardeners know, gardening is not work; it’s fun, peaceful and soothing.” Clearly, she enjoys her volunteer efforts as she earned both her basic and advanced certifications within only two years. White’s volunteer efforts focused on a citizen science project and other local community volunteer efforts.

Many MSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers also obtain additional trainings that prepare them for public outreach and educational efforts on the MSU Extension Smart Gardening program, statewide toll-free Lawn and Garden Hotline, and Ask Extension online garden question resource. Forty-two percent of certified Extension Master Gardeners in the Upper Peninsula are also smart gardening volunteers who provide smart gardening messages that promote more earth-friendly, sustainable practices to save gardeners time and money. They do this at farmer’s markets, county fairs, the Upper Peninsula State Fair, and gardening conferences.

Recognized for their 2021 smart gardening volunteer efforts are Chippewa County residents Steve and Vicky Gordon; Delta County residents Carolyn Bissell, Ruth Botbyl, Henry Knoch, Dianna Lawson and Sue Wanic; Dickinson County resident Elizabeth Slajus; Marquette County residents Leslie Lasko, Jan Peck, Alexandria Polk, Claire Shefferly-Twohey, Cathy Starrett and Linda Winslow; and Houghton County residents Amalia Anderson, Peg Hertel, Deb Kinzi, Jackie Manchester-Kempke, Susan Miko, Erin Minne and Kathryn Salmi.

MSU Extension Master Gardeners who help answer calls on the statewide toll-free Lawn and Garden Hotline include Carolyn Bissell and Henry Knoch of Delta County and Lisa Gregg and Deb Kinzi of Houghton County. In 2021, this team and I answered 30% of all statewide hotline calls. Bissell and Knoch also assist as Ask Extension responders. Whether the hotline or Ask Extension, MSU Extension Master Gardener responders provide research-based answers and advice that helps gardeners make decisions about fertilizer and pesticide use that can help improve water quality and protect pollinators. At a statewide level, MSU Extension’s hotline/Ask Extension responder team responded to over 8,000 lawn and garden calls in 2021.

MSU Extension truly appreciates all the dedication and efforts of these recently recognized Upper Peninsula MSU Extension Master Gardeners. We also want to recognize and celebrate the efforts of all Upper Peninsula MSU Extension Master Gardeners whose names were not mentioned this year who help our communities benefit in many ways from their community gardening educational efforts. Thank you! As Advanced MSU Extension Master Gardener Razavi says, “Gardeners are like the proverb, ‘Birds of a feather flock together’. We love to share what we know, and there is always something new to learn!”

If you would like more information about the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program, please check out the website. You can also sign up for future Extension Master Gardener training classes.

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