MSU Extension Master Gardener Flora Phelps is 100 years young in 2022
An MSU Extension volunteer for 26 years, Flora Phelps is an inspiration to all.
Flora E. Phelps is a Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener who lives in Stanton, Michigan, a small town in Montcalm County northwest of Lansing, Michigan. Born on July 23, 1922, Phelps reached an amazing milestone as an individual this year – she became a centenarian and celebrated 100 years!
Phelps has spent an incredible 47 years gardening and has been an MSU Extension Master Gardener for 26 years, with 2,935 hours of volunteer service and 1,182 hours of continuing education. At 100, she is an active volunteer with Emeritus status, staying connected to MSU and the Montcalm Area Master Gardener Association. She has been and continues to be an inspiration to many.
To celebrate Phelps’ 100-year-old milestone, the Montcalm Area Master Gardener Association planned a surprise party for her at Montcalm Community College Heritage Village in July 2022. The party took place under an outdoor meeting structure that was made possible by Phelps herself – many years ago she helped gather funds and organize its construction to create an outdoor meeting and teaching space.
On Phelps’ celebration day, she was in the company of many fellow MSU Extension Master Gardeners who had wonderful stories to share about their experiences with Phelps. One such story described how a fellow volunteer went to an MSU Extension project site on a cold and rainy day, very reluctant to go outside and work. Ready to turn around and go home, they saw 90-year-old Phelps out in the cold and rain, and quickly determined they had no excuse for not joining!
Such an experience demonstrates the comradery and health benefits that come from being a volunteer with the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program. Some say they would never have had an opportunity to meet other passionate garden volunteers in their area had they not become a part of the program – others remark on how the projects keep them active and give them a sense of community.
Phelps’ biggest passion over her 47 years of service as an MSU Extension Master Gardener was teaching others how to grow and use vegetables and fruits. She believes this to be the most important part of gardening and encouraged many to start their own food gardens. Phelps first took the MSU Extension Master Gardener training in 1976 when she retired from work and was looking for a new adventure. A hobby gardener prior to that, she was seeking a higher level of understanding of gardening, especially when it came to growing food.
Her biggest project took place at the Montcalm Community College Heritage Village, which is a historical and garden education center where MSU Extension Master Gardeners remain active to this day. Phelps was one of the founders of that MSU Extension Master Gardener project 27 years ago. With her friend and fellow MSU Extension Master Gardener, Elaine Johnson, the two of them devoted many years to the Heritage Village Educational Gardens. In fact, Johnson still shows up to help with the project and was out getting her hands in the soil right after Phelps’ party!
Today, the Montcalm Community College Heritage Village Educational Gardens and the Montcalm Area Master Gardener program remain strong. Their newest adventure is working with partners to create a pollinator garden and bird habitat called “All That Flutters.” Montcalm MSU Extension Master Gardener, Sue Aagaard, is leading that effort and working with partners to create this new learning site. It is an ideal location for a demonstration and education garden due to its proximity to the community college, the Montcalm Area Career Center, and the Heritage Village Educational Gardens, which attract many students and event audiences.
Anyone who knows Phelps likely knows that the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program means the world to her. Phelps means the world to MSU Extension, too. On behalf of MSU Extension, the MSU Extension consumer horticulture team and the Montcalm Area Master Gardener Association, we congratulate Phelps for her outstanding years of service and dedication to the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program. You are an inspiration to all of us, Flora!