MSU Extension Master Gardeners to hold educational conference in August

Join us Aug. 23-24 for the 2024 Master Gardener Conference and participate in tours, workshops and educational sessions focused on increasing and enhancing your scientific, research-based horticultural knowledge.

Decorative image.
Photo by Sarah Rautio, MSU Extension.

Michigan State University Extension Master Gardeners will hold their biannual conference Aug. 23-24, 2024, at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Open to all gardening enthusiasts, the Master Gardener Conference was formerly known as the Master Gardener College. The name has been newly changed to avoid confusion with the Master Gardener training course. The title and theme of this year’s conference is “Creating a Greener Michigan” and will focus on climate change and sustainability. 

Keynote speakers will address topics of climate change, creating urban and suburban meadows and making gardens essential life centers. Sessions will range from understanding the impact of climate change on insect populations and forests, growing native plants and pollinator protection to seed saving and composting. The goal of this conference is to provide gardeners with the tools and knowledge to use sustainable practices in their own lives and gardens.  

Our first keynote speaker will be Chris Edwards, whose presentation is titled “Simple, Serious, Solvable-Climate Change as of 2024.” As an award-winning weather forecaster with a long career, Edwards has been involved in studying and reporting specifically on global warming since 1987. He is currently the climate change specialist for the city of Detroit and gives climate change presentations in many venues. He will explain the impacts of climate change and explore a range of ideas to address the significant challenges we face and what each of us can do.  

Saturday morning will begin with a virtual speaker. Best-selling author and garden designer Benjamin Vogt will present “Unlawn America—An Introduction to Creating Urban and Suburban Meadows.” He has pledged to reduce his carbon footprint by traveling less, so Vogt will join us live on a big screen, where he will present and answer questions. His presentation will discuss the potential for urban natural habitats to positively impact the environment. He will explore how to turn your lawn into a meadow garden by showing how to select plants, prepare the site for planting, and install and manage your meadow.  

Wrapping up our second day of sessions will be David Michener, who will join us in person at Interlochen. His presentation is called “All our Kin—Reframing our Respect for Gardens, Living Collections, and Landscapes to Become Essential Life Centers.” Michener will discuss his work to reframe native plants and communities in a way to build awareness of and increase engagement in tribal sovereignty and sustainability. He is a curator at the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, and in the fall of 2023 became the Midwest co-leader (alongside Jennifer Gauthier of the College of the Menominee Nation) of a $30,000,000 research grant with the International Center for Braiding Indigenous Knowledges and Science based at University of Massachusetts.  

In-between these keynote speakers are many options for further learning, including breakout sessions, workshops and tours. Visit our website for a full list of these options. Interlochen Center for the Arts will not only provide a stunning backdrop for our conference but will contribute to our sustainability education. Tours of their gardens, botanical lab, apiary and compost facility will showcase sustainable practices participants can bring home to their own gardens and home.  

Accommodations for attendees are available right on the beautiful Interlochen campus. Attendees can immerse themselves in the retreat-like atmosphere of the campus by staying onsite. Several different lodging options will be available, ranging from dorm rooms ($60+), hotel rooms ($99+), studios ($130+), cottages ($175+) and houses ($450). Due to limited space at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, we encourage attendees to share lodging accommodations where possible or forego lodging if you are local. Learn more about accommodations on our website. 

In addition to the classes, workshops and tours on site at Interlochen, many tours have been arranged for conference attendees before and after the conference. On the Thursday before the conference, participants can choose between a lunch and learn at Pine Hill Nursery, a tour of the Otsego Conservation District Demo Gardens, a tour of a Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy preserve, or a cooking class at Interlochen Center for the Arts. Sunday’s options include the Lavender Hill Farm tour, a tour of the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park, or a tour of the Michigan State University (MSU) Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center to learn about cherry and apple research being done by MSU. Learn more about these activities on our website. 

Registration is $325 per person until July 15 (increases to $350 on July 16) and will include:  

  • Three world-class keynote presentations  
  • A combination of five educational breakout sessions or three hands-on workshops  
  • Access to the Garden Marketplace  
  • One breakfast  
  • Two lunches  
  • A seat at the celebration dinner  
  • A tranquil, retreat-like setting where you can enjoy the venue, while connecting with fellow gardening enthusiasts.  

The MSU Extension Master Gardener Program is a horticulture education and volunteer leader training program, led by MSU Extension 

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