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Amidst the food, fun and heat, Master Gardeners talk with an averagEMGs at state fair 2013.jpge of 400 people per day during the Fair. They answer questions on everything from how to pollination troubles on squash to Japanese beetle management to powdery mildew on peonies. They try to identify oddities that people bring as pictures on their smart phones or (!!!) in their pockets. It's fun, fast-moving - and challenging!

"The visitor doesn't always tell you the whole story immediately", explained state director Julie Weisenhorn. "So part of being a Master Gardener is being a detective. It's satisfying when we are able to diagnose a problem and recommend one or more possible research-based solutions. Many times, it's simply a change in cultural care of a landscape that will help resolve the problem."

It's a team effort too. In 2013, about 150 Master Gardeners from 21 different counties signed up to staff four-hour shifts in the booth located in the wing of the Ag/Hort Building dedicated to the U's College of Food, Ag, and Natural Resource Science. By the end of their shift, they have gotten to know fellow volunteers and made some new friends. By the end of the Fair, they will have spoken with about 5000 people from Minnesota and surrounding states with some visitors from as far as northern Canada.

In addition to staffing the booth, 24 Master Gardeners also volunteered this year to present on gardening topics at The Dirt Stage. Some of the topics: night gardening, tomatoes, lazy gardening, bees, native plants. The Dirt is a free stage  in the Ag/Hort Building designed to spread education about topics for Minnesota gardens and landscapes. In addition to Master Gardeners, presenters includes the MSHS, ornamental plant societies, and the green industry.

And, after it's over, volunteers can rest assured they have helped a slew of home gardeners solve some of their pressing issues and have healthier landscapes too.

Visit Master Gardeners, August 22 - Sept. 2, 2013 - 9am - 9pm, in Agriculture / Horticulture Building located at Judson and Underwood near Gate 7. Master Gardeners present noon - 2pm daily at The Dirt Stage in the same building.

State Advisory Board Welcomes New Members

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 2013-2014 EMG SAB. 1.jpgThe University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener State Advisory Board welcomed five new board members in June at its first quarterly meeting of the 2013-2014 program year. It was also the first meeting functioning under new operating guidelines that aligns board member representation with the five University of Minnesota Extension regions.

The Extension Master Gardener State Advisory Board provides input and advice to the state Master Gardener staff about program direction, strategies and governing policies. Board members act as ambassadors of the statewide program. In 2013-2014 board members intend to increase communications and connections with county/local Extension Master Gardener groups within each member's region.

The board is comprised of fourteen Extension Master Gardener volunteers and four staff representative. Pictured above (l to r): Bob Azman (Ramsey Co.), Julie Weisenhorn (State Director), Dave Knapp (Anoka Co.), Nancy Lizette Berlin (Goodhue Co.), Tom Voigt (Ramsey Co.), Barb Gasterland (Hennepin Co.), Coralee Fox (Crow Wing Co.), Kit Sitter (Lake Co.), Rick Ellis (Stearns Co.), Patty Citrowski (Chippewa/Yellow Medicine Co.), Diane Henry (Douglas Co.), Paul Wood (Dakota Co.), and Terry Straub (Hennepin County Master Gardener Coordinator).  Board members not pictured include: David Moen (State Program Manager), Susan Thurston-Hamerski (Landscape Arboretum liaison), and Dori Vikla (Rice Co.).


2012 Fair Booth Grow Yourself Healthy Display 005.jpgBy Terry Salmela, Extension Educator - Pine County

The U of M Extension Master Gardeners, Simply Good Eating and Community Nutrition staff in Pine County promoted healthy eating at the local fair and community garden. "Grow Yourself a Healthy Handful" was inspired by an educational program through the MN Landscape Arboretum.

Trina Barno, Simply Good Eating Director, and Kelly Appeldorn, Pine County Community Nutrition Educator put together two impressive display boards that Master Gardeners used in fair booths in both Kanabec and Pine counties. They also put together helpful handouts on U of M Extension recommended canning and freezing processes and recipes.

Extension Master Gardeners planted five gallon pails as well as five plastic flower pots full of the five most nutritious vegetables in May. They watered, fertilized and weeded them throughout the summer. The live potted examples were on display at the Pine County community garden and at the fair.

2012 Fair Booth Grow Yourself Healthy Display 010.jpgMaster Gardener fair booth co-chairs Roger and Linda Fischer designed the display, utilizing materials from the MN Landscape Arboretum as well as two tipping container stands and planted herbs in them. They were a favorite of fairgoers! The booth was located between two walkways, so it was visible from two sides. Nineteen Extension Master Gardeners answered visitors' questions on powdery mildew on vine crops, herbs, stringy snap beans, brown spots on hostas, flowers, vegetables and many other gardening topics. They even had a door prize sign-up for a four-hour tiller rental at a local dealer.

For more information:
Extension Master Gardener Program:
Extension Master Gardeners - Pine County: Terry Salmela,
MN Landscape Arboretum:

Intergenerational learning in Traverse County

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Rain barrels display made by youth At the Traverse County Master Gardeners' 2010 horticulture day, Junior Master Gardeners stepped up to share what they had learned about rain barrels with the 65 adult attendees. The youth created the display pictured here, demonstrated how to make a rain barrel, and discussed how rain collection benefits the environment. They even contributed one of the rain barrels they constructed to the silent auction.

A solar heated greenhouse for Grand Marais school


A $10,000 grant from the Lloyd K. Johnson foundation allowed Cook County Master Gardeners to expand their youth gardening program by building a small solar heated greenhouse onto the Great Expectations School in Grand Marais. This will allow more local food production for the school and provide a space for after-school youth gardening programs.

The Master Gardeners are working with a licensed teacher to develop lesson plans on growing plants in the classroom as well as nutrition education. These grade-appropriate activities will be tied to the Minnesota educational standards.

Master Gardeners "Grow a Row for the Hungry"

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Several counties promoted and participated in the national "Grow a Row for the Hungry" program. In Pine County, 'Grow A Row' was the theme for the Master Gardener booth at county fair. They handed out information about food shelves in the county, growing vegetables in containers, and how to become a Master Gardener. One Master Gardener alone contributed 1167 lbs. of produce to the local food shelf. Goodhue Master Gardeners got involved in the program for the second year. An average of about 200 lbs. of produce was donated weekly to the Red Wing Area Food Shelf, doubling the amount donated in 2008.

Veterans Garden planted in Thief River Falls

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The City of Thief River Falls approached Pennington County Master Gardeners to design a garden in an empty lot next to City Hall. A plan was developed for a sustainable perennial garden. Three eagle scouts took on this project. They named it the Veterans Memorial Garden and launched a fundraising effort that reached $15,000.00. What was initially planned to be just a sustainable perennial bed turned into a huge perennial garden with stone paths, a fence and statues of veterans. Master Gardeners assisted in plant selection and planting. It was a wonderful collaborative project involving over 50 people.

Junior Master Gardener pilot project

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Junior Master Gardener planting

The Master Gardener Program collaborated with Extension's 4-H program to pilot the Junior Master Gardener 4-H SET (Science, Engineering, and Technology) project in 2009. The pilot was generously funded by a grant from the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) Foundation.

There were six expectations of each site.

  1. engage at least 10 youth in a minimum of 8 learning sessions
  2. involve a local MNLA member sponsor
  3. incorporate a science experiment and a service project
  4. use technology to teach, communicate and report
  5. utilize JMG curriculum and have some type of teaching garden
  6. participate in evaluations

Six counties were selected to participate; two had multiple sites: Clearwater, Crow Wing, Olmsted (2), Sherburne, Stearns (2), and Winona. Seventy-two participants attended one of two trainings. Each site received JMG materials and a $125 grant for supplies.

All sites were successful. Data from the pilot evaluation shows that in total:

  • 125 youth enrolled in the project; 97 youth completed the entire project
  • 30 percent of youth participants were non-white/persons of color; 70 percent were white/Caucasian
  • 87 youth were new to the 4-H program

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