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University Of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners earn recognition at state conference

I had no idea that Master Gardeners existed, and until this morning was definitely unaware that they had their own conferences. But after learning about what they do through the University of Illinois Extension, I have to say that being a Master Gardener sounds like a pretty rewarding path.

Five members of the Master Gardeners team at the U of I Extension earned awards at this year’s State Master Gardener Conference. Check out the full release below and learn more about what it takes to become a Master Gardener.

From the release:

Outstanding Master Gardeners complete over 120 hours of volunteer service beyond the required 60-hour internship to become a Master Gardener. Statewide, only 2% of active Master Gardeners receive this award. Master Gardener Tony Soskin (Champaign) is a 2015 recipient.

Tony Soskin’s altruistic personality prevents him from being involved in only one Master Gardener project. His passion to serve, to educate, and to be an environmental steward fuels his desire to contribute to multiple ventures. Tony has been heavily involved in Garden Walk and has served on the Advisory Board. He also spreads out his volunteer time to contribute to all of the community gardens: Crisis Nursery, Champaign County Nursing Home, the Juvenile Detention Center, and the Idea Garden.

The State Teamwork Award honors projects that make a difference in the community. This year, the Trial Plants and Greenhouse Coordinators of Champaign received the award. This team includes Jimmie Nell Duden (Gifford), Judy Fraker (Champaign), Patty Stoffel (Gifford), and Ann Tice (Champaign). These Master Gardeners have been working together since 2002. Each spring, they receive thousands of plant plugs from major seed companies to trial their new varieties of annuals. At the end of the season, the team makes a final report of the plants’ successes and failures, which is then returned to the seed and horticulture companies.

The plants grown by the Trial Plant and Greenhouse Coordinators demonstrate the evolving nature of horticulture within the community. Seed and horticulture companies consistently research and develop new plants to help make the world a bright, beautiful, and bountiful place. The Trial Plant and Greenhouse coordinators exemplify this mindset in 3 different counties and in 7 community gardens, involving over 60 Master Gardeners.

For more information about the Master Gardener program and to reserve your spot for 2016 training, visit

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