OSU recognizes 26 Master Gardeners for their service

August 30, 2013
Sherry Sheng of West Linn (Photo by Sharon Andrews)
Sherry Sheng of West Linn was named one of two 2013 Master Gardeners of the Year. (Photo by Sharon Andrews)
Claudia Groth of Portland (Photo by Sharon Andrews)
Claudia Groth of Portland was named one of two 2013 Oregon Master Gardeners of the Year. (Photo by Sharon Andrews)
Cathy Burdett of McMinnville (Photo by Sharon Andrews)
Cathy Burdett of McMinnville earned a 2013 "Behind the Scenes" statewide award. (Photo by Sharon Andrews)
Herb Davis of Portland (Photo by Sharon Andrews)
Herb Davis of Portland earned a 2013 "Behind the Scenes" statewide award. (Photo by Sharon Andrews)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Extension Service Master Gardener program, a highly trained volunteer force that educates Oregonians about the art and science of growing and caring for plants, has conferred top honors to its most dedicated ambassadors.

Twenty-six volunteers were recognized for their service to their counties and communities.

The Oregon State University Extension Service's Master Gardener program and the Oregon Master Gardener Association, a nonprofit that supports the program, sponsor the annual awards.

Master Gardeners are volunteers trained by the OSU Extension Service. They share their knowledge of sustainable gardening and OSU home horticulture resources by volunteering to answer questions and teach classes at their local Extension offices, farmers markets and libraries.

More than 4,100 people across the state are active Master Gardeners. In 2012, Master Gardeners had more than 186,000 interactions with the public statewide. They volunteered more than 194,000 hours, the equivalent of about 95 full-time workers in communities across Oregon, according to Gail Langellotto, statewide coordinator of the Master Gardener program.

Below are the recipients of this year's awards.

Sherry Sheng from West Linn is one of two 2013 Oregon Master Gardeners of the Year. Sheng has served as a Master Gardener for seven years. She has initiated several new programs, including workshops to teach people how to grow tomatoes and how to propagate new plants by seed and cuttings. She organized the award-winning 10-Minute University education program, short presentations on topics ranging from container planting to pruning trees that reach a general audience of more than 2,000 people a year.

Claudia Groth, of Portland, was also recognized as a 2013 Oregon Master Gardener of the Year. A Master Gardener for 24 years, Groth has held top positions with the Multnomah County Master Gardener Association and the statewide association. KEX radio listeners know her as "Dr. Dirt." To others across the state, she is a tireless educator on all aspects of gardening.

Herb Davis, a Portland resident, was selected as one of two recipients of the 2013 "Behind the Scenes" statewide award, which honors those whose quiet service is invaluable to the program. Davis has co-chaired or chaired the extremely popular Clackamas Spring Garden Fair four times, an event that attracts nearly 200 vendors and more than 16,000 visitors. He maintains the flower garden at the Clackamas County Event Center and helped rebuild the Master Gardener booth at the Clackamas County Fair.

Cathy Burdett is from McMinnville and was also honored with a 2013 "Behind the Scenes" statewide award. A Master Gardener for seven years, Burdett has mentored trainees and edited the Yamhill County Master Gardener newsletter. She helped organize a class that taught youth about bee biology and ecology. As Oregon Master Gardener Association historian, she co-wrote a complete history of the Oregon Master Gardener Association.

The county-level Master Gardeners of the year are:

Baker County:  Gayle Hammond is a Master Gardener who works behind the scenes to keep the Baker County Master Gardener Program running. She organized a vegetable class, heads up the Master Gardener plot at a local community garden and staffs Master Gardener booths at the farmers market and county fair.

Benton County: On the first day of Master Gardener training classes, Kevin Collins rode his bike to the training site - 30 miles from his home, in the pouring rain. He was a major player in the renovation of the county fairground’s Master Gardener planting beds.  He served as chairman for the plant sale committee.  He worked with the forestry students at Philomath High School to renovate their greenhouse.

Central Oregon:  Liz Douville has taught, supported and promoted the Master Gardener program and OSU Extension in Central Oregon for 24 years. This past year she taught classes on vegetable gardening, seed saving and fall color. She co-chaired the demonstration garden committee, where she oversaw the budget, selected and bought plants and worked countless hours in the garden.

Clackamas County:  Walter “Buzz” Oerding has served as a Master Gardener since 1991. For more than 10 years, he has served as class coordinator for new Master Gardener classes. During monthly meetings, Oerding’s hospitality committee organizes food and beverages. His work with hospitality during the chapter’s Spring Garden Fair contributes to the success of this popular event. 

Clatsop County:  Ed Steck is the new president of the local Master Gardener Association chapter. He engraved a new entrance sign and carved two stone benches for the demonstration garden. He also engraved a memorial stone for Sunny Hunt, an OSU Extension educator and community garden advocate who died in 2011. Steck formed the marketing and media committee, while also implementing new, popular soil pH testing clinics.

Columbia County: Shared between Lavina Patterson and John Salmon. Patterson became a Master Gardener two years ago and is involved in the demonstration garden, Spring Fair and bug crew. The bug crew revitalized an existing collection that catches the attention of children at events. Even though Salmon has been afflicted with a debilitating muscle disorder, he continues to be involved with the Master Gardener Program. He volunteers in the information booth at the Spring Fair answers questions at the Saturday Market.

Coos County: Since becoming a Master Gardener in 2005, Kathy Creason has actively involved herself with numerous committees and projects. She has been a major force at the Extension office and at the Coos Bay Farmers Market. She has been a part of the "Growin' Yer Grub" 4-H summer camp for youth for many years.

Douglas County:  Judith Mercer became a Master Gardener in 2008 and has put in more than 1,700 hours of volunteer service. As plant clinic coordinator, Mercer ensures that Master Gardener booths are staffed at the farmers market and at Kruse Farms. She attends a monthly advanced diagnostics program offered by Steve Renquist, a horticulturist with OSU Extension. She mentors new trainees.

Central Gorge (Hood River): Joint award. Mary Parrott and Nancy Slagle are co-chairwomen for the Learning Garden demonstration garden at the OSU Extension Office in Hood River. They both serve on the Central Gorge Master Gardener Association board and are enthusiastic supporters of the OSU Extension Service.

Jackson County:  Ron Bombick became a Master Gardener in 2006 and has since served as the president-elect and president of Jackson County Master Gardener Association. In this position, he was actively involved in renegotiating the contract of the Jackson County Extension agent. He has helped with the Spring Fair for several years, serving as site manager in 2011. He has served as the apprentice coordinator for two years and has been co-head gardener of the Jackson County Master Gardener rose garden. 

Josephine County: John Farias has served as an active Master Gardener since 2010. He has assisted in greenhouse operations, perennial propagation and classroom activities. He has overseen the mentor program and serves as vice president of his local Master Gardener chapter. Most recently, Farias worked with a local nursery to organize and co-sponsor a six-month project in which Master Gardeners planted 3,000 petunia baskets on display in downtown Grants Pass.

Klamath County: Mike Fitzgerald has been a Master Gardener for three years. He has served as a mentor for the past two years. Trainees said they feel he is very approachable and welcoming when they have questions. Fitzgerald is always the first to step forward for difficult or less-than-desirable tasks and volunteered more than 125 hours last year alone.

Lane County: Laura Hoover became a Master Gardener in 2009. She expanded the silent auction and since then coordinates the plant sale. After losing county funding, which necessitated moving offices, she was able to secure a place for the plant sale in collaboration with the Earth Day celebration at the Eugene Water and Electric Board plaza. Both events raise about $14,000 each year. 

Lincoln County: Originally a Marion County Master Gardener, Anna Russo moved to Lincoln County in 2010 and since has held several committee and leadership positions for the local Master Gardener chapter. She managed and expanded the herb section of the Spring Garden sale. She teaches classes on growing herbs and has assisted with the Lincoln County demonstration garden.

Linn County: A Master Gardener for two years and retired entomologist, Rich Little educates people about local pollinators and other insects. He designed, built and distributed hundreds of mason bee boxes around Linn County. Little’s engineering acumen resulted in a novel mason bee box design and entomological tools that are used by OSU researchers. He also supports gardens for low-income residents in Sweet Home.

Marion County:  Molly Petram has served as a Master Gardener since 2003 and is a constant volunteer at the Marion County Display Garden. After spending several years in the school program, she began to spend her time in the greenhouse. She served as chairwoman of the greenhouse committee from 2006-2013. She has served as the chairwoman of the plant sale and hospitality committees. In addition, she managed raised vegetable beds at the display garden, and the harvest went to the local food bank.   

Polk County:  Bill Leedy readily offers his skills, personal materials and use of large farm equipment for Master Gardener projects. Leedy has held several leadership positions in the local chapter of the Master Gardener association. He is key to the development of a new six-acre demonstration garden for Polk County, working closely with city officials. 

Tillamook County: Cammy Hickman has served as class representative, recording secretary, communications coordinator, awards banquet chairwoman, Manzanita Farmers Market chairwoman and class mentor chairwoman. She designed and currently maintains the local Master Gardener Association chapter website. This year she has worked on the Gardener’s Tea, garden tour, and north coast plant clinics. 

Umatilla: A Master Gardener for five years, Jeannette Byrnes jumps in to help anyone who has trouble solving a gardener’s question. She has represented the Umatilla County Master Gardeners at Mini-College and at the Hermiston Saturday Market. She volunteers to organize anything — on-call lists, rosters and events.

Wasco County:  Peggy Peterson has served as a Master Gardener for 10 years. She helped organize a project in which Master Gardeners work with youth detainees at the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility to teach horticulture. Peterson has also worked at The Dalles Imagination Garden for five years and on the Seeds and Soils youth education program for seven years, as well as serving as co-chairwoman for the Junior Master Gardener Program in Wasco County.

Washington County:  Marilyn Berti has served as the Washington County Master Gardener Association (WCMGA) public relations director since 2009.  In this capacity, she undertook a three-year project to upgrade signs, brochures and hand out materials that better promote the program. She has single-handedly upgraded the group’s presence in the public and has attracted new trainees.

Yamhill: A Master Gardener for 14 years, Beth Durr has served as a member or chairwoman on many committees. She is an innovator with many fresh ideas. Her interest in native plants led her and others to establish a native plant garden at the McMinnville Public Library, for example. She currently serves as head of the flower program at the McMinnville Salvation Army Community Garden.

Author: Denise Ruttan