Posts Tagged ‘search for excellence’

2017 Workshop 1st Place – 10-Minute University, Clackamas County, OR

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

A Shortcut to Gardening Know-How: 10-Minute University™, Clackamas County, Oregon


10-Minute University™ offers a shortcut to research-based gardening know-how. During 2015 & 2016, 10-Minute University speakers taught one hundred and fourteen classes serving 3,883 clients with 5,370 educational contacts. Classes and handouts are offered free to all persons.

A Shortcut to Gardening Know-How: 10-Minute University™, Clackamas County, OregonClackamas County Master Gardeners began 10-Minute University™ as short classes for busy shoppers at their popular Spring Garden Fair. In 2006, they tested the idea by offering 10 classes, each lasting only 10 minutes. Client evaluations immediately showed that the audience liked every aspect of these classes except their duration. Today, the average class lasts 25 minutes.

Every class is evaluated in writing to assess the overall class, content, presenter, and likelihood of using what was learned. Clients participate on a voluntary basis. Results are tallied, shared, and tracked over time for action.



Program Design

A strong evaluation system is just one core tenet. The other two are highly-skilled MG instructors and well-crafted take-home handouts.

Instructors are active Master Gardeners who excel in public speaking and horticultural knowledge. All are committed to research-based information.

A Shortcut to Gardening Know-How: 10-Minute University™, Clackamas County, Oregon

A two-sided, one-sheet handout accompanies each class. Its development begins with a review of extension literature and ends with review comments from Extension agents, with many drafts and revisions in between. MG volunteers do the research, drafting, revisions, editing, and publishing.

Currently there are forty-three handouts posted at





SFE A Shortcut to Gardening Know-How: 10-Minute University™, Clackamas County, Oregon


10-Minute University classes are featured at two Clackamas County Master Gardeners annual educational events. In March, Garden Discovery Day helps jumpstart the gardening season. In October, Fall into Gardening shows how to put a garden ‘to bed’.

Classes continue to be part of the Spring Garden Fair in May, the MG Speakers’ Bureau year-round, and are offered at the Oregon City Farmers Market during the summer.



A. Written Survey (upon completion of class)

Evaluations show the vast majority of clients find 10-Minute University classes an effective way to learn. During 2015 and 2016, every class was evaluated in writing by clients. The graph below shows the results.

88% of clients surveyed strongly agreed with the statement “I will use what I learned today.”

B. Longitudinal Survey (3 months after class)

Two themes emerged from their responses to the question “Have you used anything learned from those classes? If yes, would you share some specifics?”

  • First, clients used what they learned.

“I successfully deterred slugs from my new plants, planted some beautiful potted containers, and reseeded my entire lawn. I also amended my soil this year with compost.”

“The class on pollinators was wonderful! I started a new garden just for bees and butterflies.”

  • Second, clients gained confidence in gardening.

“My husband and I planted our first vegetable garden using the information given to us by this series of classes. It gave us our confidence to do things correctly, instead of trial and error.”

“Yes! You guys are my source to current gardening practices and how-to. Without you I would not have the confidence I have today.”

2017 Community Service 3rd Place – The Barn’s CommUnity Garden, Lehigh/Northampton Counties, PA

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

You might think that a garden program about community gardening would be about how, when and why you should plant particular crops. But, this program involves using gardening as a means to build bridges in our community for the well-being

whole groupof our community. When one contemplates the homeless, our veterans, and food insufficiency in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, it is life changing when those who are able become positive social change agents. My name is Dr. Robert Yoder and I have sought to be socially conscious of my neighbor far and wide serving as a short term missionary dentist in Honduras for six years, building homes on the Gulf coast post Katrina and  in a variety of short term mission trips but I felt this subtle tug that I should be doing more locally. I thought perhaps as a Penn State Master Gardener, I could weave my skill set and invite others to join me in community gardening. So seven years ago, I began to recruit volunteers and found the Christian community “The Barn”, currently worshipping at Swain School, willing to rise to the challenge.

The initiative began with a simple wonderment: “Could we create a community garden that intentionally brought people together to grow food for the hungry in our community?” Even better, “Could recipients of the food grown, participate in the very garden that benefitted them?” We began with 2 plots graciously donated by Lower Macungie Township. Three additional Master Gardeners and 40 volunteers of all experience levels signed up to help and learn. Immediately, friendships developed, fun ensued, and the satisfaction of walking alongside our neighbor, revealed we were onto something bigger than ourselves. The produce from the first year was modest in pounds (around 500 lbs.), but the community that was being built, both in the garden and reaching into center city Allentown was beyond description.

Fast forward six years and we now have 7 garden plots with active material and monetary support from our major donor, Home Depot, and  additional financial support from Tractor Supply, Emmaus Borough, The Muslim Assoc. of the Lehigh Valley, Wal-Mart, The Barn Community, Lower Macungie Township planting with the kidsand the Master Gardeners of the Lehigh Valley. In addition, we now have broader community involvement  including 7 worshipping communities and over 175 volunteers. Leadership is provided by 11 Master gardeners assigned to each of the gardens.

The 2016  initiative  included involving our veterans who too often have lost meaning in life and we find some aiml s and  homeless. Also consider, in 2012 the Department of Veterans Affairs conducted a study which discovered for 10 years running, there was an average of 18-22 veteran suicides per day in the United States. Can we use the community garden to give them a way of engaging community that offers new purpose? Additionally, we were broadening efforts of interfaith cooperation by involving Muslims, Christians and Jews, all working together in the garden to show the world a better way forward. To that end, we now have the Jewish temples Beth El and Kenneseth Israel, the Christian churches “The Barn” and “Life Church” of Nazareth along with two Muslim worshipping communities at “Muslim Assoc. of the Lehigh Valley” and  a young vital Muslim community in Alburtis all working together, building community and growing vegetables.

Last year we raised almost 4500 lbs. of fresh produce which now benefits two Lehigh Conference of Church’s social outreach ministries: DayBreak and the Soup Kitchen at 8twith tthe participantsh and Walnut Street. We hope with continued growth to make a greater impact.

Looking ahead , 2017 has more new initiatives including new involvement of a Sikh community to broaden our community building. Second, we are trying to incorporate the youth of each of these worshipping communities in three exciting ways. In Spring, in a round table sharing format, we plan to have a youth program including a potluck meal of foods of each community’s ethnic background, seedling starting, a time of sharing their favorite religious foods and holidays in their traditions. This in an effort to teach tolerance and appreciation  of the other at a young age. In Summer, we will have a week of youth involvement in direct garden care. Adult mentors will work side by side with the youth to teach gardening skills.  In Fall, in correlation with the Jewish holiday Sukkot, we will initiate a gleaning project at “The Seed Farm” with kids working side by side with folks from the center city, the very people all the garden goods go to help with the food insecurity of the Lehigh Valley.

Logistically, a typical growing season would begin with willing volunteers raising seedlings like tomatoes, peppers and broccoli starting in late February. This group of seedling growers includes folks from the center city to the suburbs. It gives the wonder of spring early to families with young children and the homeless that find shelter at DayBreak. They maintain and grow the seedlings to maturity, then help in the transplanting in one of the seven community gardens when winter finally gives up its grip in mid-May.

Weekly teams of volunteers then tend, harvest, laugh, test out a sugar pea or two and take pictures of the produce being grown. All through the process a more important thing is happening: community is being knit into a beautiful tapestry. We are working side by side to make a positive difference in our community. You know you have struck a beautiful chord when in one hand you have the day’s harvest and in the other you are hugging a new found friend who comes from a completely different life situation than you do. Imagine a Jewish woman with kids working side by side with a Muslim woman’s kids. We have indeed grown CommUnity and the forecast for this year’s growing season is one full of love and care for neighbor. We are showing the world a better way forward.

                                                                                                out in the garden workingthe producegiving instructions

2015 Search for Excellence Winners are Announced!

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Congratulations to the Twenty-one 2015 Search for Excellence Awards winners!IMGC Logo

Search for Excellence (SFE) is the recognition of outstanding projects by Master Gardener volunteers throughout the United States and Canada. These twenty-one awards were presented at the International Master Gardener Conference 2015 (IMGC 2015), Horticultural Horizons in the Heartland.Horticultural Horizons in the Heartland Logo

SFE Awards are presented every two years at the IMGC conference where Master Gardener volunteers, Extension staff and faculty gather to learn from each other, share projects and to network with their peers from around the world. Twenty one Master Gardener programs were recognized for their outstanding achievement from a field of seventy two applications, submissions from twenty six USA states and two Canadian provinces.

First, second and third place awards are presented in seven categories:

• Community Service
• Demonstration Gardens
• Innovative Projects
• Special Needs Audiences
• Research
• Workshop or Presentation
• Youth Programs

All SFE applications must show that significant learning took place. The SFE projects need to be ongoing projects for at least two years; one of the winners this year has been going on for twenty six years. The IMGC Committee judges the applications. Winning projects were chosen on the basis of their originality and creativity; practicality of the program; simplicity of replication by other Master Gardeners and their significant impact on their communities.

First place winners received a plaque and a small stipend to continue their educational projects. The twenty one awarded projects displayed posters of their projects at the IMGC 2015 conference. Congratulations to all the SFE awardees that are involved in these excellent projects.

Beginning next week and continuing over the next several months, this blog will feature stories and pictures from each 2015 Search for Excellence award winners. Watch for the upcoming postings and read about these outstanding projects.

The 2017 SFE awards nominations soon, more information will be found on the 2017 IMGC Webiste.


Apply for 2013 International Master Gardener – Search for Excellence Awards by November 1

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012


It’s that time again — the 2013 International Master Gardener Search for Excellence Award Applications are Due, November 1, 2012.

IMG Search for Excellence

International Master Gardener Search for Excellence Awards


What Are the Search for Excellence Awards All About?

The Search for Excellence (SFE)  Awards recognizes superior Master Gardener volunteer work internationally (throughout the United States and Canada).

SFE has seven categories in which Master Gardeners can demonstrate their outstanding contributions to their communities

  • Youth Programs
  • Demonstration Garden
  • Workshop or Presentation
  • Community Service
  • Innovative Projects
  • Special Need Audiences and Research

Submit a Search for Excellence Application Now

All SFE applications must show that significant learning took place, whether by the Master Gardeners or the general public. The Search for Excellence Award recognizes the highest quality within our Master Gardener programs Internationally. If you think your local Master Gardener project is outstanding, send in your application soon.

The SFE guidelines and application are posted at the bottom of the International Master Gardener’s Conference 2013 homepage. Please note these details when submitting an SFE application submission:

  • The DEADLINE for IMGC SFE applications has been extended to NOVEMBER 1, 2012.
  • We will send out notification of who has won by February 1, 2013.
  • Awards will be presented September 7, 2013 on the International Master Gardener Conference 2013 – Alaska Cruise.

Take a look at the 2011 SFE winners on this blog.  There are some very inspiring projects and I hope they will tweak your interest to send in an application or start a new project in your local Master Gardener Program.

-Patty Driscoll

Search for Excellence Award Blog Posts (Listing by Project Category)

Monday, February 6th, 2012
IMG Search for Excellence

International Master Gardener Search for Excellence Awards

In early November, Monica David, the 2011 IMGC vice president, announced we would be sharing 18 blog posts about each of the Extension Master Gardener volunteer projects that received a 2011 International Search For Excellence Award. These projects were awarded among six project categories during the 2011 International Master Gardener Conference.

Blog Posts Created New National Recognition and Discussion Opportunities

This year, blogging about these award winning projects helped bring new recognition and understanding of the value of Extension Master Gardener volunteers through pageviews on this blog, shares through our Facebook page, and retweets on Twitter.

Many of these projects received kudos in the blog’s comments section and created opportunities for Extension Master Gardeners from different states to discuss and learn about how local programs are participating in similar or different ways across the United States. To make these blog posts easier to access and find by category, we’ve grouped the 2011 International Master Gardener Search For Excellence award winning blog posts by project category and listed them for you below.

As you work toward new volunteer projects this year, you may want to take another glimpse at these posts, share these with a friend, or perhaps add your insights to the comments sections for a particular project that applies or resonates most with you….or (hint, hint) perhaps these posts will encourage your local program to submit an application for the 2013 International Master Gardener Search for Excellence Awards!

Blog Posts by Project Award Category

Workshop attendees learn how to properly construct their own rain barrels in Macon, County Iowa

The next International Master Gardener Conference and Search for Excellence Awards will take place in 2013.  For more information on the next International Master Gardener conference, see the IMGC 2013 Website or Facebook page.

Karen Jeannette
eXtension Consumer Horticulture Content Coordinator

2011 Search for Excellence Demonstration Garden Award Winner- 3rd Place

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

The Master Gardens of Carteret County- Carteret County, North Carolina

The rain garden located at the N. C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is used to teach about water quality.

The Carteret County Master Gardener’s demonstration garden project was established to address the needs of its community from its inception. Recognizing the ways in which development had changed the natural landscape, the Master Gardeners planned a series of gardens that addressed issues of rainwater capture,native plants, and vegetable garden management.

The Rain garden is part of the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores where it shares its goal of water quality education. The herb/vegetable garden is located at the Beaufort Historic Site where it provides historic education and the butterfly garden is at the Core Sound Museum and Heritage Center where native plants are kept vibrant and visible. Between these three sites, the gardens are seen by half a million people each year.

To learn more about the Carteret County Master Gardener projects visit:

2011 Search for Excellence Demonstration Garden Award Winner- 2nd Place

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Medicinal Plant Garden at the Indiana Medical History Museum- Marion County, Indiana

Medicinal plants at the Indiana Medical History Museum Garden.

The Medicinal Plant Garden at the Indiana Medical History Museum in Indianapolis was started in 2003.  With new additions of beds and plants each year, the garden now demonstrates over 100 different species that have been used for medicinal purposes, including trees, shrubs and vines as well as annual and perennial herbs.  The garden is totally a Marion County (Indiana) Purdue Master Gardener project from concept and fundraising to design, installation and maintenance.

The purpose of the garden is to help visitors remember what people did before there was a bottle of pills waiting for them at the neighborhood Walgreens or CVS – and also to help them better appreciate the amazing qualities that lie within the plants we love.  The garden is NOT meant to promote self-medication with herbal remedies.  The potential dangerous toxic side effects of plants are also presented.

Signage and an illustrated guidebook are well used educational tools

Signage in the garden provides information about each specie’s scientific and common names, its native place in the world, what parts were/are used to make medicine, and a bit about what symptoms the plant could help.  More extensive information is available in a printed and illustrated guidebook, which is also available online (  The guidebook also includes a bibliography of the references used in research for the garden.

The witch hazel tree is valued for its medicinal properties.

A wide variety of public individuals come to tour the garden and see the museum.  Classes from the nearby medical school and other universities, colleges, and schools also visit the museum each year and discover aspects of medical history that their intense modern curriculum doesn’t have time to include.

Written by Kathleen Hull, Marion County Master Gardener

To learn more about the Indiana Medical Museum visit:

For more information about the Marion County Master Gardeners visit their website at:

2011 Search for Excellence Demonstration Garden Award Winner- 1st Place

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Grassmere Historic Gardens- Davidson County, Tennessee

Visitors attend a class at Grassmere Gardens taught by the Master Gardeners.

Grassmere Historic Garden is located within the property of the Nashville Zoo.   Because of this, Davidson County Master Gardeners are in a unique position to draw people to the garden who may not have made a special trip just to look at plants.

Informational Brochures online as well as at the garden

Master Gardeners had cared for the gardens for years, but a few years ago, with a new group of Master Gardener volunteers, we made a conscious decision to take the garden from just a collection of plants and turn it into an educational setting; a real teaching garden.  We began by installing informational signs for the rose and herb gardens, but since the vegetable garden is the centerpiece, we made moveable signs since our crops change with the seasons.  As we researched our plantings, we decided to develop informational booklets on the various gardens; we have them on the medicinal herb garden, the antique rose garden, and we are now working on the second edition of the vegetable booklet.  The zoo is in the process of redesigning their website, and we have requested a page of our own so that we may post our booklets online.

With so many visitors, the volunteers within the garden are constantly asked questions.   To be prepared, we send out regular emails to the team  and then meet to discuss in detail what we are doing and why.  We get CEU credit for this, and are better prepared to deal with visitors.   And of course, since we are a demonstration garden, we are always trying different methods, and visitors are always interested in that.

Vegetable Classes Respond to Huge Public Demand

A couple of years ago, we began offering Saturday classes for two months in the early spring.  Perhaps it’s because of the local food movement, or just concerns over knowing what we eat, but the requests we received directly and from our feedback forms led us this year to really emphasize growing vegetables.  We taught separate classes on cool season crops, what to start from seed indoors, and on individual crops: tomatoes, squash and melons, corn and beans, and potatoes.    The potato class happened at the time of the first planting of that crop, so that we were able to demonstrate two different methods of planting for the class that day.    The zoo advertised the classes for us, and every Saturday morning we would have our regulars, who came every week, as well as visitors who just happened to wander by and stay to hear what was going on.

Davidson County Master Gardeners harvest the produce from their vegetable garden.

Written by Susan Hiles, Davidson County Master Gardener

For information about Grassmere Gardens and the Nashville Zoo visit

For more information about the Davidson County, TN Master Gardeners view their website at

2011 Search for Excellence Special Needs Audiences Award Winner- 3rd place

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Cookeville Regional Medical Center Healing Garden- Putnam County, Tennessee

An overview of the Cookeville Regional Medical Center Healing Garden.

In January of 2008, The Putman County Master Gardeners began work on the transformation of an unfinished drainage area between two Cookeville Regional Medical Center buildings into a beautiful four-season garden that can be enjoyed by patients and visitors. The group of Master Gardeners selected the spot specifically for its visibility. Not only do 47 patient rooms and 4 visitor areas now overlook the garden, but the garden is visible through the large, ground level windows for patients receiving chemotherapy. The Master Gardeners also designed a multi-story mural for a blank wall to extend beyond the garden that was painted with help from the community. Also, stepping stone paths were designed and were crafted and personalized by community members and hospital staff in remembrance of those with cancer.

2011 Search for Excellence Special Needs Audiences Award Winner- 2nd place

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Therapeutic Horticulture Program at Brooke Grove Retirement Village Assisted Living- Montgomery County, Maryland

Master Gardeners visit Brooke Grove Retirement Village Assisted Living residents once a month. The goal of their visits is to provide a life-enriching, sensory-stimulating, group experience for these residents through hands-on garden and nature-related activities with educational opportunities.

Many of the residents here are memory-impaired with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Some also have limited mobility, fine and gross motor skill deficits, and/or sensory deficits. Yet, all are able to participate in and benefit from these programs.

A Master Gardener teaches a Brooke Grove resident how to do floral arranging.

Sample projects include:
Butterflies –discussion of butterfly life cycle, and making of small arrangements of butterfly-attracting  flowers
Salad Box Gardening – planting of seeds and seedlings, watering and harvesting of greens
Apples – discussion of different kind s of apples, tasting, and apple print-making
Winter Evergreens – discussion of characteristics, and making of holiday centerpieces


Projects are adapted to what residents can do giving each a feeling of being successful, useful and productive. Stimulation is provided for all senses. When sensory deficits are present, strengths are drawn from, i.e. when vision is impaired the sense of smell or touch is stimulated. Plant materials for the programs are obtained from the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden and Master Gardeners’ home gardens. Recyclables are used for containers whenever possible.

Residents have shown great delight in hearing about and working with fresh flowers and natural materials. Those who can remember have commented over and over how they look forward to this, their favorite activity. (For most, this is their only direct contact with nature.) Positive social interactions among group members are frequently observed, and attendance has increased from 12 to almost 30 residents due to the successful engagement of participants and the enjoyment expressed by them.

Written by JoAnn Mueller, Montgomery County, MD  Master Gardener

To learn more about the Montgomery County Master Gardener visit their webpage at