CRESTVIEW — Okaloosa County Master Gardeners consistently attract statewide attention, former Master Gardeners president Lockey Buhrow said.
“We’ve had more state awards in the last 10 years than any other county in the state,” she said.
Wednesday, a dedicated cadre of Master Gardeners organized a luncheon and accepted kudos during the latest occasion for recognition.
MORE THAN 'WEEDS-AND-SEEDS'
In 2013, extension and Master Gardener volunteers provided $357,320 worth of free services totaling 19,149 hours of volunteer time, University of Florida/ Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences-Okaloosa County Extension Director Larry Williams said.
Excluding an approximately 300,000-person weekly audience for newspaper columns and radio and TV programs, almost 103,000 residents received advice and information, he said.
“I found out you guys do a lot more than weeds-and-seeds,” Okaloosa County Commissioner Dave Parisot said. “Forget the hours; it’s the quality of what you give back to the community that matters most.”
While helping residents, the gardeners also found time to landscape the new county extension building grounds on Airport Road, growing most of the plants in their nursery.
Among honorees at the luncheon, Stacey Taylor, the group’s president, was named Master Gardener of the Year, and Lee Vanderpool received the Rookie of the Year recognition.
Faye Todd and Bob Thomas, two of the volunteers who advise residents who call the office, were honored as the year’s outstanding telephone communicators.
Karen Kirk-Williams was named Outstanding Educator of the Year for her work with the local 4-H Club chapter, and Crestview Nurseries and CVCTV proprietor Ken Nielsen received the Friend of the Master Gardeners Award.
Former Master Gardeners president Marge Stewart was honored for achieving 3,000 volunteer hours. Thomas received a 2,000-hour pin, and Bill Buckellew, Jane Montgomery and Todd received 1,000-hour pins.
Thirty-one of the 75 members were in the 2013 Master Gardeners training class.
Group members prepared their luncheon spread, earning Williams’ compliments for being “master chefs” as well as Master Gardeners.
Guests who helped present awards included county commissioners Parisot, Nathan Boyles and commissioner-elect Carolyn Ketchel; Public Works director John Hofstad; and county administrator Ernie Padgett.
BY THE NUMBERS
The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Okaloosa County Extension provides residents with unbiased, research-proven information and advice.
• Agents and volunteers taught 90,577 people in classes, phone conferences, demonstrations, seminars, web-based modules, interactive audio/video conferences and field and office visits
• Extension agents published 104 newspaper articles and aired eight TV and 104 radio programs reaching almost 300,000 people each week
• Volunteers provided 8,137 citizens with 10,300 hours of research-based information worth $192,198
• 75 Master Gardeners provided 4,237 residents with 8,849 hours of Florida-friendly home gardening, lawn and landscaping advice worth $165,122