Sharing a Passion for Plants
- Master Gardeners volunteered 13,725 hours in 2012, valued at more than $300,000
- 160 Volunteers fielded 934 telephone calls, made 2,137 face-to-face contacts outside of the office, 413 in-person contacts in the office and answered countless emails in 2012
Source: Jeff Schalau; Yavapai County Cooperative Extension Director
Master Gardener Steve McIntyre had an engineering puzzle to solve – can you take a parking lot that’s bathed in shade for much of the day and turn it into a garden to feed the hungry?
Yes, you can. McIntyre and a small army of University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners turned a parking lot at the Prescott YMCA into a community garden that provided nearly three-quarters of a ton of produce to the needy in 2012.
McIntyre, a retired engineer, is one of 160 active Master Gardeners in Yavapai County. These trained volunteers spread their knowledge of gardening throughout their community.
Creating gardens, inspiring children to grow things, sharing their expertise and finding solutions to pesky plant problems are part of their calling.
“The Master Gardeners get projects done, they have fun and they are meeting a mission that is very important to them and the community,” said Jeff Schalau, agriculture and natural resources agent with Yavapai County Cooperative Extension.
Schalau said the program benefits from retired professionals who bring a wealth of skills.
Schalau and the group recently helped identify Seiridium canker, a fungus that is devastating Leyland cypress. The public is now advised not to plant the variety.
Master Gardener Sue Smith recently led a team in creating the Yavapai County Native and Naturalized Plant Database. Using her skills as a former eBay programmer, Smith and the other volunteers have photographed and described 407 plants which are searchable on the site.
Volunteer coordinator Mary Barnes connects Master Gardeners with projects. “I find it rewarding. I am working with other gardeners and they are wonderful people. Every day there is some new question coming in.”
Bob Gessner, a retired Illinois botany professor, was interested in learning to garden in Arizona when he took the 15-week course. He is now a dedicated volunteer, speaking to groups and answering questions.
“We are saving people money by keeping plants alive and helping people use fewer chemicals,” he said.