In March, our very own Tracey Fojo (mother to our associate editor, Georgia), graduated from the Seminole County Master Gardener program. Despite being a longtime avid hobbyist gardener who has “gardened a good bit in life,” she sat on the idea of joining for several years.
But now that Tracey, a native of Trinidad, is an official Master Gardener, she couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the program and all that she’s learned. “I’m coming to understand where we live now in a whole new way through gardening,” she shares.
Since going through the program, Tracey is amazed at how gardening and landscaping develop latent qualities of creativity, sensitivity, and care. Tracey claims “I like being a part of long-term awareness - what it takes to be Florida friendly,” but also feels the freedom to experiment with non-native plants she also enjoys in order to create visual and color interest in her garden all year round. She says with a laugh, “Be true to what you like. You’re going to go home and do what you want anyway!”
After completing the 75 hour program, Master Gardeners give back to the community by engaging in monthly community service hours. Tracey has worked on several local gardens as well as regularly volunteering at the Extension Office.
Here are a few of Tracey’s thoughts on what she’s learned and the ways she’s gotten involved:
I'm usually at the Help Desk on a Tuesday afternoon at the Extension office. In essence, it's a plant clinic where the public can access the help of the Master Gardener with any basic horticultural problems or questions he or she may be experiencing. Clients can also call in as part of the service. It's a good facility and we are there as trained volunteers to uphold the motto "Helping people to help themselves."
Sometimes having to face the public at the Help Desk can be a daunting experience, but with the help and advice of our trainers and the veteran Master Gardeners around, in time, a newbie like me will be able to recognize the problem and with confidence offer some advice. That takes time. If we're stumped to answer a question, we've been trained to calmly say, 'I don't know, but I'll get back to you!’ What a wonderful thing! Or I dash into the office and have Kaydie come out to help - she's the residential horticultural agent and pro.
In March, the newly-graduated class was put to work helping run the March Expo at the Extension office where I met and observed the more seasoned Master Gardeners at work, finding answers and generally spreading enthusiasm. Not to mention how much I absorbed in just one day! Many varieties of plants were on sale, short talks on specific topics available, food, a butterfly garden and many more attractions. Try and visit in 2018!
This past spring, a team of Master Gardeners, including myself, worked our booth to distribute information about the services offered to the public at the Extension Office at the City of Altamonte Springs Earth Day Celebration at Lake Lotus on Saturday, April 22, 2017. Past experiences indicated over 2,000 patrons attended. It was very well organized and we were delighted to also plug the nine principles of Florida friendly gardening, a must for anyone living in Central Florida and actively gardening
Part of our ongoing involvement is to attend the monthly meeting that keeps us up-to-date on events and training. A guest speaker usually opens the morning session, providing an opportunity to further educate us as a group which we can then share with our community. Here, our Master Gardeners enjoy coffee and treats, share recipes, plants and knowledge. How can you beat that?
I've enjoyed taking the Master Gardener course and have found it to be a most unique program. It's true that the idea of having to learn the quantity of new material was a bit frightening, yet by some miracle I pulled through and earned the badge! As we progress, it is my full intention to keep on improving, helping, listening, and learning. In the few months since we graduated, I've met many interesting people. The program has piqued my interest in unexpected ways and I've made new friends.
Most of all, when I haven't a clue how to answer a question, I pull out a favorite line from our graduating class of 2017 - "Ok ...it depends!”
To anyone reading this blog, you can do it, too! Happy Gardening!
~ Tracey Fojo
* Group photo above: Kaydie McCormick, Horticultural Residential Agent, Tracey Fojo and Master Gardener Cindy pose with a client coming for a plant consultation at the help desk.
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