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2013-03-06 / Calendar

Spotlight on: Master Gardener Association of Lapeer County

LAPEER COUNTY — If you’ve ever enjoyed the display garden at Lapeer County Medical Care Facility, the Butterfly Garden at Seven Ponds Nature Center, or many other horticultural assets to the community, you’ve enjoyed the work of a volunteer Master Gardener.

The Master Gardener Association of Lapeer County boasts more than 100 volunteers who spent 5,500 hours last year making the community a beautiful place to live.

“It doesn’t matter where you garden,” said Mary Paine, chairperson for the display gardens, “people will appreciate it.”

Residents of the county have many opportunities to appreciate the hard work of the Master Gardeners. From educating students on all things horticulture, to beginning programs for community recycling, the Master Gardeners show their dedication to making life better in Lapeer County.

“We are dedicated to improving the quality of life in Michigan, teaching people, and setting an example,” Paine said of Master Gardener Associations in the state.

One way they help improve life is through their plant plastic recycling program. Several nurseries have coordinated with the Master Gardeners and are now drop off sites for empty plastic from plants. Volunteer gardeners then pick up the plastic for recycling. Campbell’s, American Tree, and Davlin Farm all participate in this program.

Master Gardeners may help eliminate waste from the community, but they give back funding by supporting community programs such as the Future Farmers of America. They buy flowers for their seasonal projects from the FFA every year.

It’s not just money that they give for educational purposes. Volunteers have spent time this year teaching students at the Eastern Michigan State Fairgrounds for a half-day of farming and other agricultural activities, sponsored by the Farm Bureau. And education is just one way they better the community.

Aside from the display garden at Suncrest, volunteers also maintain a garden for Alzheimer’s patients. Paine said the area is gated and residents can relax and enjoy the nostalgia that comes with a garden.

“When you’re in that condition,” she said, “sometimes scents will bring back positive memories.”

According to Paine, it is dedication to bettering lives that sparks a passion for gardening.

“Gardening is fun and so satisfying,” she said. “And families and residents at Suncrest really enjoy what you’re doing.”

Members of the Master Gardener Association are not just hobbyists or light gardeners, but certified through hours of education and volunteer service.

To become a Master Gardener, a 14-week training class is required. The regiment consists of four hours per week for 14 consecutive weeks where students learn about many topics relating to horticulture. After completion of the course, new members must complete 40 hours of community service within the first year to become a certified Master Gardener.

To raise funding for their many volunteer projects, the Master Gardeners host several events throughout the year. This year the annual garden tour will be on July 27. Anyone who purchases a ticket is given the opportunity to tour nine gardens throughout the community that are owned or operated by Lapeer County Master Gardeners. Just two weeks prior the gardeners are hosting their annual tea at the display gardens, which is one the biggest sources of fundraising for the association.

“Everything (monetary) we receive goes back into the community,” Paine said. “It goes back into the community projects.”

While members of the association are passionate about the community, Paine said gardening is personally satisfying as well. She herself became a gardener because she loved working with people, she said, and also for how peaceful it is when she’s alone.

“I like to be out in the garden just listening to the wind and smelling what’s going on (in the garden).”

Many projects were fulfilled within the 5,500 hours of volunteer service completed by master gardeners including demonstrations on composting, education on plants and conservation, as well as many hours spent just being available to answer questions. Volunteers often spend summer days at the local Farmers’ Markets answering any inquiries customers have about plant life.

Paine herself has been a member for six years and said she has enjoyed every minute.

“Time really does fly when you’re having fun.”

For more information on how to become a member, visit www.msue.msu.edu.

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