Life as a Woodford county Master Gardener

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Life as a Woodford County Master Gardener

Bruce Brown of Congerville and Linda Simpson of East Peoria both proudly boast the title of University of Illinois Woodford County Master Gardener. Fourteen years ago, Bruce was looking for something to do after retirement and had a eureka moment after reading an ad in the paper. He had witnessed his wife's love of gardening and thought the training would be a good way to spend some of his retirement.

Linda joined the group five years ago to supplement her knowledge and help her maintain a garden space for youth at Germantown Hills Middle School with fellow Master Gardener, Cathy Bandeko. At the urging of Cathy, Linda took the training because she knew that Cathy had enjoyed her training experience and she, herself, liked learning new things. Linda says she was hooked on the program because she felt there was always something new she could learn. "I love the Master Gardener's enthusiasm towards their work and consider them a wealth of knowledge."

"My Master Gardener training group was fantastic and we always had a good time together. During the training, we would meet for coffee and discuss the lessons while filling out the take home quizzes. We always got a 100% because we worked so well together," said Bruce.

Bruce has been dubbed the kid whisperer. In translation, Bruce is very popular among the elementary school students in Woodford County with the plant science program where he teaches them about growing seeds, gardening and the parts of the plants. He never has a dull lesson and the kids always remember his name. Linda also enjoys getting gardeners while they are young and philosophizes that introducing gardening at this age can promote a lifelong passion for horticulture and ecology.

Linda loves talking to homeowners and says they always present great teaching moments. She is a mainstay at the Eureka Library help desk and recently saved several trees by relaying to the homeowner, "Don't build up soil around the trunk of the tree as it promotes decay and will ultimately kill the tree." Bruce is also integral to the Library program and has helped numerous homeowners. He says that while answering questions for the public he learns more and is better equipped to solve his own gardening woes. Linda reiterates, "I don't have to know everything, I just have to be willing to look it up." Bruce concurs that a great strength of the program is to say, "I don't know the answer to the question, but I will do the research."

Both Bruce and Linda completed a 12-day training over the course of 12 weeks. These courses included learning more about trees, vegetables, insects and flowers. Uponcompletion of the training, each were asked to donate 60 hours of service over the course of the next two years. To complete their hours, they contributed to projects like the annual plant sale, Woodford County Courthouse herb garden, Eureka Library Master Gardener Programs, 4-H fairs and the Illinois Central College Horticulture department. For more information on the Woodford Master Gardener program please call (309) 663-8306 or email Brittnay Haag at