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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Volunteers make the world go 'round at Illinois Extension

a garden bed of native plants at Yost House in Pontiac, IL

Volunteers selflessly give their free time for the betterment of the community.

From answering client questions about gardening challenges, providing environmental education programs to adults and youth, removing invasive species in natural lands, or growing healthy food for those in need, Illinois Extension Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists share their passion for gardening and nature with Livingston, McLean and Woodford County community members every single day. This week we join the celebration of National Volunteer Week by highlighting our hardworking volunteers—without them, beautiful, productive, and natural spaces would not flourish in our communities. 

“Livingston, McLean, and Woodford County Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists are all incredibly passionate and wonderful volunteers in their communities. We appreciate everything they do for our organization and programs. (We) are very privileged to be working every day with such an excellent group of people” 

- Kayla Green, Illinois Extension master volunteer coordinator

Our local Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists annually give back over 10,000 volunteer hours. They currently have 30 community and youth projects throughout the three counties in addition to a variety of programs for community groups.  

Sarah’s Garden at David Davis Mansion 

A garden with a blend of historical preservation and horticulture education, Master Gardeners, mansion staff, and community volunteers have worked together over the past 20 years restoring the conditions of Sarah Davis’s garden from 1872, making this historical landmark an educational gem for Central Illinois residents of all ages. Master Gardeners share the rich history of Sarah’s Garden through preservation of a historic seed and plant collection which is also used to teach community members about seed saving. The garden is also a classroom for all ages to learn about butterflies and the importance of many historical plants that are still helpful to pollinators today.  

Yost House Gardens 

A cottage-style garden with historically relevant plants sits on the grounds of the 19th-century Catherine V. Yost House, a Queen Anne-style Victorian home in Pontiac. Master Gardeners delicately tend a garden of spring-blooming bulbs, herbs, native perennials, and nectar-rich annuals that act as host plants to local pollinators. The garden is a registered Pollinator Pocket, Monarch Waystation, and Pollinator Pathway. With a wealth of historical plant knowledge, as well as experience in current gardening practices, the Master Gardeners engage the visitors and residents of Livingston County with educational workshops in the garden and practical knowledge for gardening at home.  

ParkLands Foundation Sites 

Master Naturalists partner with ParkLands Foundation to fulfill the mission of preserving, protecting, and ecologically restoring historic natural lands in the middle and upper Mackinaw Valley watershed. These lands are dedicated primarily to preserving the biological diversity of native plants and wildlife, while also being available for the public to hike and observe or photograph nature.  Environmental education and scientific research also occur frequently at the sites.  As volunteer site stewards, Master Naturalists have spent hundreds of hours on stewardship activities including removal of invasive species like garlic mustard and invasive bush honeysuckle while also restoring the health of the lands by planting native trees, broadcasting native seed, and supporting prescribed burns.  

Photo Credit: Yost House Garden by Liz Repplinger, Illinois Extension

ABOUT THE AUTHORBrittnay Haag is a Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Her work focuses on youth horticulture education, specifically through school gardens and Jr. Master Gardener programs. Brittnay provides leadership for three county Master Gardener programs and is responsible for developing community programs and providing expertise in horticulture and environmental sciences.