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Tis’ the Season to Give Thanks to Gardeners all around!

The holiday season can be a time to reflect on the year that has passed. During this season of parties and gatherings, take a moment to slow down and reflect – what was successful, what was left undone, and what do we want to be accomplished in the coming year.

The Master Gardener program of the University of Illinois Extension serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion Counties had an eventful year. Gardeners spread the joys of horticulture through community gardens and were busy "helping others learn to grow." So on behalf of the Horticulture team, I would like to take a moment to reflect on all our volunteers' accomplishments and give thanks.

In 2014, there were 314 active Master Gardeners serving all four counties in the unit. Combined, volunteers logged 16,784.55 hours of volunteer service.

Champaign County Master Gardeners hosted over 1300 attendees at their annual Garden Walk and earned $15,583. Over 180 Master Gardeners staffed the event.

Vermilion County Master Gardeners sold 182 tickets to their annual garden walk and had attendees from 32 different towns. Volunteers earned $1,451 after expenses.

Ford-Iroquois Master Gardeners hosted a fall and spring plant share. Volunteers raised plants under grow lights in their greenhouses and divide perennials from their own gardens. Volunteers are available to answer attendee's questions. The 2014 sales raised $1,668.

The Champaign County Master Gardeners volunteers 4,452.80 hours at the Idea Garden in the University of Illinois Arboretum in Urbana. In the spring of 2014, the majority of funds for the Idea Garden Accessibility project were secured. Installation of the parking lot and sidewalk are expected to begin fall of 2015.

The Vermilion County Master Gardeners hosted the most successful Garden Day yet in March. Garden Day is an all-day event including garden themed speakers, vendors, door prizes, a silent auction, and a homemade lunch made by the volunteers on site. In 2014, 219 people attended, Master Gardeners logged 157 continuing education hours and earned $6,247 after expenses.

The Ford-Iroquois Master Gardeners share their expertise on a wide range of horticultural topics through their Speaker's Bureau. Master Gardeners present to church groups, senior centers, schools and civic organizations throughout all four counties in the unit. In 2014, volunteers served 40.5 hours teaching students of all ages about gardening.

The list of projects goes on and on. The Veterans Affairs Outreach in Danville grew substantially, Crisis Nursery gained new volunteers and added several raised beds in Champaign, Master Gardeners doubled their numbers in Onarga.

Master Gardeners were never short on giving their time, expertise, knowledge, and labor in 2014.

From all of us here at the University of Illinois Extension, thank you. Know that Jenney Hanrahan, Nicole Bridges, Trent Hawker, Sandy Mason, and I are truly grateful for all our volunteers' accomplishments. From Piper City, to Oakwood, from Mahomet to Gifford, and all those living in the "big cities" of Champaign, Urbana, and Danville, we thank you! Our 2014 season was one of the best yet, and it is all thanks to our volunteers' devotion to learn and passion to serve.

Now, allow me to channel the humor of our favorite garden guru and mentor Sandy Mason with a joyful holiday parody of "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen."

God Rest You Merry Gardeners! (An abbreviated version)

God Rest You Merry Gardeners,

Let nothing you dismay,

Remember winter solstice means,

We get more sunlight each day!

To remind of us of the coming spring,

When we'll garden all day!

O garden trowels of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy!

O garden trowels of comfort and joy!

From cold days and snowy nights,

Our hearts and hands, they ache!

We cannot wait to slop on boots and dig till hearts content!

How can Mother Nature expect us to wait till spring again?

O garden trowels of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy!

O garden trowels of comfort and joy!

"Fear not, then" Sandra Mason said

"Let nothing you affright!"

Remember Master Gardeners can garden day and night!

From planting seeds and adding plants to the never-ending wish list,

We can garden with our garden trowels all day!

All day!

O gardening with garden trowels all day!

Happy Holidays!