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Horticulture Educator Team Wins Excellence Award

Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

A team of nine University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educators was awarded an Interdisciplinary State Team Excellence Award at University of Illinois Extension's annual conference in November 2016.

The Interdisciplinary State Team Excellence Award is awarded for excellence in collaborative work to address a priority issue.

University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator from west central Illinois formed a team to address garden biodiversity with a free webinar series called "The Good, the Bad, and the Lovely Plants." Extension educators taught Illinois gardeners about garden biodiversity using four separate modules. Two modules addressed invasive qualities of common landscape plants (species of concern), and how to control them. The other modules covered plants to use instead of invasive ones, including native alternatives and the benefits of native plants to pollinators.

Due to this program, participants have started making positive changes that not only benefit their personal properties but will also enhance the environment of future generations for years to come.

Team members included Kelly Allsup, Bruce Black, Chris Enroth, Rhonda Ferree, Jennifer Fishburn, Andrew Holsinger, Kari Houle, Ken Johnson, and Martha Smith. You can learn more about these Horticulture educators and their programs at

The webinar series is now available on YouTube at



As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.

After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.

ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.