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Mary Nelson

Mary Nelson
Whiteside County Ag and Natural Resources Program Coordinator

12923 Lawrence Road Sterling IL 61081

Program Areas
Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy

Mary Nelson is the AG and Natural Resource Program Coordinator in Whiteside County.  Mary works closely with extension educators, staff, and local partners to assess local programing needs. She helps provide needed programing to serve Whiteside County in the areas of commercial agriculture, horticulture, and natural resources. 

Mary serves the commercial Ag field by providing expert advice and programs from University of Illinois Extension Commercial Ag Educators. She coordinates the annual Cattle Feeders Meeting held every Spring at Sauk Valley Community College. Additional Ag program topics include cover crops, forage expo, nutrient loss, soil fertility, crop management, mortality composting, and hemp.  Mary also maintains a Commercial Ag data base for producers to keep up to date on what is happening in the commercial ag field. If you would like to receive email notifications on Ag related hot topics from specialists at the University of Illinois, email Mary Nelson at:

Mary provides leadership to the Whiteside County Master Gardener program; working closely with volunteers to offer expanded horticulture programing. Master Gardeners provide expertise and advice for the help desk and have established demonstration shade and sun gardens at the Sterling extension office.  The demonstration shade garden won the 2019 State Master Gardener Teamwork Award. Other gardening projects include community and donation gardens, children’s gardens, and pollinator gardens. Mary also provides leadership for the Master Naturalist program, she provides direction and guidance for Carroll/Lee/Whiteside Master Naturalist as they deliver educational programs, and work with our partners on projects such as restoration of natural areas and environmental stewardship events.

Mary has established the first permanent Storybook Trail in the state. Books, which are nature related, are changed seasonally. You may visit the Storybook Trail at Kiwanis Park in Rock Falls, IL.

Mary delivers educational programs in natural resources and the environment, including a traveling Storybook trail, please contact Mary Nelson@  for book titles.  Additional program topics include Astronomy and Space Exploration, Nature Journaling, Insects, Geology, “An Artifact Speaks”, Winter Tree Identification, and other topics on request. You may contact her at: (815) 632-3611;

Mary started her educational pursuits at a local community college, earning an Associate in Fine Arts. She continued her education at Western Illinois University, earning a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Earth/Environmental Science and a minor in Fine Arts.  In addition, Mary has earned a Master’s in Education from Grand Canyon University.  She holds certificates in, Special Education, Natural Resources and the Environment, Project Wet, Project Wild, Leopold Education Project, Wildland Fire Behavior, and the Illinois River Watch Network. Believing education is an ongoing process continuing throughout a person’s lifetime, Mary seeks continuing education with the University of Illinois.

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