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Extension Master Gardener Conference reaffirms value of community horticulture

Master gardener logo with flowers

JOLIET, Ill. – Illinois volunteers were welcomed to Chicagoland for the Illinois Master Gardener State Conference in Tinley Park Sept. 9 as they returned to in-person training. 

“We are excited to again gather over 280 volunteers from across the state for our annual conference,” says Candice Anderson, University of Illinois Extension state Master Gardener specialist. “This conference is our chance to recognize excellence among our volunteers and reaffirm what we at Illinois Extension already knew to be the case all along: Horticulture brings communities together.”

The conference, hosted by the Master Gardener team from Will County and coordinated by Nancy Kuhajda, Extension horticulture program coordinator, included educational sessions, a keynote address, and tours of botanical areas Northern Illinois. 

"We are grateful for an amazing conference this year and look forward to a great conference next year in Peoria,” says Anderson.

“The interactive nature of this conference, with its wide range of learning and skill building opportunities, is something I’m very proud of,” says Kuhajda. “With tours on the first day that included an exclusive behind the scenes look at the inner workings of botanical areas and amazing speakers and sessions on the second day, conference participants came away with knowledge they can take directly back to their communities and make an even bigger difference.”

Tour sites included the Morton Arboretum, Cantigny Gardens, and Ball Trial Seed Gardens. Topics of the educational sessions ranged from tree identification to information technology for Master Gardeners. Session speakers included high school educator and artist Carrie Carlson; Marshall Dirks of Proven Winners; Extension specialists Chris Evans, Dan Horn, and Diane Plewa; and Extension educators Jennifer Fishburn, Erin Garret, and Ken Johnson.

Many were recognized for community projects. 

The 280 participants represent a small subsection of over 2,700 volunteers across the state who contribute more than 137,600 volunteer hours annually to their communities and represents a time investment valued at over $4,261,470 (based on Independent Sector Illinois value of volunteer time).

Award recipients include:

2022 Outstanding Master Gardeners:

Debbie Andrews-Bryant (Vermilion County), Josephine Boyle (South Suburban Cook County), Lori Brown (DeKalb County), Janice Buscher (Sangamon County), Suzanne Campbell (Will County), Jane Chapman (Perry County), Andrea Churchill (Rock Island County), Carol Csanda (McLean County), Deanna Dyer (Saline County), Barb Gaffron (McLean County), Barbara Hannon (Macon County), Carla Haselhorst (Clinton County);

Ron Hendrickson (Winnebago County), Cathy Hiser (Coles County), Karla Kane (Peoria County), Julie Karmeier (Washington County), Dian Langenhorst (Clinton County), Diane Miller (Lake County), Carol Mills (Logan County), Loretta Neuberger (Lake County), Carol Ogle (Tazewell County), Mare Payne (Piatt County), Annette Peugh (Tazewell County), Sara Pohl (Ogle County), Ellen Rice (Tazewell County), Linda Rinaldi (Tazewell County), Audrey Rowe (Vermilion County), Gail Sanders (Dupage County), Wanda Shuler (McLean County);

Mary Ann  Sievers (Sangamon County), Jane Smith (DeWitt County), Ann Somers (Winnebago County), Hila Swanson (Peoria County), Steve Swisher (Rock Island County), Barbara Thompson (Sangamon County), My Dung Trieu (Marion County), Jerry Trosper (Vermilion County), Polly Wagner (Peoria County), Becky Wauthier (Vermilion County), Cheryl West (McLean County), Marty Yochum (Kane County), and Linda York (Boone County).

2022 Sustained Excellence Award:

Jason Baldauf (South Suburban County), Delores Brown (Tazewell County), Carol Cihla, (Tazewell County), Deb Durnal-Corso (Rock Island County), Judy Hartley (Rock Island County), Sue Hazelwood (Lake County), Sandy Knight (Livingston County), Ella Maxwell (Tazewell County), Jon McClurken (Perry County), Lucille Saunders (Coles County), Tudy Scmied (McLean County).

2022 Teamwork Award:

  • Cook South Suburban County: “Demonstration Garden at Little Red Schoolhouse” by  Paula Blunk, Josephine Boyle, Rene Celis, Sandy Cusack, Mary Noe, Mary Segal, and Mary, Lou Tortorello.
  • Ford-Iroquois Counties: “Onarga Library Landscape Project” by John Conrad, Mary Dickinson, Richard Dickinson, and Donna Siders.
  • Kane County: “Sherman Natural Prairie & Community Garden” by Kim Corbo, Monica Daily, Colleen Haas, Patsy Hirsch, Teddi Jones, Marcia Koenen, Linda Load, Carol Lussky, Kelly Miller, Peggy Ramirez, Jim Stendler, Cherryl Strathmann, Sue Styer, Susan Swing, Deborah Walters-Kaske, Debbie Wollenberg, and Mary Yochum.
  • Lake County: “Lake County Extension Rain Garden” by Kim Hartmann, Candy Jacobson, Karen Kollath, Diane Miller, Kathy Pessin, Norma Sofo, Michelle Persman, Robin Reynolds, Patricia Warren, and Mary Zorc
  • McHenry County: “Main Stay Therapeutic Garden Team” by Mary Conkling, Jane Hermans, Ann Huetter, Sue Jacobson, Colleen Leonard, Karen Liston, Pam Marelic, Betsy Meyer, Bob Murray, Helen Noskowicz, Kristin Purtill, Joann Randall, Shar Stellmach, Carol Riha, Shelley Strapon, Susan Teimer-Szydlo, and MaryLouise Uccello.
  • Peoria County: “Wildlife Prairie Park 4-H Learning Garden” by  May Bach, Joan Houser, Randy Huber, Cindy lntravatolo, Deborah Lane-Christian, Lynn Moon, and Kathy McLaughlin.
  • Stephenson County: “Krape Park Gardens” by Mary Blair, Pam Hoffman, Cheryl King, Jean Korte, Robert McDonald, Joan Oliver, Carol Pinter, MaryBeth Smith, Clay Schroll, Debbie Schwartz, and Karen Valkema.
  • Tazewell County:  “Tazewell County Health Department WIC Garden” by Michelene Koch, Pam Scott, Trudy Yazujian.
  • Whiteside County: “Program Planning Committee” by Mary Lou Angone, Shelia Carey, Cheryl Christianson, Mary Foskitt, Judy Holesinger, Deb Kuehl, Herb Kuehl, Charlin Nolan, Lu Ann Meyer, Bev Peterson, Paula Reid-Eberly, and Allison Stingley.
  • Will County: “Union School Master Gardener Greenhouse Project” by Roberta DeYoung, Maureen Fisher, Diane Hooper, Sandy Humbert, Carol Jushkewich, Sue Lafferty, Sally Skoff, Jenifer Vock, Sandy Zaban.

“These award winners represent an amazing investment in our communities by passionate individuals who give of their time and expertise,” says Anderson. “Illinois Extension and their communities are very grateful.”

For more information on the Master Gardener program, visit

SOURCE: Candice Anderson, State Master Gardener Specialist;
Nancy Kuhajda, Master Gardener, Master Naturalist, and Master Composter Program Coordinator.

WRITER:  Anthony Warmack, Communications & Marketing Program Coordinator

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.