Sunshine, beautiful gardens, space to play, and educational activities make for a great day. Those are the key elements University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners had in mind as they planned the second annual Young Garden Explorer’s Day at Illinois Central College (ICC). This year’s event almost tripled in attendance with 112 youth and adults exploring the gardens.
There is no better place to learn more about gardening than in the garden.
When Therkildsen Field Station at Emiquon requested assistance with renovating their landscaping, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners (EMG) Carla Presnell, Allie Goudy, and Lisa Davis stepped in to help and brought their knowledge of native plants with them. The team created a native plant demonstration garden that will educate visitors and provide ecological benefits and beauty.
For many years, University of Illinois Extension has utilized social media to share educational content. Last year, the state horticulture team started the Illinois Extension Horticulture Group on Facebook that has taken this approach to the next level. Extension educators across the state synergize their areas of expertise to moderate the group and provide information and resources to thousands of people.
Horticulture has been a part of Tara Heath’s life since she was a little girl. After a 20 year career focused on landscape management, Tara has joined the University of Illinois Extension team as the horticulture program coordinator serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties.
Many Illinoisans enjoy adventures in the woods in search of mushrooms, typically in the spring. Participants in the recent Mushrooms of Illinois webinar, or those who watched the recording, learned from Dr. Andrew Miller that mushroom hunting can be done year-round. The University of Illinois Extension webinar reached over 150 guests during the live session and in the first six months the video recording was viewed 2,100 times.
Nicole began her career with University of Illinois Extension in 2019.
“As an agriculture and natural resources educator, I help provide information about growing plants and natural resources. Trainings, answering homeowner questions, and supporting master volunteers are all ways that I can deliver up to date, researched based information.”
University of Illinois Extension staff from horticulture, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education (SNAP-Ed), and 4-H teamed up to provide training to teachers, administrators, parents, and master volunteers with the goal to help them understand how to start and maintain a school garden. The four-session series, held October 2019 through March 2020 attracted 20 people from 15 different organizations.
The nationwide Extension Master Gardener (EMG) program began in 1972 when the Washington State Horticulturalist recruited and trained volunteers to help him answer the high volume of calls from the public about gardening. From there the program expanded in scope and grew across the country, but answering the public’s gardening questions is still at the heart of what EMGs do.
Eight University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener (EMG) trainees in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit showed up on two chilly days in March at the Peoria Zoo as part of a new approach to official EMG training. It was the beginning of an 18-hour long volunteer skills training program.
Four Seasons Gardening Webinar has been an important state-wide program offered by University of Illinois Extension for over two decades. Using technology, Extension horticulture educators are able to teach current horticultural information to a broad audience in Illinois and beyond. Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle, horticulture educator serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties recently presented her first Four Seasons Gardening Webinar.
Highly trained Master Gardeners from University of Illinois Extension serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties enhance local communities and bring horticultural awareness and knowledge to hundreds of area residents. In recognition of this impact, a team of Extension Master Gardeners, and other volunteers, at St. Jude Parish Catholic Church and School received an award from Keep Peoria Beautiful, the local affiliate of the national Keep America Beautiful organization.
Within a matter of days, the compost workshop offered by University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit filled to capacity. Composting is a “hot-topic” literally and figuratively. Duane Friend, Extension energy and environmental educator, along with Dr. Paul Walker, retired Illinois State University professor taught 35 people the practical application and the science behind composting at a workshop held in March at the Tazewell County office.
University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit is pleased to announce Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle, of East Peoria, has joined the team as the new horticulture educator. Her new role will include a wide range of horticulture programs, educational resources, and overseeing the unit Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs.
“Attending the Master Naturalist training last year was one of my favorite educational experiences,” mentioned Nicole. “It is exciting to be working with that program in my new position.”
The work being done through University of Illinois Extension programs and partnerships in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties is recognized for its positive impact at many levels through the University system. College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) dean, Kimberly Kidwell, recently returned for her second unit tour, along with the new Extension director and associate dean, Shelly Nickols-Richardson. The duo spent the day learning about a few of our programs, engaging with unit staff, and networking with volunteers, 4-H members, and partners.
The 156 University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners (MGs) who live in communities across the four counties of our unit are not waiting for the warm weather to arrive to begin their gardening activity. Planning meetings, new project proposals, educational opportunities, and special events are some of the activities our volunteers have been doing throughout the winter months.