Master Gardener of the Year honored at banquet

The Highlands County Master Gardeners held their year-end banquet at the Island View Restaurant Monday evening, and installed their new officers. They also honored some Master Gardeners that excelled at volunteering this year. Judi Bentley took home the top honor of Master Gardener of the Year. Judi’s work with our Garden Festival and Plant sale, education committee, and numerous other project and was a big reason for success of these programs. In the last year and a half, Judi volunteered over 650 hours as a Master Gardener and made many contributions. Other Master Gardeners were honored for the number of hours they contributed while outgoing officers were acknowledged and recognized for their contributions. Five Master Gardeners received their 10 year service awards. These awards are recognition by the Florida Master Gardeners. Those included Hal White, Susan Fleet, Angelo Verderame, Marilyn Wilkin, and Betty Gwinn.

Judi Bentlye holds her Master Gardener of the year award.
Judi Bentley received the top honor of Highlands County Master Gardener of the year at the Master Gardener’s Annual year end banquet. Photo by Bob Lee
Successful Festival

The Annual Garden Festival and Plant Sale, which was November 16th this year, was our most successful to date. Thanks to the hard work from many individuals. Our informative booths, 67 vendors, classes, silent auction and raffle made it a unique garden happening. Master Gardeners also grew many unique plants throughout the year that they sold at the festival. Last year the Master Gardeners handed out $5000 in scholarships to local high school and college students pursuing degrees in agriculture. This year they will likely do the same with funds that they raised. The Garden Festival and Plant Sale will be on November 21st of 2020. Watch some Festival Highlights here!

Improving our community

As well as raising money for community projects, the Highlands County Master Gardeners operate a help desk to assist the public with horticulture related questions. They can be found at the University of Florida/IFAS Extension office in the Bert J Harris Jr Agricultural Center at 4509 George Blvd, on US 27 south of Sebring. Master Gardeners can be found at most local festivals, sharing their knowledge and giving out information. One of the Highlands County Master Gardeners premier programs is training inmates at the state run Avon Park Correctional Institute. The training is as a Horticulture Professionals through the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscapers Association (FNGLA). Also, inmates are trained as Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP) applicators acredited by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). The two certifications are meant to give participants an opportunity to find careers after their time as inmates is over.

Master Gardener Presidential Smith Stands with Highlands County Master Gardener Coordinator
Master Gardener President Gary Smith (L) stands with Highlands County Master Gardener Coordinator, David Austin (R). Gary received recognition for serving two consecutive years as Master Gardener President. Photo by Mary Smith
Become a Master Gardener

Taking a nine week Master Gardener training is a requirement to become a Master Gardener Volunteer through UF/IFAS Extension. Master Gardener Class will start in Highlands County on the Saturday, January 25th and then be every Wednesdays until the end of March. For more information on how to become a Master Gardener or to find out about our monthly classes, email You can also stay in touch with all of our Extension Programs on Facebook at my Hometown Gardener Page.

Keep in touch!

Sign up for our Master Gardener Newsletter Here.

Join our Facebook groups, Highlands County Master Gardeners, Science Based Florida Gardening Answers, Central Florida Butterfly and Pollinator Club, and Heartland Beekeepers.

Read my other blogs by clicking here.

david austin
Posted: December 20, 2019

Category: Agriculture, Community Volunteers, Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Garden Festival, Gardening, Highlands County, Highlands Horticulture Digest, Hometown Gardener, Master Gardeners

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