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Homeowners and Educators Honored at First Florida-Friendly Landscaping Awards

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The first-ever Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) Awards Celebration, held Oct. 20, recognized leaders in applying the program’s principles and in educating others on the program.

The awards were divided into two categories: seven landscape awards, which recognize the adoption of environmentally sound landscape, irrigation and management policies that include FFL principles; and 11 educational and program awards, which recognize individuals who have made exceptional efforts in supporting the FFL program through research, projects, and/or other activities.

“This is a way for us to recognize the people who are leaders in FFL principles,” said Esen Momol, director of the UF/IFAS FFL program. “Our landscape awardees have created some of the most attractive and sustainable landscapes in Florida, and our educational and program awardees ensure a bright future for this program.”

The categories and winners are described below.

Landscape Awards
  • New FFL Construction (new residential or commercial landscape): Senator Villas Apartments in Miami took the recognition for its use of wildlife-friendly native or non-invasive plants, preservation of natural vegetation, smart irrigation system, and maintenance plan that ensures continued FFL practices.
  • Commercial Landscape (commercial or governmental property): Village of Palmetto Bay, in Miami-Dade County, was recognized for its smart irrigation system, electric vehicle charging station, and use of pervious paving and pollinator-attracting plants.
  • FFL Community: Gainesville Cohousing was selected for its conceptual goals to create a cooperative, sustainable and inter-generational community. Solar panels, rain barrels, composting, and a community garden are among the neighborhood’s features. UF/IFAS Alachua County and the Alachua County Master Gardeners also contributed to the community’s adoption of and commitment to FFL principles.
  • FFL Demonstration Garden: UF/IFAS Extension Polk County’s garden showcases a variety of central Florida landscapes, including a shade garden, butterfly garden and more.

After these trees’ declining health necessitated their removal, UF/IFAS Extension Polk County turned this plot into a fairy garden, among the office’s several demonstration garden plots. (Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS Extension Polk County)

  • FFL Residential Landscape: Gina and Ken Skillings were recognized for their home’s use of plants native to the sandhill forest ecosystem, automated drip irrigation system, and adaptations made based on a soil moisture assessment.
  • FFL Mature Landscape Photo: Vanessa Hazelton submitted winning photos of her home’s FFL practices, which included incorporating existing trees into the plan, protecting the adjacent water by ensuring nearby plants don’t require fertilizer or irrigation, and installing shade- and sun-tolerant plants in their proper areas.
  • FFL Before & After Photo: Maggie Cook’s photos showcased her home’s transformation. Her lawn now utilizes slow-release fertilizers and protects a 10-foot buffer along the waterfront.
Educational & Program Awards
  • FFL Faculty of the Year: Judges selected Gail Hansen, an associate professor in the UF/IFAS environmental horticulture department, for her “tireless efforts in supporting and advancing the FFL program.”
  • FFL Educator of the Year: Judges praised Amanda Marek, UF/IFAS Extension Marion County agent, for her leadership and enthusiasm for the FFL program. Among her accomplishments are new demonstration gardens, an increase in FFL volunteer hours and outreach through workshops and garden tours.
  • FFL Educators Outstanding Collaboration: Tina McIntyre, UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County FFL agent, and Sarafaith Pekor, who is chair of the therapeutic horticulture committee for that county’s Master Gardener program, teamed up to implement a program that introduced young adults with blindness and other physical or developmental impairments to FFL principles through a hands-on demonstration garden.
  • FFL Volunteer Educator of the Year: Dale Galiano has been a UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County Master Gardener volunteer since 1997 and educates residents on FFL principles and best management practices in landscape care.
  • Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP) Industry Instructor of the Year: Martha Avila works for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and became a GI-BMP trainer in 2009. Judges recognized her efforts to form partnerships with communities, municipalities, businesses and the general public throughout the nine counties she serves.
  • GI-BMP Extension Instructor of the Year: Grantly Ricketts, UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County commercial horticulture agent, was praised for the quality of his trainings and his efforts to be available to address his students’ needs at any time.
  • GI-BMP Bilingual Instructor of the Year: Epi Carvajal works for BrightView, a commercial landscaping company, and has been teaching GI-BMP classes in English and Spanish since 2010. His classes have reached six counties and he has taught both fellow BrightView employees as well as those from other companies.
  • GI-BMP Master Gardener Instructor of the Year: David Craun, a Master Gardener volunteer in Lee County, focuses his classes on water quality and quantity and encourages good stewardship of water resources.
  • Most FFL Landscape Evaluations: UF/IFAS Extension Duval County’s 29 Master Gardener volunteers performed 100 individual site visits in the two-year award period.
  • FFL Industry Partner of the Year: Ben Bolusky, executive vice president of the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association.
  • Outstanding FFL Partner: Mike Scheinkman, Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

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The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS website at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

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