Residential horticulture is a core component of our Sarasota County Extension programs, delivering landscaping education for residents, providing consultations to homeowners associations, and coordinating the Master Gardener Volunteer program. The person responsible for leading that program serves a critical role in our office, and we are excited to announce that Donna Alese-Cooke has joined our office as our new Residential Horticulture Agent.
Donna joins us from the Cornell University Extension system in New York state, where she had many years of experience in ornamental horticulture and Master Gardener Volunteer management. She brings knowledge of volunteer engagement strategies, a passion for Master Gardener Volunteers and the impact they can have, and a strong background in educational outreach, curriculum development, online learning technologies and program design. In fact, she began as a Master Gardener Volunteer herself, before joining as staff within the New York Extension system.
Donna will draw on that experience here. Sarasota County has nearly 200 Master Gardener Volunteers who help answer resident landscaping questions through the Plant Clinic (firstname.lastname@example.org), maintain many demonstration gardens that help educate on Florida Friendly Landscaping principles, operate the Master Gardener Radio Hour on WKDW, are working on a multi-year plan for an Educational Outreach Garden in the Extension landscape at Twin Lakes Park (learn how to support this effort here), and so much more.
Donna started on May 28 and has already begun meeting with volunteers, stakeholders and reaching out to the community to get to know local issues and priorities. We are proud to welcome her to the team.