Meet a Master Gardener Volunteer Series: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County Speaker’s Bureau

Meet a Master Gardener

Welcome to our “Meet a Master Gardener Volunteer” blog series, where we delve into the inspiring stories and impactful contributions of the passionate individuals who form the backbone of our gardening community. These dedicated volunteers bring horticultural expertise, community spirit, and a love for sustainable practices to the forefront of our Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV) program. Through this series, we aim to shine a spotlight on the diverse projects, experiences, and motivations that drive these green-thumbed enthusiasts.

At the UF/IFAS Sarasota County Extension and Sustainability (Extension) office, our MGVs have established several committees to address various projects and programs, among them is the Speaker’s Bureau. MGVs that serve on the Speaker’s Bureau offer educational opportunities to the community by providing presentations on various gardening topics. This helps spread knowledge and encourages sustainable gardening practices. This contributes to environmental sustainability and helps preserve natural resources.

Join us as we introduce the lead MGV with the Speaker’s Bureau committee in this Meet a Master Gardener edition. 

Master Gardener Volunteer Smiling
MGV Becky Coleman enjoying an outdoor paradise.

Becky Coleman is an MGV in Sarasota County, Florida. She made a list of things she wanted to do if she ever quit teaching elementary school and becoming an MGV was one of them. One of the first things she did after moving from Illinois was apply to the program. She graduated in 2019, and has enjoyed working with school gardens, plant clinics, and the Learning in Florida’s Environment (LIFE) program. She currently works as a full-time artist and is inspired by the variety of Floridas beautiful landscapes. 

Tell us something about yourself, and what sparked your interest in gardening

I grew up in rural Maryland just outside of Frederick with my 4 sisters. I spent the majority of my childhood outside taking bike rides, planting vegetable gardens, and hiking in the nearby Appalachian Mountains. 

One of my tasks in the garden was pest management. My dad showed me how to identify the yellow eggs on the backside of the leaf and how to squish them between my fingers. Every time I would go out to play in the yard I would check for pests and if there were any new vegetables to pick. It was in those summers that I caught the “grow your own food bug.” I’ve now had some kind of garden everywhere I’ve lived (even if I was in a tiny apartment in the city). There is something so satisfying about growing something you can eat. 

Tell us about the UF/IFAS Sarasota Extension Speaker’s Bureau

Float Down the Ichetucknee by Becky Coleman
Float Down the Ichetucknee by Becky Coleman

I want other people to be just as excited as I am about nature and the environment. It’s because of this that I’ve become involved in the Speaker’s Bureau. It’s my job to help organize topics that we volunteers are experts on and connect those volunteers with community organizations. We have a variety of topics that our volunteers are experts on; from vegetable gardening to palms, we teach it all. 

Anyone can request a speaker to come teach them about a selected topic. We have a list of topics available on the UF/IFAS extension website in the Speaker Request Section. After deciding on a topic, you can fill out the Speaker Request Form. We ask for information about your organization and details about the event so that we can match you with one of our knowledgeable speakers from the extension office. This could be an extension agent or one of our amazing volunteers. Either way, you’re guaranteed to get up-to-date quality education about many unique gardening topics in Florida. 

I love the outdoors and I want the people in my community to love and respect it as much as I do. The best way to do that is to help educate our community members about Florida-Friendly gardening practices so we can enjoy this beautiful paradise we call home for many years to come.







Becky Coleman co-authored this post, supplying written answers for questions posed by UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County.

Ashley Ellis, Residential Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator in Sarasota County.
Posted: March 6, 2024

Category: Agriculture, Community Volunteers, Conservation, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Home Landscapes, Horticulture, Natural Resources, Recreation, Water, Wildlife, Work & Life
Tags: Master Gardener Volunteer, Pgm_HortRes, Volunteer

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