Congratulations 2020 Search for Excellence Recipients!

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Search for Excellence recognizes outstanding Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteer (EMGV) group projects that result in significant learning. We received 15 excellent applications this year, all of which represent exceptional examples of Extension Master Gardener volunteers making a difference in their community. Applause and appreciation go to EMGVs in each of the following counties for their projects that were selected for the 2020 NC State Extension Master Gardener Search for Excellence awards:

Community Service Category 

Moore County, Sandhills Farm Tour

farmer in front of rows of crops

The Sandhills Farm Tour gave visitors the opportunity to interact with local farmers.

Held annually since 2017, the Sandhills Farm Tour gives the public special access to a selection of Moore County farms that participate in local food production. The tour is planned and managed by EMGVs and offers people the opportunity to connect with farmers, learn about their products and methods, and in turn, increase support of locally grown food. In 2019, twelve farms opened their gates, attracting over 1,000 visitors from the Sandhills region. By organizing this tour, EMGVs serve as a conduit between the public and the farms that are significant contributors to the environmental and economic viability of Moore County.

Demonstration Garden Category

Orange County, Courthouse Stormwater Demonstration Garden

garden bed in parking lot

Stormwater Demonstration Garden at Orange County Courthouse

EMGVs turned a problem area into a rewarding group project for the 2018 EMGV class. It all started with a frustrating area in the Orange County courthouse parking lot, where stormwater regularly washed out soil and silt. With careful planning and research, EMGVs designed and installed hardscape and plant materials that work well together to improve drainage, reduce silt runoff, and beautify a previously unattractive median strip. Recently installed interpretive signage explains how homeowners can use similar strategies for problem-areas in their yards.

Innovative Project Category

Caldwell County, Cooking with Bounty II Event

cooking event

Cooking with Bounty II Event at Unity Park and Community Gardens in Lenoir.

While a bountiful garden is joyful, EMGVs recognize that at times, it can be challenging to know what to do with all those squash and peppers! Luckily, the Cooking with Bounty II Event came to the rescue offering cooking tips, tastings, and recipes. Hosted at the Unity Park and Community Gardens in Lenoir, EMGVs demonstrated how to prepare delicious and nutritious dishes from fresh produce whether grown at home or purchased from a farmer’s market or grocery store. They also taught storage and preservation techniques to make the bounty last longer.

Workshop/Presentation Category

Mecklenburg County, Gardening Series with the Matthews Library


EMGVs organized a speaker series at the Matthews Library

EMGVs widened the reach of their gardening lecture series by partnering with a branch of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system. Hosting the lectures at the library attracted a wider audience and enabled EMGVs to utilize library audiovisual equipment, and benefit from the library’s publicity and event sign-up system. EMGVs were also able to guide participants to library resources available on the subjects covered. The series served as an educational experience for the 175 attendees, but also the EMGVs who prepared and delivered the lectures.

Youth Category

Onslow County, Growing Minds Program

children listening to teacher

Third graders in Onslow County learn about pollination through the Growing Minds program

Educational programs led by EMGVs for third graders in Onslow County schools have been expanded due to popular demand. The Growing Minds program provides stimulating, practical, and memorable lessons about nature to help bring science concepts to life. Now offered in both spring and fall, EMGVs host the students at the Discovery Gardens, located at the N.C. Cooperative Extension Onslow County Center for a half-day of interactive, science-based fun. Activities teach the students how to lead safe and healthy lives while serving as good stewards of their environment.

Banner - Search for Excellence - red

Applications were judged by a team of Extension Master Gardener volunteers based on the following criteria: Simplicity (10 points), Relevance (10 points), Creativity (10 points), Compatibility with Extension’s Mission (20 points), Completeness of the Application (20 points), Significant Learning (20 points), and Number Impacted (10 points). The project with the highest score in each category was selected as the recipient for that category. No entries were received for the Special Needs Audience Category or the Research Category, giving us recipients in five of the possible seven categories.

Recipients receive $200 to support their local EMGV projects and outreach. Search for Excellence awards are funded by interest income from the NCEMG Endowment, which is supported by the purchase and renewal of the Extension Master Gardener license plate and donations by Master Gardener volunteers, county EMG groups and associations, and friends of the EMG program.

Sincere appreciation is extended to all Extension Master Gardener volunteers and Extension agents for the work they are doing across North Carolina to share sustainable, science-based gardening information in their communities.