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Extension Master Gardener Volunteers Honored for Excellence in Gardening Education

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Three women display award plaques.

Extension agent Ashley Troth (center) and Extension Master Gardener volunteers Melinda Heigel (left) and Deborah Pilkington (right) accepted the awards during the International Master Gardener Conference.

The International Master Gardener Search for Excellence program recently honored NC State Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers from Durham County for their exceptional work in gardening education and Extension outreach. Volunteers received two prestigious awards in recognition of the positive impacts resulting from the following projects.

  • Education Through Social Media & Blog Outreach – Cultivating an online following and creating connections through social media have enabled Master Gardener volunteers in Durham County to reach a broader and more diverse audience with research-based gardening information.
  • Cocoa Cinnamon Demonstration Container Garden – Transforming neglected planters outside of a local coffee shop in Durham has created opportunities for Master Gardener volunteers to teach city residents about gardening in limited spaces.

Master Gardener volunteers Deborah Pilkington and Melinda Heigel, along with Extension horticulture agent Ashley Troth, accepted the awards on behalf of their fellow volunteers during the 2023 International Master Gardener Conference, held June 18-22 in Overland Park, Kansas.

NC State Extension Master Gardener volunteers have a history of receiving national recognition for their work. Other projects recognized by the International Master Gardener Search for Excellence in recent years include the Extension Master Gardener stormwater demonstration garden in Orange County and Durham County volunteers’ tomato grafting project.

The David Gibby International Master Gardener Search for Excellence is the recognition program for outstanding Master Gardener volunteer work across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and South Korea. Held every other year, the awards program invites Master Gardener volunteers to submit educational projects that result in significant learning in these categories: Demonstration Gardens, Youth Education, Innovative Projects, Special Needs Audience, Research, Community Service, and Workshop or Presentation.

Infographic with statistics for the NC State Extension Master Gardener program.

The NC State Extension Master Gardener℠ program is a statewide network of volunteers and Extension educators working in N.C. Cooperative Extension county centers and on NC State campus. Through education and outreach, we connect people with the benefits of gardening and empower North Carolinians to cultivate healthy plants, landscapes, ecosystems, and communities. 

Explore stories from our 2023 Annual Report, which celebrates our work to help North Carolinians improve their lives and grow our state.

Join, support, or connect with Extension Master Gardener volunteers in your community.