Master Gardeners earn 15-year recognitionThere are three individuals in Carlton County who have collectively volunteered 45 years and 1,376 hours of their time serving fellow county residents. They are Dianne Barkos and Bob and Jean Port, Carlton County Master Gardeners.
By: Sarah VanderMeiden, Pine Journal
There are three individuals in Carlton County who have collectively volunteered 45 years and 1,376 hours of their time serving fellow county residents. They are Dianne Barkos and Bob and Jean Port, Carlton County Master Gardeners.
Master Gardeners (MGs) are volunteers interested in gardening and sharing their gardening knowledge with others. They are trained by the University of Minnesota’s Department of Horticulture Science and work through the University’s Extension Service to bring university research-based information to citizens with horticulture questions. In 2011, there were 2240 MGs in Minnesota who volunteered over 128,000 hours educating the general public at schools and youth programs, community gardens and farmers markets. They also assist with research and consult with local officials on community gardening projects.
There are 18 Master Gardeners in Carlton County. The Ports and Barkos are being recognized this year for 15 years of service to the residents of Carlton County. Though all three have similar motivations for participating in the Master Gardener program, their lives as gardeners have followed somewhat different paths.
All three took the Master Gardener Core Course in 1996. Barkos drove to the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota to take the classroom course while the Ports went to Grand Rapids. Once the course was completed, they volunteered 50 hours of their time during their first year and at least 25 hours per year for each of the last 15 years. They must also complete at least five hours of continuing education each year. Collectively, these dedicated volunteers have completed 319 hours of continuing education.
All three of these Master Gardeners share a love for gardening. For Bob and Jean Port, gardening has always been a part of their lives. Bob has been gardening since he was “knee high to a grasshopper,” and back in those days, it was a necessity for his family to grow their own vegetables. Jean’s family also had many flower and vegetable gardens, and she was particularly inspired by her aunt, who was an active gardener. As a couple living out in the country, Bob and Jean had a huge garden with veggies, flowers, berries, grapes and numerous fruit trees. Since moving to town three years ago, they have established similar gardens on a smaller scale at their new home. Jean noted that once they became accustomed to eating their own produce, they didn’t want to go back to store-bought so they have established a hydroponic garden in their basement. An experienced vegetable gardener, Bob has established a successful raised bed garden at his new home and is also knowledgeable about growing iris. Jean’s area of expertise is flowers, particularly African violets, roses, and lilies.
Barkos was also exposed to gardening at an early age, as her grandparents had flower and vegetable gardens. However, she personally didn’t garden until she had an opportunity to move to the country as an adult. She “inherited” some day lily and wild asparagus gardens with her new property and thus began her life as a gardener. She considers perennials and shrubs her area of expertise and her beautifully landscaped yard was showcased during a recent garden tour sponsored by the Master Gardeners of Carlton County.
Though these three gardeners have diverse gardening histories, their motivation to becoming Master Gardeners and remaining with the program for 15 years is the same: They love to help people learn more about gardening. Barkos commented that one of the benefits of living in a smaller community like ours is that people have opportunities to share their knowledge and skills with others. Serving as a Master Gardener has been a way for her to give back to the community by sharing her passion for gardening to educate those who want to know more. Barkos really enjoys helping others learn and get excited about gardening. Her greatest reward is seeing how proud people are when they show her the gardens they’ve created.
Bob and Jean Port’s love for meeting new people and helping them with their gardens drives their desire to participate in the Master Gardener program. They particularly enjoy seeing other people’s gardens and figuring out how to help them with any issues they may be having. Through the process of sharing their knowledge they usually end up learning something themselves. One of their most rewarding projects was overseeing a lakeshore restoration project at Island Lake in Cromwell. Working with this project helped them learn more about this specific method of gardening and the plants used to effectively restore the lakeshore. Another project required them to identify each wildflower on one county resident’s acreage. Jean remarked that although this was a difficult project, it felt good to accomplish it.
All three of these experienced gardeners said there have been many changes in gardening practices over the years. It seems as though new methods, materials and plants are constantly being developed. Bob reflected that people felt they needed a big yard or acreage in the country to have a garden. Now, with raised beds, container gardening, hydroponic gardening and even vertical gardening, anyone can have a garden anywhere. The vital, constantly evolving practice of gardening satisfies Dianne’s love of learning and lately she has really enjoyed the movement toward heirloom gardens.
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