- Author: Melissa G. Womack
The Hyatt Regency was buzzing with activity as UC Master Gardener volunteers learned about the latest research in home horticulture at the 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference in Long Beach. New session topics, hands-on workshops and speakers were tailored to ensure the conference met attendees' continuing education and learning needs. The social media photo wall, book signing and conference commemorative pin provided a fun setting for participants to mingle and make memories to take home.
“[The 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference] far exceeded anything I expected. It was amazing, I learned so much, and I feel a part of a bigger community now. I had no idea UC Master Gardeners were such a friendly, happy, fun and wonderful group of people. It really inspires me to stay in the program,” said one conference goer.
Welcome & keynotes
To kick-off the conference attendees were welcomed to Southern California by Keith Nathaniel, UC Cooperative Extension Director in Los Angeles County and Darren Haver, UC Cooperative Extension and REC Director in Orange County. “Southern California has so much to showcase for gardeners. We have undeniably beautiful landscapes in addition to serious environmental challenges,” said Haver. “The conference promotes citizen science in a way that makes me proud to be part of UC where I know my research reaches the people who will use it to make a difference.”
Following the warm welcome from the hosting counties, statewide director, Missy Gable applauded the program and its volunteer's accomplishments. Gable then invited participants to take the opportunity to network and build relationships across the state.
"The UC Master Gardener Program is an incredible network of volunteers, coordinators, advisors and experts from across California,” said Gable. "We were extremely excited to be able to learn together and most importantly celebrate the incredible impacts and accomplishments of our volunteers."
Two keynote speakers, Adam Schwerner, Director of Horticulture and Resort Enhancement at Disneyland Resort and Dr. Allen Armitage, Author, Lecturer and emeritus professor at the University of Georgia kept the audience inspired. Each speaker offered unique and different perspectives on gardening in public spaces and home horticulture. Schwerner encouraged each attendee to not be afraid of taking risks in the garden, and to develop a personal artistic flair that speaks to them through experimentation and most importantly having fun. Armitage shared his passion of home horticulture, offering a glimpse intro the historical foundation for various plants as well as sharing stories as sharing stories and light-hearted lessons from the field.
Sessions, sessions and more sessions!
With 58 break-out sessions and two keynote speakers there was a wealth of knowledge and experience available to all who attended the triennial conference. New this year was the option for attendees to register for special intensive sessions that offered unique or more in-depth trainings. Popular intensive sessions included, illustrated garden journaling, plant diagnostics, and Kirk Brown as John Bartram “America's 1st Master Gardener.”
Awards banquet and silent auction
Following an afternoon of inspiring guest and keynote speakers, attendees were invited to join together in the grand ballroom of the Long Beach Convention Center for the awards banquet and silent auction. Guests at the awards banquet were able to view and bid on beautiful baskets of local goods and handmade items, generously donated by local county programs and program supporters.
A special recognition and sincere thank you to the UC Master Gardeners of Ventura County for organizing and soliciting silent auction items. The silent auction was a huge success raising $7,910! All of the money raised is used to provide scholarships to UC Master Gardeners with a financial need at future conferences.
Celebrating the magic of volunteers
During the awards banquet volunteers who donated more than 5,000 volunteer hours were recognized and celebrated for their outstanding contributions to the University of California, our communities and our environment.
The magic of volunteers continued to be celebrated at the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Volunteers with more than 5,000 volunteer hours were invited to an exclusive behind-the-scenes horticulture tour at Disneyland Resort, before the park opened to the public. The tour at Disneyland Resort was a rich experience full of industry insight into design, installation and maintenance, as well as what it takes to create the perfect seasonal landscape.
Join us in thanking and honoring volunteers in your county who reached new hour milestones since the 2014 conference:
Search for Excellence & photo contest winners
The top three winners for the Search for Excellence awards: Los Angeles, Orange and Marin counties were congratulated and presented their award certificates. Rachel Surls, advisor in UC Cooperative Extension Los Angeles County, gave an inspiring presentation about first-place winner – Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative. The Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative was developed in response to the need for a curriculum for beginning vegetable gardeners in Los Angeles County.
The conference also had a photo gallery where attendees could view and vote on their favorite photo contest finalist. The last day of the conference started with a “hurray” and lots of “awwws” during the announcement of the 2017 UC Master Gardener Photo Contest's Gardeners Choice award which went to Tom Fernanz, Calaveras-Tuolumne Counties, for his adorable photo titled, “Lily and the Swallowtail.”
We hope you join us in 2020!
Many thanks to the numerous volunteer, host counties and conference planning committee members who made the 2017 conference a reality. Without their dedication and support the conference would not have been possible. We look forward to continuing the celebration of the program and the magic of its volunteers at the 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference in Northern California.
Do you have a suggestion for the next conference or feedback for this year's event? Let us know at ucanr.edu/mgfeedback.