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Search for Excellence

Search for Excellence (SFE) is a statewide competition designed to recognize outstanding UC Master Gardener projects that support the mission of UC Master Gardener Program.

“To extend research-based knowledge and information on home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices to the residents of California and be guided by our core values and
strategic initiatives."

- UC Master Gardener Program Mission Statement 

The SFE  competition is an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the tremendous talents of UC Master Gardeners from across the state. County programs are invited to submit an educational and innovative projects for consideration. 

Cash prizes will be awarded to the three highest scoring entries among seven categories:

  1. Community service
  2. Demonstration garden
  3. Innovative project
  4. Research (applied scientific methodology) 
  5. Special need audience
  6. Workshop or presentation
  7. Youth Program

Outreach and making an impact in local communities should be the focus of the entries, which will be judged by a team of gardening and horticultural experts. The winners will have the opportunity to present the projects at the Virtual 2020 UC Master Gardener Mini-Conference. 


2020 Winners

Congratulations! UC Master Gardener Programs in San Diego County, Contra Costa County, and Santa Clara County won the triennial Search for Excellence competition. In honor of their achievement, winning projects receive a cash prize to support local program delivery and the opportunity to present their projects during the 2020 virtual mini-conference.  To learn more about these exceptional projects watch their sessions below and read about them in the statewide blog.

1st - San Diego County: Reminiscence Gardening

2nd - Contra Costa County: Gardening with Underserved Communities 

3rd  - Santa Clara County: School Field Trip Program 


SFE Prize Money

SFE Dates

SFE documents released October 23, 2019

Submissions accepted January 7 - April 28, 2020


Winners contacted August 25, 2020

Winners announced August 31, 2020

Virtual Mini Conference Conference September 29 - Oct. 1

  • Brown soil with white heart pattern
    Healthy Soils Week Celebration and Learning Opportunities

    Learn and celebrate Healthy Soils Week with the UC Master Gardener Program and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Nov. 30 – Dec. 4! Healthy Soils week is full of virtual activities, at-home projects, and LIVE talks to...

    By Lauren Snowden
    Author - Statewide Training Coordinator
  • Giving Tuesday Save the Date
    Save the Date, Giving Tuesday is Dec. 1

      On Dec. 1, 2020, the UC Master Gardener Program is once again participating in Giving Tuesday's 24-hour global giving challenge, a movement about ordinary people coming together to do extraordinary things. Celebrated on the Tuesday after...

    By Melissa G. Womack
    Author - Communications Specialist III
  • UC Master Gardener Program volunteers celebrate the opening of the 'Welcome Home Garden' alongside veteran residents of the Veterans Home of California – Ventura. Pictured left to right: Non-resident veteran (in red), trainee Iveen Garland, Trainee Marilyn Lopez, Veterans Home Coordinator Linda Griffith, trainee Marsha Meeker, volunteer lead Roanna Prell, trainee Lynn Propes, volunteer Tina Van Coops, and resident veteran Jerry.
    Honoring our Veteran Gardeners

    On November 11, we recognize Veterans Day (originally known as Armistice Day), the end of World War I, and the armed forces' contributions. The stories below profile UC Master Gardener Program projects in Northern and Southern California that make a...

    By Marisa Coyne
    By Melissa G. Womack
    Editor - Communications Specialist III
  • UC Master Gardener Conference, Tahoe City, California, Granlibakken Tahoe, Oct. 2 - 6, 2023
    UC Master Gardener Conference Rescheduled for 2023

    Every three years, we look forward to connecting UC Master Gardener volunteers, staff, academics, and friends to network, learn, and share their projects and stories. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, all large-gatherings have not been possible to help...

    By Lauren Snowden
    Author - Statewide Training Coordinator
  • Edna Blackhurst
    Welcome! New Program Coordinators

    Edna BlackhurstTulare and Kings Countieselblackhurst@ucanr.edu Edna Blackhurst has been with UCCE Tulare for more than 25 years.  As the office supervisor, Edna has supported the UC Master Gardener Program since 1997 under Michelle Le Strange, farm...

    By Melissa G. Womack
    Author - Communications Specialist III

Questions? Contact: 

Search for Excellence Chair
Email: mgsfe@ucanr.edu 
Include county name in subject line for all email communications
Email checked weekly

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