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story.lead_photo.caption The Faulkner County Master Gardeners received two state awards recently. County Judge Jim Baker, left, was named State Friend of Master Gardeners in the individual category. The Grapevine, the Faulkner County Master Gardeners’ newsletter, received the Master Gardener Newsletter of the Year Award for programs with 51 members or more. Joyce Fiddler, center, serves as editor of the digital publication, and Meredyth Levering is the co-editor.

— In addition to Debbie Guthrie’s award as Faulkner County Master Gardener of the Year, other Faulkner County Master Gardeners and their friends in the county have been recognized for their leadership, as well as their partnership with and promotion of Master Gardener activities.

Other awards include the following:

• Dee Dee Allen and Doug Harris, both of Conway, were named Faulkner County Master Gardener Rookies of the Year.

“They are two of the most energetic and enthusiastic team players I know,” said Krista Quinn, Faulkner County Cooperative Extension Service agent for agriculture and adviser to the Master Gardeners. “If there’s a big job to be done, they’ll jump on it and do it with smiles on their faces.”

Both have worked on a variety of Master Gardener projects. They assisted with the training of new Master Gardeners, participated in community beautification projects and worked to ensure the success of the annual plant sale.

• The Faulkner County Museum was named Faulkner County Master Gardener Project of the Year.

Elizabeth Barnes of Conway, a member of the awards nomination committee, said the Heirloom Garden at the Faulkner County Museum was started by the Master Gardeners in 2005. In 2017-18, however, during the museum’s renovation, new drainage lines were put in, and the plants had to be removed and/or relocated. In the spring of 2019, after working with the museum on the design and plant list for the new gardens, planting began. The plants that survived were reintroduced, but the museum and public donations provided the remainder. Plans are being made to introduce more drought-tolerant plants that need less watering and to plant the vegetable garden using a “Native Harvest” theme with plants utilized by native peoples in this area and using interpretive signage in the vegetable garden.

“Annuals, perennials, evergreen plants, deciduous plants and native plants mingle with sculptures by local artists,” Barnes said. Master Gardeners hold public seminars on the museum grounds, which are handicap accessible. Name tags identify the plants from days gone by for students taking tours. Weddings are performed on the grounds, and many photo opportunities abound.

• Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker received the title Faulkner County Friend of Master Gardeners in the individual category.

“Although Master Gardeners had the use of the Expo

Center for the plant sale,” Barnes said, the staging-area property where plants were held and watered until the plant sale changed hands. Another more permanent area was needed.”

Baker worked with Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry to get an acre adjacent to the Expo Center turned over to the Master Gardeners for the staging area. Baker also provided a water truck to water the plants.

“The staging area has become a great asset in caring for plants prior to the plant sale,” Barnes said.

• Haynes Ace Hardware was named Faulkner County Friend of Master Gardeners in the business category.

“Brian Porterfield, manager of Haynes Ace Hardware in Conway, had given Master Gardeners the opportunity to present three demonstrations at the store in 2018,” Barnes said. “Because of this, he was approached about the store being a sponsor at the 2019 plant sale. Haynes Ace Hardware set up an area where children could come and pot a plant free of charge to give to their mothers for Mother’s Day. Haynes Ace Hardware provided not only the plants, but the pots as well. Brian Porterfield worked with the children to show them how to put the plants in the pots properly.”

Also, on four Saturdays during the year, the Master Gardeners were given the space to hold demonstrations, mini workshops and question-and-answer sessions. Barnes said these opportunities allowed the Master Gardeners a venue to educate and promote good horticulture practices to members of the general public.

Two of the Faulkner County nominees were named state winners at a recent awards ceremony held by the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service in a statewide Zoom conference. Baker was named the State Friend of Master Gardeners, and The Grapevine, the Faulkner County Master Gardener Newsletter, was named the State Master Gardener Newsletter of the Year for programs with 51 or more members. Joyce Fiddler is editor of the newsletter, and Meredyth Levering is co-editor.

“I’m honored,” Baker said when asked about receiving the state award. “I really appreciate it and really appreciate the Master Gardeners. Thirty years ago, I saw the work that the Master Gardeners were doing. My mother, the late Charlene Baker, loved flowers. And my wife, Linda Baker, loves flowers. If it wasn’t for Linda and her flowers, I wouldn’t get any exercise.”

The Grapevine is published electronically and emailed and/or mailed monthly to members and certain other “friends” in the county. Both Fiddler and Levering have worked on the publication for more than 20 years.

“We love doing it,” Fiddler said. “We’ve pretty much got it down to a science now.”

Levering said, “We have a good supply of contributors … for articles and pictures.”

The Faulkner County Master Gardeners have more than 200 members working on 40 projects, plus educational events, for the community. In 2019, volunteers worked more than 20,000 hours at projects, including five Faulkner County Library branches (Conway, Greenbrier, Mayflower, Twin Groves and Vilonia), the Legacy Gardens, the Teaching Garden, the Faulkner County Courthouse, the Faulkner County Museum and the Faulkner County Cooperative Extension Service.

For more information, call the Extension Service Office at (501) 329-8344 or visit the Faulkner County Master Gardeners Facebook page.

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