MSU Extension Recognizes Extraordinary Master Gardener Projects

 EAST LANSING, MI - The MSU Extension Master Gardener Program recently added a new recognition program to highlight Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteer work impacting communities throughout Michigan.

The Extraordinary Project Search (EPS) Program is designed to recognize outstanding group projects that demonstrate significant learning taking place. EPS is a coordinated effort to share ideas with EMGs and communities across Michigan.

EPS has seven categories in which EMGs can demonstrate their extraordinary contributions to their communities including youth, demonstration gardens, workshops or presentations, community service, innovative projects, special needs audiences, and applied research. EMGs submitted their volunteer project for recognition by application and poster. Judging took place by a committee throughout Master Gardener College to recognize first, second, and third places. Additionally, EMGs were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite project to be recognized as the peer preferred project of the year.

In its first year, there were 14 applications with posters submitted from Benzie, Clare, Genesee, Gladwin, Macomb, Saginaw, and Washtenaw counties.

Congratulations to the winners of the first MSU Extension Master Gardener Program 2016 Extraordinary Project Search competition!

First Place Winner: 4-H Garden at the Washtenaw County Youth Center

Second Place Winner: April Millsap Memorial Project in Macomb County

Third Place Winner: John C. Mackie Welcome Center in Clare County

Peer Preferred Project: Crossroads Village in Genesee County

 For more information about the Master Gardener Program or to learn how to become an Extension Master Gardener volunteer, contact Mary Wilson, at or visit the website at


  From left to right, rebecca finneran, dan benarcik, barbara balgoyen, Mark dwyer and mary wilson.

From left to right, rebecca finneran, dan benarcik, barbara balgoyen, Mark dwyer and mary wilson.

2016 Plants of Distinction- A Gathering of Plant Geeks!
Nearly 400 enthusiastic plant lovers convened on February 3-4 for an illuminating “immersion” of plant information illustrated by scintillating images.
Keynote presenter Dan Benarcik, of Chanticleer Gardens inspired everyone with his garden photography from the new Chanticleer book entitled “The Art of Gardening.”  Aptly named, the book will soon be a favorite as it combines the best of horticulture with creative design features of one of the nation’s classiest public gardens!

Mark Dwyer, Director of Horticulture of Rotary Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin was equally motivating.  His attention to details for both annuals and woody shrubs allowed participants to learn not only dozens of new plants but also the maintenance requirements for most.
West Michigan’s own Barb Balgoyen of Walter’s Gardens gave a stirring finish to the day with a look at emerging perennials for our gardens.  Barb’s 35 years of gardening with these beauties allowed her to embellish the images with her personal experiences.
Of course the stirring presentations left us wanting more, but alas—we will have to wait one more year for the next Plants of Distinction!!  Thank you to all who came- Mary Wilson and Rebecca Finneran

Profiles of the three new board members follow:


Ike Prangle was a senior development engineer at Motorola and was responsible for managing both personnel and development projects. He has been a technical support engineer who trained service engineers in software and hardware installation and maintenance.  Ike is involved in fund raising for various non-profit organizations.  He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Mendon Township Library, which is an historic Carnegie Library and the State Strategic Visioning Committee for the Master Gardener Program.

Colleen Petersen received her Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology and Spanish with a minor in Statistics from Grand Valley State University and her MBA from University at Albany - SUNY with an emphasis in IT Management. She owns Petersen Consulting Group, LLC and  GrailWorks.  Colleen served on an advisory team for Voyage Church in Wyoming, Michigan. The advisory team acts as a board for startup churches in the Wesleyan Church. Currently Colleen is President of the West Michigan Master Gardener Association and serves on the State Strategic Visioning Committee for the Master Gardener Program.

Diana Zeimen has a degree in Computer Information Systems, with a second major in Accounting and an MBA.  Her background is in planning, organizing, and research. She served as treasurer on the Sunrise Gardening Club board for several years. Currently Diana is serving on the Alcona Master Gardener Association board and on a committee for the State Master Gardener  Strategic Visioning Committee.

Retiring board member Carey Loveland played an integral role in helping develop the MMGA’s By-Laws, SOP and many other documents.   She continues to serve on the State Strategic Visioning Committee for the Master Gardener Program.