Meet the Gardening Experts: Pamela Bennett and Mike Maddox

July 5, 2016

On July 8 at 2 PM ET, AgIsAmerica invites you to join Master Gardeners Pamela Bennett and Mike Maddox from the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Extension and the University of Wisconsin-Extension for a Twitter Town Hall. AgisAmerica recently sat down with the two Masters Gardeners to discuss the volunteer program and other gardening topics in preparation for the event.

Q&A with Pamela Bennett and Mike Maddox

  1. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with AgIsAmerica! For those who don’t know, explain what a Master Gardener is, in thirty seconds.

Mike: A Master Gardener is an extension volunteer who contributes their time in educating the public on issues relating to gardening and the environment.

Pamela: Citizens who are interested in learning more about gardening as well as in giving back to their community.

  1. As volunteer coordinator, what do you look for in recruiting? Why do people volunteer?

Mike: For this program, I’m looking for someone interested in learning and very interested in applying what they learn to make a difference in the community.

Pamela: I look for people who are community-minded and love to learn.  They volunteer for this program because it’s something different, unusual, not like working in the hospital or library.  They volunteer usually because they are retired and have the time or simply want to give back to their community.

  1. What is the Master Gardener training like?

Mike: In Wisconsin, it’s a broad spectrum of horticulture information designed to prepare the participant to answer gardening questions.  We’ve recently adopted a flipped classroom format, adding online videos for all the traditional lectures and hands-on activities for the classroom portion. Some counties add field trips and guest speakers to their syllabus.

Pamela: Volunteers take 50 hours of training through the Extension office with sessions focused on a variety of horticulture topics, ranging from basic botany, to plant pathology to entomology and more.  These sessions are usually taught by Extension Specialists in the area of horticulture.

  1. What outreach do Master Gardeners do in the community?

Mike: The last several years, Master Gardeners have been very involved in community gardens and engaging youth and families in the process of gardening, with much of the food being donated to food pantries.  The issue of pollinator decline has spurred an increase in pollinator education- including workshops and pollinator gardens.  Volunteers are also working with new audiences- I’ve completed some recent trainings to better prepare volunteers to work with veterans, people with limited abilities, elders, and the incarcerated.

Pamela: LOTS!  They are involved in numerous grass-roots projects, most generally focused on the community’s needs.  Common projects across the country include Horticulture Helplines where EMGs answer gardening questions; demonstration gardens; booths at farmer’s markets and county fairs, and community gardens.

  1. What is the one thing beginner gardeners need to know?

Mike: They need to learn it is OK to NOT know everything about gardening.   😉

Pamela: Know your soil!  Do a soil test to know what nutrients are in your soil and what might be missing.  Know how to improve your soil with organic matter.

  1. Urban gardens are becoming more popular – do you have any tips for individuals who are living in the city and looking to go green?

Mike: Before putting anything into the ground, really know the spot.  Urban conditions can be really tough for plants to grow, so it will be extra important to find the right plant for the place.

Pamela: Connect with your local Extension office to see if there is a program that can help with the management and education components.  So many times we see community gardens start up and then fail because the participants weren’t aware of the maintenance and activities needed to keep the garden growing.

  1. What tips do you have for home gardeners about maintaining food safety?

Mike: Wash your hands. Often.

Pamela: Agricultural practices including harvesting and cooling the produce as soon as possible, washing thoroughly, keeping animals out of the garden, only using manures that are completely composted, and wash hands when handling produce.

  1. What does the land-grant threefold mission of research, teaching, and Extension mean to you?

Mike: It means people can have access to new information to incorporate into their lives at all stages.

Pamela: It means getting the research into the hands of the people.  Research is nothing if it’s held on campus and in the University System.  Outreach and teaching efforts in Extension put the key research information into the hands of the people.

Follow our Twitter Town Hall with the Master Gardeners on July 8 at 2 PM ET to ask Pamela Bennett and Mike Maddox your questions! Submit your questions using #agischat, and at @agisamerica, @osuemgv, and @UWEXMG.

Mike Maddox has been with University of Wisconsin Extension since April 2001 serving as a horticulture educator in Dane and Rock counties.  From 2003 to 2010, in addition to his Extension duties, he worked in conjunction with Rotary Botanical Gardens, a 20-acre botanical garden in Janesville, as the director of education.  In 2012, he began his next phase of his career with UW-Extension as director of the statewide Master Gardener Program, where he works has a hybrid educator/administration on curriculum design, volunteer development, and program administration.

You won’t find Mike doing fanciful plant material talks, gushing on the ornamental qualities of today’s trendiest plants—he focuses on practical “how to” topics including plant propagation, garden maintenance, and pest control.

Mike graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Botany, and then earned his Master’s degree in Horticulture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He is also an ISA Certified Arborist, and has earned an AHTA accredited certificate in horticultural therapy.

Pamela Bennet is an Associate Professor with The Ohio State University and serves as the State Master Gardener Volunteer Program Director.  She is also a Horticulture Educator and Director for OSU Extension in Clark County.

Pam specializes in herbaceous ornamental plant trials and presents programs on annuals and perennials as well as other landscape topics locally, statewide, and nationally.  Pam has also lectured in South Korea and China.  She is a Clark County Park District Commissioner and is the Past-President of the Friends of the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden.



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