UC Master Gardener Program
University of California
UC Master Gardener Program

UC Recognizes Outstanding Master Gardener Projects ‘Search for Excellence’ Awards

Congratulations to the 2017 UC Master Gardener Search for Excellence winners! UC Master Gardener Programs in Los Angeles, Orange and Marin counties are the top three winners of the Search for Excellence competition. The triennial Search for Excellence coincides with the 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference taking place Aug. 22-25 in Long Beach, Calif. 

The three winners were selected from a field of 27 outstanding entries, representing counties from throughout the state. The overall high quality of the projects submitted for review demonstrate the commitment that UC Master Gardener volunteers have to fulfilling our mission to extend UC research-based knowledge and information on home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices to the residents of California. Congratulations to all that participated!

The winners are!

First Place, $1500 award:
Los Angeles- Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative

UC Master Gardener staff and volunteers in Los Angeles County noticed that the UC Master Gardener helpline was receiving more calls from beginning vegetable gardeners, reflecting a new trend documented by the National Gardening Association. In response to this trend the Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative was created to meet the needs of beginning vegetable gardeners. Using a curriculum developed by staff, UC Master Gardener volunteers lead the four-session workshop series at community sites including libraries and schools. First piloted in 2010, the Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative became popular with volunteers and participants alike. UC Master Gardeners lead more than 20 series annually. To date, more than one hundred UC Master Gardener volunteers have led or assisted 229 four-week classes at 40 community partner sites. This project has reached 3,140 participants to date.


Second Place $1000 award:
Orange County – Radio Show: In the Garden with UC Master Gardeners

UC Master Gardeners of Orange County host a weekly radio show on a multitude of garden-related topics targeted at the general public. The goal of the show is to distribute UC research based gardening, pest control, and water use best practices in an entertaining, season appropriate and informative manner. In the Garden with UC Master Gardeners reaches a population of more than 1.5 million people. The show is broadcast on the UC Irvine public radio station every Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. from the on-campus UCI radio studio; however, podcasts (digital audio files) of each show are available on-demand on the UC Master Gardener Program of Orange County public website. Clientele enjoy this easily accessible method of getting gardening information and expert tips.


Third Place $500 award:
Marin County – Dig it, Grow it, Eat it

Dig it, Grow it, Eat it is a two part portable field trip that engages school-age youth in learning about garden ecology and interdependence. UC Master Gardeners of Marin County lead learning stations that focus on growing edibles from seed to harvest. Students learn about edible plant parts, seed science, propagation, soil science, and pollination. These concepts teach and utilize mathematical skills and botanical concepts including germination and dissection. UC Master Gardener volunteers meet with classroom teachers before and after the field trip to help them learn about the science on display and conduct follow up lessons back in the classroom. Evaluation shows that Dig it, Grow it, Eat it increases knowledge of growing edibles, scientific method, healthy eating, happiness in gardens and the diversity of plants.

First Runner-up:
Amador County - Multiple Youth Programs

In response to inquiries from local schools and community groups asking for UC Master Gardener volunteers to provide hands-on garden education for youth Amador County UC Master Gardeners launched three successful youth programs. To address this need for youth education volunteers began assisting with field trips, public classes and a 4-H project. The program goal was to reach 200 young people in 2015 and have every 5th grade class in Amador County offer a field trip to a local farm. UC Master Gardeners collaborated with a variety of locations throughout the county including the UC Cooperative Extension office and teaching garden, Amador County Fairgrounds for Farm Day and Hundred Acre Farm. UC Master Gardeners partnered with local schools, Farms of Amador and the 4-H Youth Development Program.

Second Runner-up:
Ventura County - Asian Citrus Psyllid Action Team Model

In response to the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) threat, the UC Master Gardeners of Ventura County created an outreach and education program that includes speakers. ACP and the Huanglongbing (HLB) disease that it vectors has the potential to destroy the citrus industry in California; which produces 41% of all citrus grown in the United States, generating in excess of $3.4 billion in revenue. Through partnering with local agencies and taking advantage of speaking events UC Master Gardeners are distributing printed ACP/HLB information as well as attending neighborhood meetings to educate the public.

About us

The UC Master Gardener Program provides the public with UC research-based information about home horticulture, sustainable landscaping, and pest management practices. It is administered by local UC Cooperative Extension county-based offices that are the principal outreach and public service arms of the University's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).

The UC Master Gardener Program is an example of an effective partnership between the UC Division and passionate volunteers. In exchange for training from the University of California, UC Master Gardener volunteers engage the public with timely gardening-related trainings and workshops.  With programs based in 50 California counties and 6,297 active members, UC Master Gardener volunteers donated more than 328,540 hours last year and have donated more than 5 million hours since the program inception in 1981.


Posted on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 9:26 AM


These are outstanding winners that are an inspiration to us all. There will probably be offshoots of these programs throughout the state in the coming years. Congratulations to all of the winners and runners-up! Well done!

Posted by Pat Skjervheim on August 10, 2017 at 4:45 PM

CONGRATULATIONS to the top winners!  
The recognition received for your impressive volunteer efforts in your community is well deserved.

Posted by Linda Haque on August 10, 2017 at 8:32 PM

Kudos to the winners on your well-deserved accolades!

Posted by Linda Haque on August 16, 2017 at 5:23 PM

I met a member of a county that uses a "passport" system for new master gardeners to get them engaged after training. Does anyone know which county this is?

Posted by Cheryl Cozad on September 24, 2017 at 10:15 AM

These are great projects. They are giving me some wonderful ideas.

Posted by Paul C Ronjoin on September 25, 2017 at 6:27 PM

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