Master garderners exhibit diversity


he Minnesota Master Gardeners held their annual conference in September at the newly renovated University of Minnesota’s Landscape Arboretum. The theme of the garden was “Diversity of Gardening,” and featured lesson in Hmong growing techniques and tools to mainstream gardeners.

This year’s conference was among the most successful of the 25 annual events, drawing nearly 350 Master Gardeners from across the state. There were several concurrent sessions on caring for shrubs, storing vegetables and garden insect pests, and more.

The keynote speaker was Juan Moreno, a renowned University of Minnesota diversity specialist, who praised the crowd for an impressive level of knowledge and expertise. He encouraged them to accept the challenge to find ways to share their knowledge with Minnesota’s diverse communities.

Jeunge Yang-Gallego, a community gardener and local Chaska resident shared information about the Carver County’s celebrated Immigrant garden program in addition to sharing her experiences gardening traditional Hmong produce.

The Immigrant program was first organized by former Carver County Commissioner John Siegfried with assistance from John Sandholm, Carver County Farm Service Agency. Over its past eight years, the project has served well of 100 families from many ethnic backgrounds including Hmong, Sudanese, Lao, Mexican, Salvadorian, Kenyan and Nigerian.

Ms. Yang-Gallego and Mr. Siegfried coordinate the program currently winding down its 8th year. Yiming Vu who works for the Minnesota Food Association, the program’s fiscal agent also provides program support.

The Master Gardeners loved hearing Yang-Gallego talk about gardening and cooking.

“Jeunge did a wonderful job speaking at the Master Gardener conference,” said Mary Meyer, Ph.D, State Master Gardener Coordinator. “…She brought so many vegetables for us to see and wow, all the cooking she did!”

In additional to sharing information on the vegetables Yang-Gallego brought the traditional Hmong hoes, baskets and hats used in daily chores for the participants to see. Meyer added that she hopes Yang will continue to serve as a resource in helping the Master Gardeners learn about the many uses of Asian vegetables.

Marlene Speltz of Victoria is in her 11th year as a Master Gardener found this to be among the most successful events she has ever attended. Ms. Speltz served on the planning committee for the conference. She noted that some of the conference highlights included the tours, the learning and commodore, which takes place as people share in the culture of gardening.

Ms. Speltz finds great value in the services and programs provided to residents. She mentioned that in addition to maintaining community gardens in a variety of locations, including the Carver County Fairgrounds, they offer community classes that range from lawn care to making artisan bread. They also offer clinics in which residents can have garden issues diagnosed.

The two-day conference offered participants an opportunity to take part in day garden tours highlighting unique garden projects across the greater metro area. The evening events at the Chaska Community Center included a reading and book signing from local author Susan Davis Price, who wrote, “Growing Home, Stories of Ethnic Gardening,” as well as their annual awards banquet recognizing many for their accomplishments including some who have served as volunteer Master Gardeners for nearly 30 years.

The Master Gardener program has the potential to provide substantial benefit to the community. The focus of the program is for Master Gardener volunteers at the University of Minnesota Extension service to teach horticulture and gardening to the people of Minnesota.

There is a two-way benefit as Master Gardeners can learn about their vegetables and how they grow and cook these vegetables. Asian gardeners can learn from Master Gardeners about our soil types, climate and growing season in Minnesota, and which kinds of vegetables grow best here.

The Master Gardeners take great pride in earning their title, which requires at least 48 hours of university classes in the first year, and 5 to 12 hours of continuing education per year thereafter. They must also volunteer 50 hours in the first year and 25 hours each year thereafter to maintain their status.

For more information on the Master Gardener program, contact Mary Meyer at