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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

A gardening tradition

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ina Gill and Bob Niemi sit in front of the Sharp County Courthouse where the University of Arkansas Extension office is located, the same office that supports the Sharp County Master Gardener Club. Both Gill and Niemi are state award winners for their local garden club. Photo by Terrah Baker
Sharp County is one of 60 counties in Arkansas fortunate enough to have an active Master Gardener Club. Although only 18 members strong as of 2008, Sharp County Master Gardeners now claim two award-winning members.

Bob Niemi and Ina Gill have been honored by the University of Arkansas' division of agriculture Master Gardener Club. The organization began in 1988 with only four involved counties throughout Arkansas. Each year the state Master Gardener club honors nominated members, distributing awards for members who have shown impressive amounts of commitment, motivation to learn and ability to be creative and teach skills to others, according to the Arkansas state Master Gardener Web site.

Niemi and Gill displayed such qualities that led them to claim state awards in 2007 and 2008. Niemi was nominated and won the Master Gardener of the Year for 2007 and Gill has been awarded Rookie Master Gardener of the Year for 2008.

To become an award winning rookie gardener Gill had to participate in 40 hours of training and 40 hours of education within the months of February and March, and Sharp County Master Gardener President Joann Davenport said that Gill has gone above and beyond expectations of a new member.

"What has impressed the group the most is (Gill's) willingness to always help and go the extra mile," Davenport wrote in a report nominating Gill for the award.

Gill explained how every year she makes a list of things she wants to accomplish and joining a garden club was a top priority. Attending a monthly Master Gardener meeting, she noticed the members were extremely knowledgeable, she said.

"They were experts in their field," Gill said.

According to Davenport, a majority of the group's members were at one time employees of the University of Arkansas agricultural department, farmers or self-taught landscapers who bring their talents to the group in order to share and trade knowledge.

"Sharp County has an excellent membership and everyone has deserved this award," Gill said.

Niemi has been an involved member for seven years as of 2008 and stays active in gardening at home and for the community. Niemi provides seminars on composting to club members and interested members of the community and has a very successful vegetable garden, according to Davenport, who boasted about both of her club member's accomplishment.

Niemi is also responsible for Arkansas' Master Gardener clubs becoming split into two divisions, 50 members or less and 50 plus members, instead of one division as it had been for many years before Niemi's suggestion in 2007. Now smaller counties are given a chance at winning awards because they are not being compared to counties with much more resources than their own, Niemi said.

The Sharp County Master Gardener Club has many projects throughout the year and one important task is maintaining the Hardy Library garden. Davenport said that she is extremely proud of what her group accomplishes throughout the year and her two award-winning members.

"Both are fine examples of leadership, volunteerism, eagerness to learn and share and being supportive to Master Gardener ideals. Their ambition and efforts have allowed our small group to become prominent in our community," Davenport said.

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