Wenatchee Valley residents were invited to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Washington State University’s Master Gardener program at WSU's Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center in Wenatchee Saturday.

Gardeners of all skills were invited to panels on composting and soil health, pollinators and other insects, pest management, water conservation, weed treatment, wildfire protection, and much more.

The Master Gardener program began at Washington State University in 1973, and has since grown nationally, along with programs in Canada and South Korea.

Chelan-Douglas County Master Gardener Coordinator Marco Martinez said the Master Gardener program for the Chelan-Douglas County region started in 1996.

“It's a big event that we planned, kind of ambitious,” Martinez said. “We have a lot of our Master Gardeners, we have about 80-85 active master gardeners, and a lot of them are here today to share their expertise because everybody kind of has a specialty area.”

Notable figures that were in attendance include East Wenatchee Mayor Jerrilea Crawford, 12th-District Senator Brad Hawkins, Chelan County Commissioner Shon Smith, WSU Apparel Merchandising Design and Textiles Chair Vicki McCracken, and WSU County Director Margaret Viebrock.

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Speakers also honored Sharon Collman, who is credited for being the ‘Godmother’ of the Master Gardener program, who was a founding member of the pilot program back in 1973.

Mayor Crawford admitted to having to temporarily cut back on maintaining the center’s Japanese Garden located at the city during the pandemic, but that volunteer master gardeners helped revitalize the area.

"But I'm grateful for the master gardeners and all that you guys do for us in our communities, you make us look beautiful," Crawford said. "I know it's really hard work, because I can see how that that work happens."

Smith recited a proclamation signifying the program’s 50th anniversary, which commissioners published a few weeks prior.

WSU Dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences Dr. Wendy Powers shared the accomplishments of master gardeners in California, who checked orchards for Asian citrus psyllids, keeping the citrus industry safe.

“I really want to thank you for all that you put into it, your commitment to your communities, your commitment to lifelong learning, and helping us all do better in our home gardens and in our lives,” Dr. Powers said. “I can't think of a better place to have an endowed chair for the Master Gardener program than starting that right here in Washington.”

WSU Master Gardener Extension Statewide Coordinator Jennifer Marquis said they want to honor the 4,000 master gardeners in the state, and 100,000 master gardeners across the nation.

Marquis also addressed the effects of climate change and how their program is helping to increase the number of pollinators across the nation.

“Did you all know that it's estimated that one out of every five bites of food that we eat needs a pollinator and pollinators are in decline,” Marquis said. “Master Gardeners support pollinator health and wellness by growing habitats for them.”

Martinez later presented floral bouquets to two longtime Master Gardeners, Mary Fran McClure and Bonnie Orr.

WSU's Master Gardener Program Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Wenatchee Valley residents were invited to a free Garden Faire at WSU Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center’s community garden in Wenatchee.

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