Stacie Campbell-Eckhoff, Class of 2015     

     I took the Master Gardener classes to learn how to grow things better. I have stayed with the Master Gardener group because they are an interesting bunch of people! They all have different interests and specialties. The common denominator amongst them all is their willingness to share their knowledge, time, skills, extra seeds, extra produce and extra equipment. They have taught me about insect and plant identification, how to make vinegars, best tomato varieties for area, how to clean gourds, save seeds, make trellis’ and covered raised beds…the list is ENDLESS!!! Which is awesome and means I will keep coming back for more.

Faith & Allen Stooksbury, Class of 2012 & 2015 respectively     

     As children, we both grew up on farms, Allen near Knoxville whereas my home was located in the buckeye state.  For several years, I worked at a local farmers market often visiting the farmer’s homesteads, gaining all sorts of valuable knowledge on agricultural methods. I tend to have a green thumb, having experience growing perennials, bulbs and vegetables in three states, Ohio, Texas and Tennessee.  But then, the soil here is heavy and I try to avoid using chemicals so I still have a lot to learn.  After settling in the volunteer state, for several years I tried enrolling in the Hamilton County Master Gardener’s class with no results, but then after moving to Bradley County had success and subsequently completed the class in 2012.  After becoming a Bradley County Master Gardener, I became even more engaged in the organization, taking on the roles of Vice President (2013) and President (2014-2015).   Speaking of engagement, Allen proposed to me on my birthday at a Master Gardener meeting where everyone joined in on the celebration and as one might say, we’ve been living happily ever after.  Though the Bradley County Master Gardeners, Allen and I have also enjoyed contributing to the Junior Master Gardener program where we not only get our hands dirty, but also get to connect with kids, teaching them useful gardening skills.  So if you haven’t realized it by now, beyond interacting with other passionate gardeners and supporting our community, I really like to work in the dirt with my hands, feel connected to the earth.  It’s all very therapeutic.

Deborah Slaughter, Class of 2017     

     I became a member of Bradley County Master Gardener because I love flowers! I like any flower there is. I have not only learned about flowers but I have learned about the soil, small fruits and berries, trees, composting, pollinators and so much more. My fellow members have become new friends. I enjoy our monthly meetings and learn something new every time. .

​Dianne Hadorn, Class of 2017
     I began vegetable gardening in 2015 and had nothing but a massive failure and 2016 wasn’t much better either.  Growing up with parents that were avid gardeners and farmers that raised everything we ate, I quickly realized that I needed guidance if I hoped to grow food for canning.  After much internet searching and asking questions, I came across the Bradley County Master Gardeners program and it was a no brainer, I needed to take the class. 
     In the August monthly meeting we had the opportunity to do a small “show and tell” about our successes, problems or prize winning plants and I was very excited to be able to bring pictures and show the class some of my successes with my vegetables and canning as a result of taking the MG class. We were blessed with lots of rain in the 2017 season and using the skills and techniques that I learned, I feel that this year’s garden was a success. I’ve grown and canned more vegetables this year than in the past 2 years combined.  Though I still have a long way to go in my learning, I don’t think I would have been as successful this year as I was had it not been for the MG classes.

Jerry Eppinga, Class of 2015     

     I was a Master Gardener in Virginia when I decided to move to southeast Tennessee. The first thing I did was look online to see if there was a Master Gardener group I could get involved with. This put me in touch with the Bradley County Master Gardeners and the rest is history! I attended the class so that I could learn about gardening in our area….the soil is very different here. I was impressed with the quality of the speakers and the friendliness of the volunteers and extension personnel. I have volunteered in the class, at various events and have had many more opportunities to learn more about gardening and look forward to more years with the Master Gardeners.


Tim Liffew, Class of 2016     

     I was blessed to have been raised around gardens and gardeners most of my life.  When a friend spoke with me about his involvement with the Master Gardener program, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to be involved in as well.  I have not been disappointed.  Master Gardeners are a great bunch of people who are willing to share their knowledge, successes and failures. There has not been a single meeting where I have not learned something.  To my surprise what I have enjoyed the most is the volunteer hours giving back to the community. Working with the junior master gardeners program though the juvenile court system has been blessing me.  It is an opportunity to make a difference in the life of a young person as they learn the great life lessons gardening has to offer.  If you want to get a blessing and be a blessing, Master Gardeners is the place to be.

Matt Thayer, Class of 2016    

     Before taking the Master Gardener course, my wife and I had never gardened.  We had a desire to grow organic vegetables so to shorten our learning curve, we took the course and actively sought to learn through the experiences of others in our local area.  The Master Garden course provided us with a broad foundation of information with lecturers who spoke on a spectrum of subjects including botany, soils, diseases & insects, attracting/controlling wildlife, tree and small fruit crops as well as many others.  Through our involvement in the Bradley County Master Gardener (BCMG) organization, we’ve been able to not only connect and learn from others who share gardening as a passion, but also team with them volunteering to support related community efforts. 

     In our two years of gardening, we’ve been very blessed with bountiful crops, harvesting potatoes, corn, sweet and snow peas, watermelon, kale, mixed greens, Chinese cabbage, onions, sweet potatoes, spinach, cucumbers, broccoli, summer and winter squash, garlic, a number of tomato varieties, beets, cantaloupe, hot peppers, bush and pole beans, a host of herbs and blueberries.  Since beginning this journey, we’ve learned to plan our garden, implement different types of trellising, use row covers to extend crops, identify pests, install water collection systems and use canning to store our harvest.  Though earning the title of Master Gardener, as a lifelong learner I don’t consider myself an expert but do enjoy sharing our challenges and successes while learning from and working with other BCMG members.​

Joyce & Jim Brinkmeyer, Class of 2017     

     We both retired a few years ago & wanted to find an activity to enjoy together.  Joyce suggested the master gardener program.  The classes were interesting & educational.  Having speakers brings more than just information they also bring perspective about garden topics.  The variety of topics was broader than expected.
     Our yard has benefited from the added attention we have given it, & our long-term goal was to have something blooming or adding color in each season is closer to our goal from the information learned in class.
     The volunteer work has been enjoyable because of the social interaction while accomplishing group projects & learning new skills.  A lunch break during a project lasting several hours is a great chance to talk about both the organization goals & topics not at all related to gardening.  We have enjoyed participating in the festivals & getting to know a broader range of Bradley County residents.  It is amazing how much information is available, as members share sources for topics, so we continue along the path to Lifelong Learning.