URI Master Gardeners recognize top gardening volunteers

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 15, 2020 – The University of Rhode Island Master Gardener Program recognized the state’s top gardening volunteers last month.

Following nominations from among the state’s 700 Master Gardener volunteers, awardees for the distinguished gardening educator, outstanding Master Gardener and rookie of the year were selected by the Master Gardener Recognition Committee. The annual awards have been presented for more than 15 years.

The 2020 Rosanne Sherry Distinguished Educator Award was presented to Nan Quinlan of Exeter, a Master Gardener since 2003 who has led gardening and gardening education efforts at the East Farm Vegetable Demonstration Garden in Kingston for more than 15 years. Quinlan shares her gardening knowledge with visitors to the Demonstration Garden, fellow volunteers, and public audiences through online programs while also striving each year to grow more food for neighbors in need.

“Nan pushes the bounds with inclusive community engagement, volunteer development and growing beautiful, healthy food to support the local community each year,” said Vanessa Venturini, state coordinator of the Master Gardener Program. “She is a true educator in every sense of the word.”

John Twomey
John Twomey, winner of the 2020 Outstanding Master Gardener Award.

The award is named for Rosanne Sherry, the former Master Gardener coordinator who passed away in 2019.

The 2020 Outstanding Master Gardener Award winner is John Twomey of East Providence, a Master Gardener for five years who led an effort to replace the greenhouse at the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol, where Master Gardeners have tended a garden for many years. He sought the approvals from the Rhode Island Office of Veterans Services for the 1,500-square-foot greenhouse – the largest and most ambitious community project ever organized by the Master Gardeners — coordinated multiple teams of volunteers, and spearheaded a fundraising campaign to pay for it. He also serves as a volunteer soil tester for East Bay residents seeking to learn more about the soil in their yard.

“John’s accomplishments on behalf of the veterans of our state have not gone unnoticed,” said Venturini. “His exuberant passion, strong leadership, team building abilities, and will-to-succeed have allowed us to create a beautiful space for learning and wellness at the Veteran’s Home.”

Alan Newton
Alan Newton, recipient of the 2020 Master Gardener Rookie of the Year Award.

The 2020 Master Gardener Rookie of the Year award recipient is Alan Newton of East Greenwich, who completed the Master Gardener training course last spring and immediately established a technology support team to help the Master Gardener program deliver remote gardening education activities during the pandemic. He sets up webinars, orients presenters to new technology, troubleshoots and produces videos. He also became a school garden mentor at Stone Hill Elementary School in Cranston, answers gardening questions sent to the gardening hotline, and serves as a member of the Master Gardener Leadership Development Team.

“The Master Gardener program owes the success of its entire pilot run of the Learn at Home webinar series to Alan,” Venturini said. “With an utter sense of competence, professionalism and attention to detail, he played an essential administrative role and mentored many presenters through the use of technology. He continues to provide capacity building with our technology team, establishing new procedures for engaging the public and our volunteers in this brave new world of remote learning.”

To learn from Master Gardeners and other Cooperative Extension educators through the free Learn at Home webinar series, visit https://web.uri.edu/coopext/events.