2022 Master Gardener Intern Highlights
Bethany O’Rear asked the interns to share a little bit about themselves so at the time of the November graduation banquet, no one will be strangers. We’ve asked them to share their history with gardening, what brought them to the Master Gardener program, and their favorite gardening activities.
Like many Master Gardeners, 2022 intern Renee Kelly comes from a long line of accomplished gardeners. Her father had a large garden, with 2-3 acres of different vegetables. Kelley loved helping him prepare the soil, planting, and harvesting. She notes, “our table was always full of fresh vegetables!” She has cultivated “cutting gardens” with perennials that I acquired from my mother, aunt, and grandmother over the past several years. “What beautiful memories these flowers bring!”
Victoria Crenshaw was raised in Birmingham but has acquired gardening experience in very different climates: mountainous Colorado and Coastal Massachusetts. Victoria became interested in gardening through an internship in which she worked with aspiring farmers on an incubator farm. There, she says, is “where I discovered the magic of growing your own food—and I’ve been obsessed ever since!” With a focus on edible plants, she hopes the Master Gardener program will expand her knowledge so she can share the joy of gardening with different communities.
Cindy Carter has lived and gardened all over the country. A native of Missouri, she has tended vegetables in the chilly environs of upper New York state and cared for flower gardens in Missouri and Alabama. There were stops in Washington, D.C., and Texas as well. Green thumbs run in her family—her great-aunt introduced her to raising flowers and her parents maintained a large vegetable garden. Now that retirement has given Cindy the time to participate in the Master Gardener class, she’s ready to learn more—especially about containers and raised beds—and meet other like-minded gardeners.
Vickie Jones is a Birmingham native with a passion for community gardening. Jones is taking the Master Gardener class to increase her knowledge of successful vegetable gardening. She notes that she lives in a food desert area and was recruited by garden organizer Alvin Ruthledge to help create a space for people to grow vegetables and learn more about gardening in general. She is the proud wife of Glenn Jones and the mother of two wonderful young ladies, Dominique and Tonesa Jones.
Steve Schmidt is originally from Louisville, Kentucky but has been gardening in Birmingham for many years. As he explains it, he’s always liked “to dig in the dirt and watch things grow.” Now that he’s retired from the phone company, he’s enrolled in the Master Gardener program to learn in an organized manner. He’s interested in growing both vegetables and ornamentals. He also has a green thumb when it comes to plant propagation.
Mary Fuglaar is an expert at dealing with the heat and humidity of gardening in the South; she’s spent 38 years gardening south of Houston and 20 years in North Louisiana. Like many Master Gardeners, she learned from her grandmother and mother as they tended home gardens. Mary is ready to take what she learns about vegetable, herb, and landscape gardening and to help with community gardens.
Deanna Fowler has a background in biology and public health and loves learning about the science of gardening. A self-described “army brat”, she helped maintain her family’s flower beds in Utah, Illinois as well as Montgomery. Both sides of her family have maintained vegetable gardens for generations. She brought this experience to bear when she founded a non-profit which is focused on holistic wellness in under-resourced, urban communities of color. The non-profit focuses on addressing the issue of food deserts and barriers to access to fresh produce and other healthy foods. Fowler is not exclusively focused on vegetables; she is also interested in indoor plants with an eye to learning about non-traditional gardening techniques like ornamentals and aquaponics as well
Renee Lumpkin has had a lifelong interest in plants. Her interest in landscape design led her to classes at Samford University and the Landscape Design program at Jefferson State Community College. Career and children put gardening to the side but when the pandemic found her working from home in Gardendale, she turned to YouTube and the Garden Answer for diversion in leisure moments. Her love of gardening came back with a vengeance, and she is taking the Master Gardener class to learn more and give back to the community. With a broad appreciation of vegetables, ornamentals and pollinator-friendly gardening, any gardening project is sure to benefit from her help.
Mary Hobson has lived in metro Alabama areas (Birmingham and Montgomery) for thirty years. Like many Master Gardeners, her interest in gardening started in childhood and has never stopped. While most of her raised bed and vegetable gardening experience has been local, she had fun tending wildflowers and edibles with her sons in Colorado and Washington state. Her interest in the Master Gardener course includes expanding her solid base of knowledge to include ornamental trees and shrubs which attract pollinators. She is also interested in connecting with “other interested people in the community to enhance beauty in public spaces and promote vegetable gardening.”