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Penn State Extension Master Gardener Project Earns International Recognition

by Penn State Extention

Penn State Extension Master Gardener Project Earns International Recognition

The Berks County Penn State Extension Master Gardener program was recognized for excellence during the 2021 virtual International Master Gardener Conference, hosted by the Virginia Extension Master Gardener Program. The conference is attended by more than a thousand program volunteers from most of the 50 states, Canada, and South Korea.

The David Gibby International Search for Excellence Awards, named in honor of the founder of the first Master Gardener program, recognize exemplary group projects that show significant learning by the Master Gardeners or the public. The award-winning projects showcase the efforts and talents of Master Gardener volunteers, often providing economic, environmental, educational, and health impacts. These innovative projects frequently serve as models, influencing the development of Master Gardener-led programs throughout the world.

The awards are divided into seven categories: Community Service, Demonstration Gardens, Innovative Projects, Research (Applied Scientific Methodology), Special Needs Audiences (Senior, Disabled Audiences or Horticultural Therapy), Workshops or Presentations, and Youth Programs.

Penn State Master Gardeners from Berks County were recognized in the Community Service category for the Berks County Treatment Court & Opportunity House Garden situated as part of the community garden across the street from Opportunity House in Reading.

The garden was conceived as an educational and service opportunity for clients of Treatment Court, a Berks County program for DUI offenders. Master Gardeners provided over 500 hours of instruction to more than 50 people who met twice weekly in small groups for hands-on gardening education.

All aspects of home gardening were taught in the program, including garden bed preparation, seeding, transplanting, pest control, garden maintenance and harvesting techniques. More than 500 pounds of vegetables were grown for use by the Opportunity House kitchen and Treatment Court clients.

“Congratulations to the Berks County Penn State Master Gardeners for winning the Community Service Award from The David Gibby International Search for Excellence Awards. The Opportunity House Garden is an excellent example of the passion, quality, value and community service the Penn State Master Gardeners having been bringing to Berks County for many decades. They maintain several gardens at our Ag Center, provide valuable education to our community and take on projects just like this throughout the year. They make Berks County better and we are proud to celebrate this prestigious award with them.”    – Christian Y. Leinbach, Chairman – Berks County Commissioner


“It’s wonderful to see the Penn State Master Gardeners from Berks County recognized for using their gift for gardening to invest into the lives of the Treatment Court participants.  By sharing their passion with others, they are planting the seeds for new hobbies and hope while also providing fresh food for our community. This is an incredible example of thinking outside of the box to find creative ways to help people in their treatment journeys. Kudos to the staff and volunteers!”
– Michael S. Rivera, Berks County Commissioner

Currently, there are 149 Master Gardener volunteers in Berks County who support Penn State Extension’s educational programs in consumer horticulture. They help Extension better serve the home-gardening public by answering questions, speaking to groups, gardening in demonstration gardens, and participating in many other projects.

To learn more about the Master Gardener program, visit the Penn State Extension website at

The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact us at 610-378-1327 in advance of your participation or visit.