Master Gardener Program celebrates 40th anniversary

Rudi Hempe (left) accepts the award for URI Master Gardener of the Year from Charlie Junod. (Photo courtesy of Sue Dunn)

The University of Rhode Island Master Gardener Program recognized its Master Gardener of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Gardening Project of the Year as part of the program’s celebration of its 40th anniversary.

“We have an incredibly talented group of about 600 Master Gardeners who serve as community educators for Cooperative Extension,” said Vanessa Venturini, the state leader of the URI Master Gardener Program. “The awards are a fun way to celebrate 40 years of service to the community and to acknowledge some of the stars of the program.”

Rudi Hempe of Narragansett was recognized as the Master Gardener of the Year, having accrued more than 15,000 hours of volunteer service to the Master Gardener Program in the last 20 years. The former editor of The Standard Times, Hempe has led efforts to install a vegetable demonstration garden, a pollinator meadow and greenhouses at URI’s East Farm, grow disease-resistant American Chestnut trees, and establish the immensely popular East Farm Spring Festival, among many other projects.

“In the future, we will be grateful for the return of chestnut trees to our canopies, appreciate the restoration of our coastal landscape, and benefit from new knowledge of how to support our pollinators, all due to the dedication and leadership of this year’s recipient,” said Master Gardener Charlie Junod during the award presentation…[Read more]