UCCE Master Gardeners of San Bernardino County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of San Bernardino County

Connecting, Learning, and Growing - A Conference to Remember

From Oct. 2-6, the Granlibakken Resort bustled as UC Master Gardener volunteers, program coordinators, academics, and staff gathered at the 2023 UC Master Gardener Conference in Lake Tahoe. A treasure trove of session topics, hands-on workshops, crafts and evening activities along with  tours, and dynamic speakers had been thoughtfully curated to fulfill attendees' requests. Meanwhile, the social media photo wall, Search for Excellence posters, and photo contest display transformed the Granlibakken Resort into a space of celebration where attendees mingled and networked with friends and colleagues from across the state.

The Granlibakken Resort in Tahoe was home to the triennial UC Master Gardener Conference. Photo by: Marcy Sousa

Welcome & Keynote Speakers

Missy Gable, Statewide Director, extended a warm welcome to all conference participants and encouraged them to embrace the chance to engage with the natural beauty and rich history of the Tahoe-Basin area, all while fostering connections and relationships with fellow attendees. The breathtaking Sierra Nevadas provided a majestic backdrop as JoLynn Miller, UC Cooperative Extension Director in Central Sierra, and Dan Macon, UC Cooperative Extension Director in Nevada and Placer Counties, greeted the gathering and celebrated the impact of UC Master Gardener volunteers.

Herman Fillmore

Herman Fillmore, the esteemed Culture and Language Resources Director of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, played an integral role in welcoming us to Lake Tahoe. With a unique blend of cultural pride and linguistic expertise, Fillmore guided us through an immersive experience of the history of the region. He addressed us in the Wá?šiw language, a linguistic treasure that has been preserved through centuries of tradition, and thoughtfully rendered translations into English, ensuring that all those present could fully understand and appreciate his message. Fillmore's message went beyond words; it was a deep invitation to connect with the natural world around us. He encouraged us not just to appreciate the beauty of the landscape but to fully embrace it. He emphasized the importance of leaving no trace as we are all guests for a short time on this planet, reminding us of our responsibility to protect the earth for future generations. 

Herman Fillmore, the respected Director of Culture and Language Resources for the Washoe Tribe in Nevada and California. Photo by: Linda Lewis Griffith

Abra Lee

In her keynote address, Abra Lee took attendees on a journey back in time as she vividly portrayed the inspiring stories of pioneering women in horticulture. She told the history of Blanche Hurston who ran the first Black-owned florist shop in Jacksonville, Florida in the 1920's. Hurston grew many of her own flowers for her well sought after arrangements and also sourced plants from local woods and swamp lands. Lee also shared the tale of the formidable Mahalia Jackson, who ingeniously sold beautiful blooms and offered to sing at your funeral. The riveting chronicles of these invincible women, who not only carved a path for themselves but also paved the way for many others, continue to inspire generations of plant lovers today. Lee presented an opportunity to learn from the past, grow in the present, and inspire for the future.

Abra Lee: Storyteller, Author, and Director of Horticulture at Oakland Cemetery. Photo by: Marcy Sousa

Awards Banquet and the Search for Excellence Winners

After a captivating afternoon filled with inspirational guests and keynote speakers, attendees gathered for an awards banquet. Beneath the stars and patio heaters, the highly anticipated moment arrived to recognize and celebrate the exceptional Search for Excellence projects. The recipients of the Search for Excellence awards were individually honored and received special recognition from their respective State Senators for their remarkable achievements and impactful projects.

Search for Excellence first place winner, Riverside County received special recognition at the awards banquet. Photo by: Melissa Womack

Learn more about each of the winning projects here:

Search for Excellence Posters are Online

Here's some exciting news: The UC Master Gardener Search for Excellence posters are now available online. Participants printed and displayed their posters for the entirety of the conference but now they can viewed by all online. These posters are not just showcases of excellence; they are windows into the world of community-driven gardening initiatives, educational projects, and innovative solutions. To view the individual posters use this link https://ucdavis.box.com/s/2iritqsclrrqudqc6p17gbqpdmgeojwo


Search for Excellence posters educated attendees on UC Master Gardener projects around the state. Phot by: Marcy Sousa

Sessions, sessions, and more sessions!

With 25 break-out and intensive sessions and a keynote speaker, there was a wealth of knowledge and experience available to all who attended the triennial conference. Session presentations and handouts were made available online using this link: https://ucdavis.box.com/s/rd7d0onqthtixg576zo6dzhdnxnshuar. Don't forget to enter your continuing education hours into the Volunteer Management System, use the guide on the conference website to help https://na.eventscloud.com/website/58914/continuing-education/

Volunteers attended various sessions throughout the conference. Photo by: Marcy Sousa


Creativity was unlocked at the crafting hypertufa pot and magical fairy sticks workshops. Attendees got to take home their own unique imaginative creations. People were all smiles getting as they were led through their activities, a truly fun hands-on experience. Night activities included the highly anticipated bingo night, a movie showing of "The Biggest Little Farm" with snacks and beverages, and of course an evening under the stars on the patio with fire pits.

Photo Contest Winners 

The conference also had a photo gallery where attendees could view and vote on their favorite photo contest finalists. The UC Master Gardener Photo Contest's Gardeners Choice award went to Vincent McGrath of San Diego County, for his photo titled, “Looking for a snack.” Congratulations to all of the finalists and thank you to all who voted.

"Looking for a Snack" was the overall winner of the photo contes, congratulations to Vincent McGrath, UC Master Gardener volunteer in San Diego County. Photo by: Marcy Sousa

You can view all the photo contest winners here https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=57905

Thank you, we hope you join us in 2026!

Many thanks to the numerous volunteers, host counties and conference planning team members who made the 2023 conference a reality. Without their dedication and support the conference would not have been possible. We look forward to continuing the celebration of the program and the magic of its volunteers at the next UC Master Gardener Conference in 2026. 

Have a location suggestion for the 2026 conference? Let us know in the comments below! 

Do you have a suggestion for the next conference location, topics, activities, possible speakers? Let us know via this survey link https://surveys.ucanr.edu/survey.cfm?surveynumber=22144 

Posted on Tuesday, October 17, 2023 at 12:35 PM
Tags: #2023UCMG #SFE (1)

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