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2019 New Members

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

The class of 2019 includes 28 new RCMG volunteers.

2019 New Members

Tim Altier

I was born in Saint Paul and currently live in Saint Paul. I grow both edible and ornamental plants. Outside of gardening, I enjoy photography, hiking, and baking. I see the Master Gardener program as a way to give out information. I'm expecting to do research and learn new things, but sharing what I know is what I am seeking to do as a Master Gardener. For example, I really enjoy plant propagation. I'm looking forward to being able to provide many plants for the plant sale while propagating new plants for fun.


Melissa Andersen

I live in St. Paul. I was born/raised in Ashland, Wisconsin, on the South Shore of Lake Superior.

My first gardening memory is "helping" my parents plant a cedar hedgerow along their property line when I was small. Those cedars are huge now. My main interests in gardening are perennials, native wildflowers, and pollinator protection. I'm also interested in education around these, particularly with regards to sustainability.

As a Master Gardener, I want to build relationships with and learn from others who share my interests. I also want to promote stewardship and educate others about environmentally-friendly practices.

Outside of gardening, I love being in the woods -hiking, snowshoeing, etc. I also like to cook and bake, write, and travel when I can. I am a middle school teacher at Friends School of Minnesota, a Quaker, Progressive k-8 school in St. Paul.


Mary Bejblik

I am a retired teacher who lives in St. Paul. I was born and raised in the Twin Cities and experienced growing things with my dad. He was our family gardener with flowers, fruit trees and some years vegetables. Flower/shade gardens are my main focus now. I had a larger area for vegetables at one time, but got tired of competing with the squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits, and birds for the harvest. And then the neighbor put a fence up and blocked the sun. The Master Gardener program will help me in my gardening, not only with coursework, but also from the volunteer work, meeting new people, and trying new ideas where I know I will learn much more. My other interests include hiking, camping, family, floral design, and adventures.


Sherry Bianchi-Knod

I have lived in the West 7th Street neighborhood of St. Paul for two and a half years. I have a sweet little yard that I would love to landscape a bit (no backhoes!) and naturalize for pollinator, butterfly, and critter refuge, as well as integrating a vegetable garden, an area for entertaining, and a private escape for me, my dog, my hammock, and a book. Prior to my husband Tom's death three years ago, I lived in Eagan with a lovely big yard, offering endless opportunities. Due to my childhood teachings in small-town Arkansas -- that "gardening was for poor people, and we had money to buy our food and hire gardeners to do the flowers" -- I never considered gardening until I went out into the real world, and then only several years into caring for Tom after his strokes in 2003. Sometimes, I would become so "down" that I would yank weeds out of flowerbeds that he could no longer attend. EUREKA! I had found my therapy - playing in the dirt while communing with Mother Nature and making our home look better to boot!

Mostly retired, I am still a Beauty Consultant, I have the time to go headlong into learning about growing food, and creating happy places in the city, and volunteering with school and family gardening programs. I love to read, do counted cross-stitch, and bead when my dog Cassidy allows me to!


Fabienne Bridges

My first love of gardening/nature started at around 5 years of age when my family lived in University apartments in Chicago. The apartments were very ordinary but had beautiful garden spaces. One bed was planted exclusively with FourO'Clocks. Every late afternoon the bed would transform from being very plain into wondrous beauty. To me, this was a fascinating and miraculous process that started a lifetime fascination with gardening. I retired in 2017, became a certified yoga teacher and work a few hours a week for the YMCA in West Saint Paul. Besides gardening, I also enjoy restoring antiques, quilting, and taking pictures as an amateur photographer.


Gary DeGrande


Jessi Donaldson

I live in Saint Anthony Park in Saint Paul, in the same neighborhood I grew up in. (I did move away for college, and lived in New Zealand for a few years after that.) One of my earliest garden memories is helping my mom harvest vegetables from the garden, probably when I was around 5 years old. She is the one who taught me how to garden. When I was a bit older, she let me plant and take care of a raised bed all on my own. By the time I left for college, I had taken over the whole garden! My main gardening interests are in organic edible gardens and native wildflowers. As a Master Gardener, I would like to learn more about organic gardening practices, and would like to gain more experience in community outreach. Outside of gardening, my hobbies include cooking, quilting, and woodworking. I have worked in nonprofit fundraising and event management my whole career, but am transitioning from full-time work to focus on my life-long passion for gardening. One of my favorite gardening tips is saving your leaves in the fall-they make great compost and mulch. My favorite garden "tool" is my backyard chickens! They eat mosquitos and Japanese beetles, loosen the soil by scratching for snacks, and their droppings make great compost!


Jean Friar

I am from St Paul and after many years living in Minneapolis our family moved to Highland Park in 2011 where we added substantial landscaping and flower gardens to our property.

My earliest gardening memory is of helping my mom with her flowers and my dad after he added a small vegetable garden when the swing set came down. We also had two apple trees that provided fruit for baking for years. My goal is to integrate more vegetables into what we grow and become proficient managers of the soil and pest control. I left my job at Ameriprise after having two girls who are now 14 & 16. Both are interested in environmental science and sustainability and are encouraged to get involved in growing more food as well!


Judie Ginter

I grew up in Minneapolis and, like many Master Gardeners, my first gardening memory is picking out flower seeds with my mom, planting them in a small garden, and waiting for them to pop up and grow. That small start lead to a love of gardening, though it's hard to identify my main gardening interest at this point. As a Master Gardener, I'm hoping to gain broad gardening experience and try different things. I'm most interested in community gardening and pollinators right now. I currently live in White Bear Lake where I enjoy growing herbs in a large container on my deck. They are easily accessible when I'm cooking and I like to freeze them to last through the winter.


Beth Jackson

I was born and raised on the west side of the river (Minneapolis and Orono) and have lived in Shoreview for over 30 years. I think I have been in the area long enough to call myself a local! I do quite a bit of container gardening and have enjoyed dabbling in straw bale gardening. I'm hoping to expand my knowledge about plants, and the diseases and pests which can impact them. This year, I had good success with starting tomato and pepper plants from seed. It was fun to give about 50 plants to a St. Paul youth program for their gardening project. In addition to gardening, I enjoy traveling, bike riding, reading, and following the adventures of my adult children. I am a Project Manager/Business Analyst professionally, and on the cusp of retirement.


Julie Johnson

I grew up on a farm in NE Iowa, moved to Rochester after college, and then to St. Paul where I've lived ever since. I learned about gardening first from my Mom, and then my own trial & error methods as an adult. My first gardening memory is finding out that strawberries & raspberries had growing seasons, and that they weren't available all summer long. My main interest is planning and planting perennials and shrubs. I bought my house in late winter without knowing what kind of garden I had inherited. I started planting right away that spring, and then later found out that the conditions weren't always right for that plant. I've been moving things around the garden ever since. As a Master Gardener I'd like to gain experience with the actual science and proven results from the U of M. Also, I want to learn as much as possible about sustainable gardening practices, and ways to protect pollinators. I'm an accountant by day. After being stuck in a cubicle all day, I enjoy (besides gardening) baking, photography and reading.


Mindy Johnson


Nancy Joyer


Martha Lantz

I grew up in upstate New York and in Australia, then lived in Texas for a number of years before moving to MN in the mid-'90s, drawn in by the magic of Lake Superior and the North Shore. Both of my parents were gardeners; my mother loved her flowers and my father was, and still is, a vegetable gardener. My job as a child was to tend the carrots. My gardening interests now are varied but all fall under the umbrella of creating healing spaces, both from the built and natural environments. I have had the opportunity to work with many talented individuals and groups in my career in the behavioral health field, and more recently was able to help create healing spaces for those individuals who suffer from significant mental illnesses. Gardens and connections to nature were a huge part of the success of those endeavors. I am excited to be part of the master gardener program as it gives me an opportunity to learn more of the basics as well as connect with others who enjoy being in service to their communities. My husband and I are stewards of an amazing piece of land where we have a small organic vineyard and orchard, as well of multiple vegetable and flower gardens. All are definitely a work in progress, and I am thrilled to be able to put all this new knowledge into practice to have an immediate impact on our space as well as to share that knowledge with our communities.


Sandra Law


Christi Mallinger

Christi Mallinger’s love of gardening was inspired by her grandmother’s rose garden. When she owned her own house, she planted many perennial flower beds, including one rose garden in her memory. Most of her St Paul garden is done with perennials. While she enjoys landscaping, she’s looking forward to learning more about vegetable gardening. In addition to gardening, her other hobbies include golf, biking, hiking, reading, swimming, skiing, stained glass, and cooking.


Justin McVean

Justin McVean grew up in rural Minnesota where his mother taught him and his brothers invaluable life skills, including cooking, canning, foraging, and gardening. His mother designed and maintained several exquisite flower gardens and a huge, lush vegetable garden. He earned an AAS in culinary arts and a BA with a focus on nutrition and community development. He would enjoy creating or working on programs that focus on combining gardening, cooking, and community engagement. Living in a condominium, he’s interested in finding ways to use urban space for growing crops.


Angela Penniman

My name is Angela Penniman and I live in St Paul with my husband and 3 children. I grew up on a farm in southeast Iowa and come from a long line of farmers and gardeners. My dad raises fields of corn and soybeans, but my first garden memory is watching him tend to his large vegetable garden. He'd put me to work planting rows of green beans, handing me a twig he had broken into the precise length for measuring the distance I should leave between seeds. His rows were always perfectly straight with not a weed to be found, a habit I've rebelled against as an adult, preferring a more artistic vegetable garden planted in squares or curves and dotted with flowers (and a few weeds). For the last seven years I've been involved in a community vegetable garden that donates nearly 2000 pounds of produce every year to the Neighborhood House food pantry. It is located in a prominent location on Summit Avenue in St. Paul and is a visual reminder that not everyone in our community has access to the fresh vegetables and fruit that many of us take for granted. It has been a pleasure working alongside my fellow garden volunteers, and I especially enjoy when someone walking by stops to admire the garden, ask a question, or to enjoy a ripe strawberry. I decided to become a Master Gardener to gain knowledge about gardening and to give me more opportunities to talk about plants with other plant lovers. I also want to learn more about native plants and trees.


Aimee Schaefer-Kueppers

I live in Vadnais Heights and grew up in St. Louis Park, on the edge of Minneapolis and Edina.

My first memories or gardening are exploring my grandma's beautiful garden and falling in love with Forget-Me-Knots and gardening side by side with my mom. We'd go to Wagner's in Minneapolis and plant geraniums, impatients, moss roses, pansies,etc. My favorite was planting 4 o'clock seeds and then collecting the seeds for the next year. My main interest in gardening is in perennials, vegetable gardens, propagation, overwintering, house plants, and vegetable gardens. I'd love to connect with anyone and garden together and share tips, trade perennials, and go to garden events. As a Master Gardener I want to learn more about perennials and their needs, soil testing, vegetables gardening, identifying plant disease and figuring out hoe to best care for outdoor flowers and houseplants. I also want more experiencing volunteering with you and incorporating my current work with students (I work at a school for students on the autism spectrum) and my BA degree in nutrition science. Outside of gardening, I am an Educational Assistant at a middle and high school school where 97% of the students are on the autism spectrum. My main interests, other than gardening and plants, are running, biking, and swimming. I love competing in triathlons. I love anything in nature, and watching my son play baseball and basketball.


Haley Spann

I live in Hamline Midway currently and I was born in Saint Paul raised in Frogtown. When I was a kid my grandma would take me into her backyard, show me all the flowers in her garden and help me remember the names of them. Currently, my main interest in gardening is in sustainability. As a Master Gardener, I want to be a better gardener and to be able to provide that information to the general public because everybody deserves to learn to grow their own food. Outside of gardening, I am a freelance artist so I do wire wrapping and a paint I sell at different shows. Currently,I am working at a fresh cut flower distributor; it is pretty awesome. My favorite gardening tip is that propagation With succulent plants is extremely entertaining and I hope to learn more about propagation.


Logan Stapleton

I was raised between East Side St. Paul and Apple Valley, which is where I had my first experience as a gardening in my mother's backyard. In one gardening adventure, I helped my older brother clear out our sandbox to plant strawberries. I currently live in Lowertown and I want to be able to teach others how to garden, especially those who are not inclined or easily able to garden. I'm very interested in indoor (apartment) gardening right now because I live in an apartment and don't have a lot of outdoor space to work with/ I'm trying to maintain my green thumb with the limited space/water/soil that I have. Outside of the garden, I like to dance, travel, and get outside as much as I can. I'm about to start computer science graduate school.


Chris Stevens

My gardening experience has come in fits and starts over the years. Some knowledge I gleaned from my mother, who is also an avid gardener but I am mostly self-taught using books and the Internet. (Thanks U of MN Extension!) As a chef and former restaurateur, I focus on an edible garden, to eat, preserve and share what I grow. I garden in an informal style that leans toward being a food forest, with inter-planting of flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables to encourage beneficial elements while discouraging malevolent influences.


James Stone

I currently live in St Paul, Born in Washington DC Raised in Northern VA. The first gardening memory was... growing carrots in the hard, clay soils of VA; not much luck. As an adult, I became interested in flowers and left the hard work of veggies to others. After all, how many zucchinis does one nation need? My main interest is flowers, especially those that are pollinator friendly. Grass is the enemy and I remove all traces of it and plant in flowers. Five houses so far: one in Madison WI, three in St. Paul, and one in Louisville, KY. As a Master Gardener, I'd like to...become better at my chosen craft, gardening and more knowledgeable. Currently, I direct a national research center focused on workforce development for youth and adults with offices in Atlanta GA (the commute is unbelievable!). Other interests are old houses and antiques.


Katie Swanson

I live on the West Side of St. Paul, just a quick jaunt from where I was raised in Cottage Grove, and a 4 minute drive from where I was born across the river in St. Paul. Despite being a suburban transplant, St. Paul has always been my city. My first garden memories are in my grandmother's vegetable garden. I was pulling carrots out of the ground and eating them raw. She never seemed to mind. It's something I still do, and I can honestly say that even with a decent sized snap pea harvest last year, none of them made it into the house. My main interest is in urban farming. I love to dive into the history of horticulture and learn about wartime victory gardens. It's definitely helped me bring some of that spirit into my own garden, and I would love to bring some of that passion for the work to my local elementary school. The school is starting a volunteer-led garden club to help maintain the peace garden and ideally add some other vegetable beds for learning about life science. I really hope to bring some of my knowledge and skills into that project. As a Master Gardener, I would love to help bring more biodiversity into the urban landscape. Whether that's with food or annual and perennial gardens, I'd like to see the ecosystem shift back to a sustainable vision. It's a bit idealistic, but even if everyone adds a hosta patch or a little spot for phlox and oregano, it can help create a more interconnected ecosystem and better connect members of the community.

The other interests and hobbies in my life include pursuing my national accreditation as a home inspector, but mostly I'm raising two boys and restoring what I can in my bungalow. I like to work with my hands, so when I'm not repairing walls and fixing my house, I'm crocheting, playing the guitar and the piano, or playing board games. If the gardens will let me (I have changed plans based on my tomatoes!) I do enjoy scuba diving.


Stacey Tidball

I live in Roseville, near the Oval. I grew up in Mounds View MN but have also lived in Los Angeles and Kansas City. My early garden memories are of picking berries with my grandfather in his raspberry patch or garden chores with my dad in the summer. My grandfather was a county extension agent for decades and a great inspiration! My main interest in gardening is in learning about gardening. I like to vegetable garden, especially tomatoes. I am building my knowledge of native landscaping plants so I can tackle some yard projects this year. With the Master Gardeners, I am looking forward to having some more formal learning rather than my "try and see" approach to gardening combined with internet research as needed. I work for the University of Minnesota in student data privacy and academic policy and communications. My hobbies these days are attending my kids sporting events, cooking, and baking bread.


Brenda Wells

I live in Roseville, and grew up in Golden Valley. My first gardening memory is of my dad always had a vegetable garden that was his pride and joy. I would help him. My main interest is bulbs and flowering perennials. As a Master Gardener, I'd like to learn more about pollinator gardens. I am a newly retired second grade teacher, and have been doing a little substitute teaching. I love playing piano, and singing in choir.


Doreen Wendt

I was raised in north Minneapolis most of my childhood and I have lived in Oak Park Heights (Stillwater) the last 24 years. My first gardening memory was planting a vegetable garden with my mom at my grandparents home in Roseville. My grandparents had 2 acres and had a designated large fenced in area for us plant whatever we wanted. We planted the usual tomatoes, cucumber and green beans. However, my favorite of all was planting mustard, collard and turnip greens, which was and still is one of my very favorite things to eat. These types of greens were not readily available in the grocery store when I was a child and basically the only way to get them was to go to the farmers market or grow them yourself. My favorite flower species of all would be orchids. One of the reasons I wanted to become a Master Gardener was to gain hands on experience with others who have a love for gardening and I wanted to learn the fundamental basics for planning and maintaining the large gardening areas I have at my home. Previously, I have learned from internet research or just strictly trial and error. Outside of gardening, I love doing crafts of all kinds some of my endeavors include making jewelry, greeting cards, scrapbooking, bath bombs, bath salts, lotions etc. I also love baking and especially like making various types of cheesecakes. I am a retired Postal worker.


Kay Wimer

I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, went to Indiana University, and have lived all over the country. That means I've gardened in the Midwest, South and Southwest. I loved gardening in the Southwest. So many wonderful options, and so many plants that are either annuals or houseplants here grow outside in Phoenix or Albuquerque. My first gardening memory is at my grandparent's house in Kentucky. They had a small vegetable garden and raised cherry tomatoes. I think they called them candy tomatoes, and I still remember how sweet and good they were. My current gardening passion is renovating/renewing an old garden. I bought a 1950's house that had yew bushes planted close to the front and back of the house. I'm in the process of removing them and planning new beds that will have a variety of bushes, and other plants. I enjoy the design process and the challenge of finding the best plants to give me color and interest during all four seasons. I'd love to partner with other gardeners who have gone through this process or are currently doing design work. Having just completed the core class, I realized how much I didn't know about gardening, and how incredibly much more there is to know. I look forward to all the volunteer opportunities where I will be researching and answering questions I can't even imagine at this point. I also look forward to connecting with people who share a love of digging in the dirt, and helping them on their plant journeys. I am an academic advisor to the MBA programs at the University of St. Thomas. My other passion is knitting. I teach both knitting and crochet in the adult education program in White Bear Lake.

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