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2021 New Members

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

The class of 2021 includes 59 new RCMG volunteers. New members are divided into 12 "Mentor Teams," each with a combination of 2021 interns, 2020 interns, and Master Gardener mentors.

November Highlights

Meet members of the 2021 cohort, including new interns, Sarah Green Toews, Kimberly Anderson-Uzpen, Madeleine Kaudy, Jill Terry and Andre Walker.

2021 Transfers

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Ed Colón (He/Him/His)

Ed is a returning Master Gardener, who previously served in Anoka County. Currently living in Inver Grove Heights, Ed has spent a lot of time learning about landscaping with trees, shrubs and perennials. He also likes Japanese and Zen-style landscaping.

Sarah Green Toews (She/Her/Hers)

Sarah is a transferring volunteer from Hennepin County. Her parents owned a greenhouse in west central Minnesota so gardening was their livelihood. Since it was a family business, she learned how to do all of it! Sarah would have a hard time picking out a favorite gardening activity, but vegetable gardening holds a special place in her heart. Sarah is in the adult learning/training profession and has experience developing courses, delivering training, planning major education events, and coaching others.


2021 New Members

Lori Anderson (She/Her/Hers)

Vegetable gardening has been in Lori’s family for generations: the tradition was passed from her grandparents to her parents to her and is being passed to her daughter. Lori is an eager learner and is looking forward to connecting with other gardeners and the community through volunteerism. She is also a “rabid” fan of the Minnesota State Fair and annually participates in the crop art competition.

Kimberly Anderson-Uzpen (She/Her/Hers)

Kimberly grew up and now lives in the Gem Lake area. A primary-care physician by day, she’s known that she’s a gardener for the past 40 years, but has only recently found time to get involved in a gardening community like RCMG. She grows perennials, planters, and fruit trees, and recently started a large vegetable garden. She’s also learning a lot about trees in the past few years.

Kris Balsiger-Ranieri (She/Her/Hers)

Kris has lived in Minnesota her entire life, from Richfield to Minneapolis to St Paul. Her yard is mostly perennials with annuals mixed in and a small boulevard vegetable garden where she tries new varieties of tomatoes. Living on a corner lot with lots of foot traffic, Kris and her husband Gene get lots of comments and questions about their garden and she enjoys sharing her love of gardening with others. Outside the garden, Kris enjoys sewing and baking, and has professional experience in retail sales management.

Colleen Bell (She/Her/Hers)

Colleen grew up on an Iowa farm with an extensive vegetable garden and has many memories of growing things in the dirt. Her heart is full of gratitude to three generations of women who taught her how to garden: great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother. She continues gardening today, with straw-bale gardening as her most recent accomplishment. Colleen works with pregnant, birthing, and parenting people who are incarcerated and is the co-chair on the board that supports the Minnesota Prison Doula Project and the Alabama Prison Birth Project.

Mary Bodin (She/Her/Hers)

Mary takes her garden inspiration from her mother’s vegetable and flower gardens and now grows vegetables in a garden of her own. She is dedicated to many volunteer programs, including the local grade school as a reading and literacy coach, Meals on Wheel as a delivery volunteer, and her church’s food shelf donation garden.

Eileen Brinkman (She/Her/Hers)

Eileen has lots of experience growing vegetables, having been raised on a farm in central MN. She’s expanded on that knowledge in her urban St Paul garden. She loves to learn and hopes to inspire others to garden by sharing knowledge and answering questions. Eileen is a clinical lab scientist in the field of Microbiology and has dabbled in cooking, raising chickens, playing soccer, making beer, sewing, and propagating fig trees.

Fun Fun Cheng (She/Her/Hers)

Fun Fun learned to garden through trial and error. She joined the Master Gardener program because she felt it was time to learn more through a formal program. She grows mostly vegetables and herbs and is excited to learn about topics that she knows nothing about! Fun Fun is a hobby writer and avid reader, with interest in farming history and food history in different regions of the U.S.; she is particularly interested in food histories from under-represented cultural groups. This year she is experimenting with growing Asian vegetables and saving their seeds.

Theresa Cunningham (She/Her/Hers)

Theresa learned to garden from her neighbor and uncle, who was an avid gardener and taught her everything he knew about gardening. Now she loves all types of gardening – vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs – and is finding more ways to incorporate edible plants in her ornamental landscapes. Theresa likes to sew and is a self-proclaimed perfectionist when it comes to completing a piece. She is also a budget counselor and helps her clients keep track of what matters to them.

Marlys Daugherty (She/Her/Hers)

Marlys is a recent transplant to Minnesota, having spent much of her life in western North Carolina and the southern Appalachians. She is largely self-taught, learning from trial-by-error, reading, and guidance from family and neighbors. She really enjoys homegrown vegetables, fruits, and perennials and is excited to take a deep dive into the science and proven methods of gardening, especially in Minnesota’s shorter but possibly more intense growing season. Marlys enjoys many other outdoor activities, like hiking, canoeing, kayaking, biking, climbing, skiing.

Lindsey Foley (She/Her/Hers)

It wasn't until she had children and a house that Lindsey became interested in gardening. She enjoys small-space food gardening. Living in a fairly urban area where yards are small, she loves finding new, creative, or specialty ways to increase yields in small spaces to provide nutritious vegetables to the people around her. Lindsey has experience in developing and implementing children's programming, like day camps and educational experiences. She dabbles in photography and loves cooking, especially when the food comes from her garden!

Juliana Forster (She/Her/Hers)

Juliana likes feeling the dirt in her hands and sun on her face. She believes that the most rewarding form of gardening is helping to build balanced ecosystems that create food and homes for the little creatures around us. Juliana helped to lead a gardening club for disabled adults with her previous employer, and she loves finding ways to make learning about plants, animals, and the environment approachable and enjoyable.

Jan Fransen (She/Her/Hers)

Jan started growing a variety of houseplants in her room as a child and knew she finally had become a gardener when she realized she knew the names of a lot of plants on sight. While she loves other people's vegetable gardens, she finds having her own stressful and prefers ornamental plants, especially those that attract pollinators and wildlife.

Beth Fritcher (She/Her/Hers)

Beth lives in White Bear Lake and fondly remembers shelling peas with her grandfather and trying hard not to eat them all. She has so much interest and passion in all things plant related that she thought it would be great if she could learn more and provide guidance to others using a science-based approach. Beth enjoys cooking and traveling internationally.

Nancy Glass (She/Her/Hers)

Nancy learned to garden by reading how-to books and experimenting. She realized that she was a gardener when, at her first house, she found she enjoyed improving the gardens. Now, she prefers to use native plants in her own garden. Nancy is excited to learn all there is to know and is eager to help people improve their experience with gardening.

Liz Goebl (She/Her/Hers)

Liz remembers chasing rabbits and picking wildflowers while her parents worked in their community garden near Highland Park as a young child. Now she enjoys growing both flowers and vegetables in Maplewood. Some of her hobbies are extensions of her love of gardening. She grows and dries flowers for arrangements and preserves produce by canning, fermenting, freezing and drying. Liz is also a cook, reader, knitter/crocheter, traveler and theater lover.

Martha Grant (She/Her/Hers)

Martha has always lived next to the Fairgrounds in St. Paul. She was lucky to have parents who encouraged her to identify as a 'gardener' from a very young age. She loves working with vegetables and getting to see a plant grow from a tiny seed to joining the dinner table. She would love to encourage more kids to identify as ‘gardeners’ through the RCMG school programs.

Kelly Greco (She/Her/Hers)

Kelly first became a gardener when she started her own garden and cared for the landscape. She has since accumulated lots of experience with vegetable gardening. She joined the Master Gardener volunteer program to learn more and to get more involved with her community. Kelly works in dermatology treating skin cancer and feels strongly about educating people about proper sun protection.

Justine Greene (She/Her/Hers)

When a tornado tore down the trees around her home in 1997, Justine started to think about gardening instead of just growing a lawn, but she didn’t think of herself as a gardener until she started ruining her office clothes when she came home work, planning to “just pull a couple weeds” only to find herself up to her elbows by the end of the night. Justine wants to help others enjoy their gardens by helping to solving problems or finding solutions to challenges. She has a background in interior design, water quality, environmental health, toxicology, and data management.

Donna Hall (She/Her/Hers)

Donna likes perennial gardening in her yard in Shoreview with both shade and sun plants. She likes vegetable gardening, but the bugs and animals are a challenge because they like the vegetables too! Donna has a technical background (software engineering) and likes building and leading teams (people management and project/program management). She likes being outdoors all year long, whether it’s cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, camping, biking, walking, gardening, golf, sailing, canoeing, or any other reason to enjoy time outside.

Angela Hawkins (She/Her/Hers)

From an early age, Angela has always been drawn to the outdoors and found particular fascination with the intricate beauty of plants. Now, she enjoys perennial gardening and growing cut flowers. She wants to deepen her learning and give back to the community by sharing her passion for gardening with others. Beyond the garden, Angela loves to both create and experience art, sew, and enjoys outdoor activities like paddle boarding.

Amanda Jackson Wilber (She/Her/Hers)

Amanda gardens by reading and following a trial-and-error methodology. She loves growing vegetables and the process of growing food from seeds never ceases to amaze her! She is hoping to learn how to be a better steward of our land and to the other beings that share it through the Master Gardener program. One of her favorite pastimes is reading.

Michele Johnson (She/Her/Hers)

Michele enjoys working outside, beautifying areas and teaching others. She has been interested in joining the Master Gardener Volunteer Program since learning about it years ago. She is especially interested in helping people change their turfs to gardens.

Madeleine “Maddy” Kaudy (She/Her/Hers)

Maddy has been growing plants since her mother gifted her space in their garden growing up. She enjoys starting seeds the most, taking inspiration from a friend who planted morning glory seeds in her dorm room and enjoyed an indoor “jungle,” despite the freezing winter temps. She wants to connect with her community and share what she has learned. Beyond the garden, Maddy is a painter, yoga enthusiast, agate/glass bottle/arrowhead hunter, avid cook, and antique collector.

Jean Batzli Kohs (She/Her/Hers)

Jean’s love of and appreciation for gardening comes from her paternal grandparents, who were farmers with animals, fields, gardens and an orchard. She was also inspired by her maternal grandmother, who grew a prize-winning flower gardener. While much of her garden experience is with vegetable gardening, she is focusing more on container gardens and indoor plants these days. In her professional life, Jean was a manager, mentor, and preceptor and hopes to bring some of those skills to the Master Gardener program.

Jenifer (Jenny) Krol (She/Her/Hers)

Jenifer has lived in the Twin Cities area her whole life. All of her grandparents gardened and she attributes her love of and appreciation for gardening to them. She has experience as a vegetable gardener but is now focusing on container gardens and indoor plants. Professionally a manager, mentor, and preceptor, Jenifer joined the Master Gardener volunteer program to find like-minded garden lovers.

Sherryl Livingston (She/Her/Hers)

Sherryl took a U of MN Extension class on native Minnesota plants and became inspired to convert her annual flower beds to native plants to support native pollinators. She is surprised and delighted by the increase in the number of birds, bees and butterflies in her backyard. Sherryl received a Lawns to Legumes grant and was recommended to the Master Gardener volunteer program to learn more and to share her enthusiasm.

Elizabeth (Beth) Lorentz (She/Her/Hers)

Beth grew up on a hobby farm where her family raised an acre vegetable garden, berries and a small apple orchard. She enjoys perennial flower gardening and is interested in pollinator gardens and native plants. Her professional experience is marketing and product development. Beth enjoys nature – biking, hiking, walking, canoeing, sailing, bird watching – and loves music, especially live performances.

Susan Mason (She/Her/Hers)

Sue mostly gardens with perennials and annual containers. Her yard is mostly shaded, so shade-loving plants, like hostas and woodland natives are favorites. As a child, her family went on the St Cloud-area summer garden tours. The Master Gardeners that she met on those tours led to a 20-year goal to become a Master Gardener volunteer and share with others the multi-faceted benefits of plants. Sue is a retired civil engineer, who believes she could help our volunteer teams with local governments and watersheds to problem solve, design and execute projects that fit both MG and the community goals.

Brittany McArdell (She/Her/Hers)

Brittany knew she was a gardener when she realized that she kept expanding her garden each year, adding more to it each time. She especially loves to grow vegetables and fresh cut flowers. She’s looking forward to learning more about soil and pest/disease management. She loves reading and, when the season is right, she enjoys dog sledding.

Kara Nygaard (She/Her/Hers)

Kara’s inspiration comes from her grandfather’s large vegetable garden and her grandmother’s love of flowers. Today she is drawn towards perennials, vegetables and fruiting trees/shrubs. She feels like she has always been drawn to gardening and wants to become more involved in her community. She is now at a place in life where she can devote time to both as a Master Gardener volunteer. In her spare time, Kara enjoys working on home improvement projects and spending time with her husband and pets.

Kim Oberg (She/Her/Hers)

Kim learned to love dirt and growing things from her dad – he didn’t know botany, horticulture, or why anything grew or didn’t grow; he just enjoyed all things green and growing, and she does too. Kim is particularly fascinated with perennials and pollinator-friendly plants. She is bilingual in Spanish and English and also dabbles in French. She hopes that she can help reach more communities using her language abilities.

Bill Pederson (He/Him/His)

Bill has lived in central Minnesota all his life and fondly remembers gardening at Oasis Park as a kid with his parents. Now a gardener in his own right, Bill grows vegetables and annual flowers. He’s most looking forward to being a part of a larger community of resources for fellow gardeners. For fun, he enjoys knitting, classical singing, cooking and has librarianship skills.

Dan Peterson (He/Him/His)

Dan lives in New Brighton and has been gardening since a very young age though his interest has increased since his retirement in 2014. Mostly self-taught, he enjoys enhancing his landscape using perennials. Outside the garden, he enjoys motorcycling and travel.

Danita Peterson (She/Her/Hers)

Danita’s first gardening memory was picking strawberries in her great-grandmother’s cottage garden. She learned a lot from a friend and garden mentor. While she can find answers to questions online, Danita believes that sometimes you need a human connection when discussing gardens. She looks forward to being that connection as a Master Gardener, working with people as they plan their gardens and supporting them to reach their goals.

Emma Porter (She/Her/Hers)

Emma’s parents always had gardens, both vegetable and flower, so gardening has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. However, she realized she was a gardener when she would design gardens in her free time as a teenager. Emma enjoys many kinds of gardening: perennial pollinator gardens because it is fun to watch all the creatures that visit the garden and fruit and vegetable gardening because it is fun and rewarding to grow your own food! When not gardening, Emma enjoys hiking and camping, and photography and drawing.

Sara Quinn (She/Her/Hers)

Sara can't think of a time when she didn't think of herself as a gardener. She caught the gardening bug from her mom, who was an avid gardener and gave Sara her own small garden to plant and tend to as a child. Sara enjoys gardening with perennials – including dividing and sharing them – and vegetables. She is excited to learn more science-based research behind gardening and looks forward to sharing that information with others.

Karen Randall (She/Her/Hers)

Karen’s passion is growing food, including raised vegetable beds and fruit trees. She converted part of her lot to a cooperative community garden, shared by neighbors with a common interest in growing local food. She thrives on working with her hands and making things. Over the years this has included stained glass windows, shoes, cheese, and wooden bowls and spoons. Karen is a teacher by profession and works currently on school district strategic planning and project management.

Gene Ranieri (He/Him/His)

Born and raised on the east coast, Gene lives in St Paul where he grows vegetables in the corner lot with his wife, Kris. He is often asked questions about his garden plants and vegetables. Gene would like to help others be able to garden and assists in maintaining a school and community garden near Summit Hill. In his free time, Gene likes to bike, exercise, read, and stay connected to his college friends.

Mariah Sachs (She/Her/Hers)

Mariah learned to garden on a biodynamic community farm. Her plant love and knowledge lies with trees and vegetables but she is looking forward to expanding her knowledge beyond those topics and connecting to the diverse community in Ramsey County. She enjoys sharing good food, wilderness travel, and crafts, like fiber arts and sewing.

Yari Serrano (She/Her/Hers)

Yari was born in New Jersey, raised in Puerto Rico and now lives in Arden Hills. She learned a lot about gardening from her grandmother by collecting oranges and plantains and growing herbs to make tea. Yari is excited to learn how to grow vegetables in Minnesota – very different from her home in the Carribean. Yari is a “Hockey mom” and also volunteers in the Booster club. She likes working with kids and helping as an interpreter for Spanish language.

Stacy Sola (She/Her/Hers)

Dreaming up garden designs and cultivating ornamental gardens with perennial plants, shrubs and grasses is the type of gardening that Stacy enjoys most. The Master Gardener Volunteer Program offered an opportunity to serve her community, learn more about gardening, and meet people with similar passions and interests.Stacy’s other interests include using technology to capture the beauty of nature and gardens through videography, graphic design, and digital photography.

Terry Smith (He/Him/His)

Terry started gardening before he can remember and has grown in many places, including Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, and Ohio. He is a retired PhD research physicist and would like to teach people how to grow healthy, inexpensive food to improve their diets. Terry is very active in the community and volunteers as an English Language tutor and with food-related organizations such as The Good Acre. He also participates on the Board of an equine therapy organization, and does free-lance editing of technical materials.

Sue Stein (She/Her/Hers)

Sue has spent time in Virginia and North Carolina but has lived in St. Paul for the past 40 years. She learned to garden by watching her mother plant azaleas and iris in their backyard. This has led to an appreciation of perennials and shrub plants. She knew she was a gardener in her own right when she rented a rototiller and dug up around a concrete slab in her backyard to create a new patio garden. She has experience writing as part of her profession life and enjoys reading, knitting, and golfing.

Paula St John (She/Her/Hers)

Paula was born and raised in Chile though now lives in St. Paul. She remembers gardening with her grandmother in the Chilean countryside, where she helped collect vegetables for meals. Paula is looking forward to helping communities, especially Latinos living in Ramsey County, learn more about gardening. Her skills as a former educator and her fluency speaking Spanish will help her reach this goal.

Kathy Stokes (She/Her/Hers)

Kathy enjoys shrubs and trees and their roles as backbone and framework for the landscape and garden and is looking forward to increasing her horticultural knowledge and skills. She is a substitute teacher and spent many years as a volunteer recruiter and trainer. She is at heart a learner and teacher.

Jacob Sugerman (He/Him/His)

Jacob’s mom wasn't an especially avid gardener, but her love for nature and interest in plants made an impression on Jacob. He is mostly interested in trees: their importance in the environment and relationship to other plants, animals, and ecological processes. He is also drawn to palms and related (typically tropical) plant species. An educator by trade, Jacob wants to use his skills to contribute to the development of community gardens and green spaces in his community.

Bailey Tangen (She/Her/Hers)

Though Bailey is a relatively new gardening enthusiast, she has always been fascinated with the natural world. She aspires to conduct research as part of a plant science career. Part of her goal is to make sure that gardening and horticulture information is accessible to all, regardless of physical ability, ethnicity, mental health status, and economic status. She loves sudoku, searching for mushrooms, identifying animals and plants, doing art projects (painting, ceramics, coloring, drawing), growing plants from seed, and spending time outdoors.

Linnea Tani (She/Her/Hers)

Growing up in a large farming family, Linnea learned the basics of vegetable gardening because gardening was essential to her family's survival. As an adult, she developed an interest in flowers and now has a variety of perennials, natives, and shade plants plus lots of lilies. She is particularly interested in learning more about using native plants and developing healing gardens. Linnea is a retired nurse, a Certified Healing Touch Practitioner, an avid reader, a mosaic artist, and an avid traveler.

Jill Terry (She/Her/Hers)

Jill is a lover of all gardens but has the most experience with houseplants. She’s the proud owner of a couple Holland lops and can macrame hanging basket holders in her sleep! Professionally, Jill has tons of HR and recruiting experience. She is hoping to learn more as a volunteer and find opportunities to share that knowledge with folks in the community.

Kristin Thomanschefsky (She/Her/Hers)

Kristin’s great-grandparents and grandparents gardened out of necessity and she saw first-hand how they pulled things out of the soil and later onto the dinner plates. Gardening is very therapeutic for her, and she gets excited about pruning, deadheading, and even weeding! She loves cooking, hiking, camping, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, travel, and reading. She has been teaching in higher education for the past 4 ½ years and has been a health care professional for over 30 years.

Ellen Tveit (She/Her/Hers)

Despite good garden influences from grandparents and parents as a kid, Ellen associated gardening with being outside when it was hot and humid and buggy. Everything changed when she became a homeowner. Now gardening is a creative outlet, a way to be physically active, and a chance to connect with her neighbors. She most enjoys flowers and ornamental plants. Ellen learned to speak Spanish while living in Spain and now has experience teaching English as a second language. Ellen also has skills as a professional content writer and editor.

Andre Walker (He/Him/His)

Andre was born in Chicago but raised in Saint Paul. He first started gardening 3 years ago as part of his job with the St Paul Public Housing Agency. He likes vegetable gardening the most and helps coordinate four community gardens and over 100 gardeners with the residents. He is looking forward to sharing his Master Gardener knowledge with them.

Julie Wegscheid (She/Her/Hers)

Julie is curious by nature and enjoys learning. She first learned to garden from her mother and local 4-H leaders. Her most recent garden adventures include straw-bale gardening and planting cover crops. Julie is exploring therapeutic gardening for people living with loss and challenges.

Jenny Werness (She/Her/Hers)

Jenny lives in St. Paul, MN. She began gardening on her grandpa’s farm but has since gotten more involved with gardening using native perennials and more interested in gardening to address climate change. When not spending time with plants, Jenny enjoys chemistry, metal-smithing, bicycling, hiking, and backpacking.


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