Updated: Sep 12
The class of 2023 includes 71 new RCMG volunteers.
Hillary Freeman (She/Her/Hers)
Hillary has long split her time between Grand Marais and St Paul. She became a Master Gardener volunteer after being inspired by two Master Gardeners in Grand Marais who offered ideas on how to develop the mess she inherited into a viable garden. In addition to being a Master Gardener, she became a Master Naturalist in 2022 and helps with MN Sheltie Rescue. She loved leading book groups and teaching classes for adults, as well as being involved in a variety of community projects.
Since joining in 2016, Hillary has been a representative for the Northeast Region on the State Advisory Board and has helped organize the annual State Master Gardener Conference for volunteers all over the state. It is important to her to make sure that the Master Gardener program addresses the needs and interests of small groups and those operating in rural MN.
Nii Anyetei —Tei— Akofio-Sowah (He/Him/His)
Tei grew up in Minneapolis and now lives in St. Paul's East Side. Since childhood, he’s been growing watermelon and cucumbers. He’s since expanded to include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and zucchinis and started incorporating flowers to improve pollination of his fruiting plants. As a special education teacher during the day, he’s interested in seeing growth: both in his own experience and in the skills of those around him. He enjoys being outside as much as he can, playing sports and doing some coaching for his children's soccer and track and field teams.
Bev Anderson (She/Her/Hers)
Bev has fond memories of picking beans in her mother’s vegetable garden when she was five. She still enjoys vegetable and herb gardening today, but has recently branched out into growing flowers, including the ever-complex roses. She also has interests in hiking, kayaking, biking, cooking, yoga, music, and theater. She looks forward to learning more about all the many aspects of gardening and sharing that knowledge with local youth.
Brittany Anderson (She/Her/Hers)
Brittany spent most of her childhood playing in the dirt thanks to her grandmothers. She wants to help connect kids to nature and plan gardens that support beneficial insects. She teaches high school but loves working with kids of all ages. Her goal is to take a concept and find ways to explain it to others in a way that makes sense and helps people relate to it.
Laurie grew up in the Roseville area and then lived in Duluth for 30 years before moving to Shoreview 12 years ago. She first started gardening by growing vegetables and herbs with her children, who loved getting in the dirt. Laurie also loves cooking and preserving the food she grows and experimenting with growing in small spaces. She hopes to learn more about the science of plants, how they grow, and how to maximize their benefits.
Jake (Tackett) Brand (He/Him/His)
Jake Brand (Tackett is his pre-marriage surname) comes to St Paul from a small farming community south of Chicago where he grew up with a large garden full of produce. His grandma is a Master Gardener in Illinois and she specialized in enormous flower beds. Jake wants to carry on that tradition but with vegetable gardens. He teaches courses in technology and is also a classically trained operatic tenor.
Tiegan Brick (She/Her/Hers)
Tiegan has been a vegetable gardener for years and recently developed a passion for native plants. (Perhaps to help the wildlife she enjoys watching as a birder.) She wants to learn and share her passion and knowledge with others. While she’s already getting garden questions from people she knows, she hopes to never stop learning from her garden and from other gardeners!
Susan —Sue— Brief (She/Her/Hers)
Sue started growing in a community garden after college. She loves to grow things to eat and to turn other people on to gardening, especially young people! She’s an avid baker and cook, who also likes artsy-craftsy things and DIY projects.
Cathy Challman (She/Her/Hers)
Cathy was born, raised and still lives in Ramsey County. She’s a fan of flowers and landscape plants, and sees becoming a Master Gardener volunteer as a good way to get involved with her community and meet other gardeners. She has skills in graphic design and enjoys cooking, hiking, camping, and kayaking.
Kathryn —Katie— Charlet (She/Her/Hers)
Katie enjoys permaculture-like or holistic gardening that creates a whole ecosystem and she practices on her current garden on 2/3rd of an acre. She learned to garden mostly by trial and error and now wants to learn a more scientific-based approach. She has the most experience with vegetable gardening and is looking forward to opportunities to share knowledge with the community.
Amanda —Mandy— Colten (She/Her/Hers)
Mandy was raised in Centerville, MN and now lives in St. Paul. She has been around plants her whole life. She grew up on a farm and her father was an entrepreneur with patents for natural fertilizers for agricultural use. She is most interested in growing food – vegetable and fruit trees.
Emma De Vera
Alexis Donath (She/Her/Hers)
Alexis began "helping" in her parent’s vegetable garden at an early age. She loves a garden that is functional but is looking for more ways to incorporate edible, fragrant, or pollinator-friendly plants into her landscape. In additional to joining the Master Gardeners, Alexis is a Master Naturalist and is serving as a site steward for one of Minnesota's 168 Scientific & Natural Areas.
Michelle Eberhard (She/Her/Hers)
Michelle spent much of her childhood weekends helping on her family garden and always had the best time being with them and watching them work. Now she enjoys planting a combination of vegetables and flowers, since the color of the flowers offsets a lot of the green of the veggies. She joined the Master Gardener Volunteer Program because she wanted to learn how to be a better steward of the outdoors and wants to share things that she learns with those in her community.
Michael Erb (He/Him/His)
Michael helped in his father’s vegetable garden as a kid, pulling weeds on hands-and-knees. Now he wants to expand his garden knowledge beyond vegetables, to flowers, soil, and beneficials. Aside from gardening and attending live music events, he evangelizes the value of a good nap.
Jessica Fedie (She/Her/Hers)
Jessica was raised in Eau Claire and learned gardening from her grandpa, who demonstrated the concepts of land stewardship, self-sufficiency, and the unique ability to eat rhubarb stalks straight from the ground. Jessica has carried on this legacy with her interest in cooking with edible perennials and enjoys seeking out farming tours when traveling to different climates. She also enjoys cross-country skiing, kayaking, and, most recently, speed puzzle competitions.
Brianna Flavin (She/Her/Hers)
Brianna loves growing berries but she’ll grow anything she can fit into her small garden space. She is excited about helping people find their own sustainable ways to mess around in the dirt and contribute to their own health. She loves learning about gardening so much that she maxes out her library allotment every winter checking out books on gardening, ecology and foraging.
Patty Garvey (She/Her/Hers)
Patty started with houseplants before her gardening ventured outside. She enjoys the variety of annuals and the stability of perennials. She is looking forward to gaining more knowledge and sharing that knowledge with the community.Patty is a crafter, a traveler, a photographer, a thrifter.
Ian Goldsmith (He/Him/His)
Ian is a Saint Paul resident who enjoys growing native perennials and New World vegetables from seed. He is also a novice fly fisherman, an aspiring cook, and an ex-professional beer brewer. While he already knows a great deal about the world of microorganisms and fermentation, he is excited to learn more about the scientific concepts behind successful gardening, such as cation exchange capacity (CEC) and crop rotation.
Judith Graziano (She/Her/Hers)
Judith lives in St. Paul and enjoys spending time outdoors and improving her gardening skills. She learned to garden by planting geraniums and vegetables in the summer with her mom and aunts. Judith has been planting flowers since she rented her first home, and has continued that practice in every place she has lived, always experimenting and learning.
Margaret Hart (She/Her/Hers)
Margaret was raised on a farm and learned to grow vegetables at an early age. Since moving onto a wooded lot, she’s gotten a lot of practice with shade gardening and has learned to appreciate plants for their foliage. She’s been looking forward to becoming a Master Gardener volunteers and, after a career in news broadcasting and communications, brings skills in writing, editing, and media relations skills to the table.
Vanessa Hazelton (She/Her/Hers)
Vanessa was born and raised in Miami, Florida and moved to Minnesota after college. She first started gardening by landscaping and growing vegetables through trial and error, drawing on information from the Extension Master Gardener website. She is very interested in gardening with native plants, as well as her other hobbies of cooking, knitting, reading, and playing the violin.
Patti Highland (She/Her/Hers)
Patti was born and raised in south Minneapolis before spending many years on the west coast in both California and Washington. She’s been amazed by gardening since her grade school teacher had students group green beans in a soup can. Now she grows houseplants, annuals, and perennials such as hostas and hydrangeas. She enjoys learning from others as well as sharing what she learns.
Linda Hinderscheit (She/Her/Hers)
Linda was raised on a farm about 10 miles southwest of New Prague, MN. Her mom never pressed her to help in the garden, which, she says, is probably why she still likes gardening. She likes vegetable and perennial gardens equally, and is looking forward to meeting other people who are also interested in growing things. In addition to gardening, she’s hoping to share her skills at organizing things and writing. She likes to read, embroider, and take walks.
Amy Holewa (She/Her/Hers)
Amy was born in Chicago and raised in suburban New York City before moving to Minnesota. She learned to garden by watching and practicing with her mother, a fellow Master Gardener. Amy is currently working on a perennial garden inspired by English country estates seen during her travels. She looks forward to connecting with the larger gardening community, and also enjoys needlepoint and house renovation.
Kristina Hughes (She/Her/Hers)
Kristina’s earliest memories are digging her toes into the dirt in her grandfather’s garden and eating handfuls of curly parsley (something she still does as an adult). She always had some form of a garden in her life, whether a plot at a community garden or herbs on a window sill. She usually has a mix of vegetables, herbs and flowers and has begun to learn about Minnesota native plants and pollinators.
Amy Ihlan (She/Her/Hers)
Amy grew up in Columbia Heights and now lives in St Paul. Her first gardening memory is of growing pumpkins in her family’s backyard around the age of 10. She is currently focused on vegetable gardening but has plans for a pollinator-friendly front yard and boulevard. Amy has experience as an educator and in community engagement and enjoys that there’s always something new to learn about gardening.
Doug Iverson (He/Him/His)
Doug lives in St Paul and grows mostly perennial plants, with a smattering of annuals like salvia and tithornia. With more time now to explore community service opportunities, he believes being Master Gardener is a great opportunity to combine his interest in gardening with his interest in learning and sharing knowledge. He’s recently learned the most intriguing and basic thing about gardening: it's never a finished product.
Emma Kiley (She/Her/Hers)
Emma enjoys growing food, encouraged by early days picking raspberries with her mom. She joined the Master Gardener Volunteer Program to learn from and be inspired by fellow gardeners and give back to the community in a more meaningful way. She loves to read, embroider, and experiment in the kitchen (sourdough, ginger beer, etc).
Katherine —Kathy— Kleckner (--)
Samantha Larsen (She/Her/Hers)
Samantha is from Mankato and her earliest gardening members involve helping her grandma out on the farm. She enjoys caring for houseplants and is looking forward to applying her new knowledge with the community. As a nurse, she hopes to find ways to bring aspects of the gardening into healthcare.
Scott Lore (He/Him/His)
Scott is a lifelong Minnesota resident who first got into gardening by planting ground cover species and lilacs with his wife. He hopes to learn how to grow his own food and create sustainable alternative yard spaces like pollinator rain gardens. He also enjoys music, art, hand-tool woodworking, building computers, and hanging out with his two cats.
Mélina Mangal (She/Her/Hers)
Mélina loves to plant seeds and first learned to garden by sprouting an avocado pit with her mother and siblings. She has experience growing flowers like tulips, marigolds, coneflowers, and yarrow. She’s interested in vegetable gardening and is looking forward to learning from other garden enthusiasts in the Master Gardener program. She enjoys cooking and speaks both French and a little Spanish.
Kristi Mattson (She/Her/Hers)
Kristi lives in the Macalester Groveland neighborhood. Her mom was a Master Gardener in Kandiyohi County and Kristi did everything with her. People tend to ask for her advice about biennials (especially hollyhocks) but she also has knowledge about growing fruits, vegetables, and perennials. She can’t wait to help increase the number of confident gardeners in her communities!
Mary McCarron (She/Her/Hers)
Mary enjoys re-arranging the perennial plants in her yard in Roseville and is excited to learn more about incorporating native plants. She’s also interested in expanding her herb garden beyond a few kitchen staples. Before moving into her house, she didn't have any idea how much she would enjoy puttering around in the yard but now 5 years later she’s joining the Master Gardeners!
Anne McCormick (She/Her/Hers)
Anne started gardening with vegetables after she married. She has since added native prairie plants to the mix and she’s looking forward to creating new gardens at Battle Creek Middle School. She is a retired French teacher and former competitive runner and triathlete.
Monnie McMahon (She/Her/Hers)
Monnie learned to garden by trial and error and would like official, professional, scientific information about gardening to supplement what she’s learned. She enjoys food gardening primarily, she’s always attracted to bold, colorful flower displays. She is looking forward to working with other volunteers to expand her gardening horizons and help others appreciate the joy of gardening.
Vatsala Menon (She/Her/Hers)
Vatsala grew up in southern India, the daughter of a botanist who discussed plants with such enthusiasm that it became second nature to her. Living in an older suburb in MN now, she has a lot of experience growing plants in the shade though she would love to grow vegetables. She is a retired elementary school teacher and loves working with children. She is looking forward to helping people appreciate the joy of gardening and dissuading them of harmful practices.
Don Muske (He/Him/His)
Don Muske lives in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood and has learned to garden through trial and error. (Mostly error, he claims.) His garden is focused around shade-loving perennials, and he is looking forward to sharing knowledge with his fellow Master Gardeners.
Georgia Nauman (She/Her/Hers)
Georgia has the most garden experience with annuals but she started a large native plant garden last year and is excited to learn more about those plants. She’s been looking forward to joining the Master Gardeners for years and is looking forward to meeting new people and having new experiences in the gardening world.
Jayme Neverton (She/They)
Jayme is a lifelong Minnesota resident looking forward to giving back to her community and the natural world. She remembers first learning to garden with her grandmother, recalling the sound of her laughter, the smell of the soil, and the exotic shapes of zinnia and marigold seeds. She loves growing uncommon vegetables and herbs, creating art, snowboarding, and playing Dungeons and Dragons.
Katie Novotny (She/Her/Hers)
Katie learned to garden from her mom, who had a huge vegetable garden along with strawberry and raspberry patches. Most of Katie’s experience is with growing tomatoes but she is also interested in learning more about native plants, shrubs, and trees. She also has interests in cooking and baking.
Beverly —Bev— Paulus
Beth Peck (She/Her/Hers)
Beth lived in New York City and Wisconsin before moving to Minnesota. She has 28 years of experience in children’s book illustration and publishing. She has come to love digging in the dirt to raise vegetables, zinnias, and bulbs, and hopes to share her gardening knowledge with the local youth. She enjoys contributing to her community garden in Saint Paul and watching her planting projects bloom throughout the year.
Rose —Rosey— Peterson
Shari Pleiss (She/Her/Hers)
Shari is crazy for sunflowers, but vegetables for canning come in a very close second. The last three years have been a turning point in her interest in gardening, expanding her free time during the gardening season. As she’s had time to create more gardens in her yard, she wants to learn more and use those experiences to build and strengthen relationships in the community. She’s moderately skilled in carpentry and seems to always get pegged to be the treasurer of any group she joins.
Kathleen —Katie— Robinson (She/Her/Hers)
As a child, Katie was a fierce advocate for protecting nature but she only started gardening in her 30’s. She enjoys growing both vegetables and flowers and discovered that she has a real passion for gardening. She looks forward to sharing all of the wonderful things that can be gained through gardening with children who may not have access to it.
Keala Sanders (She/Her/Hers)
Keala is a professional hair stylist with a “passion for fashion” living in White Bear Lake. She can recall first learning to garden by helping her grandma pick strawberries and tomatoes. Keala specializes in indoor plants, especially succulents, cacti, and microgreens. She also enjoys reading, embroidering, and thrift shopping.
Laura Savin (She/Her/Hers)
Laura lives on a shade-covered lot St Paul and grows in a community garden where a friend encouraged her to join the Master Gardener program. In her home yard, she’s spent a lot of time (and money!) trying to grow plants that need more sun. She enjoys reading, hiking, cooking, watercolor painting and is a beginning birder.
Connor Simons (He/Him/His)
Connor first learned to garden while helping his grandma water her flower garden each morning when he was just a wee lad. He is currently building up his vegetable gardening skills and is excited to try potatoes and corn for the first time this upcoming year. He loves hiking, camping, reading, writing, and snowshoeing. He decided to join the Master Gardener Volunteer Program because he wants to help the community become more conscious stewards of the land.
Tami Spry (She/Her/Hers)
Tami has been doing garden design for herself and others for 30 years. She loves perennial plants; watching them develop (or sometimes not!) throughout the years. She is a retired professor of communication, a published writer, and seasoned speaker. She looks forward to talking with groups about how to introduce plants into their lives.
Amanda Swanson (She/Her/Hers)
Amanda has always loved the idea of tending a garden. She primarily grows vegetables but her ultimate goal, after seeing the exhibit at the MN State Fair, is to start growing dahlias! She’s a community gardener, reader, and hiker of state parks. Professionally, she’s a social media director for a non-profit organization.
Paul Tetreault (He/Him/His)
Paul likes many forms of gardening: outdoors in soil, indoors in soil, and indoors using water mediums. Hydroponics is his "winter garden" and consists of kales, lettuces, chard, and herbs. His goal in becoming a Master Gardener volunteer is to share his interest in the science of gardening and about the role of gardening in society. He has a wide range of experience with construction tools and various networking technologies. He enjoys reading about current events, politics, technological advancement, and change.
Betsy Van Hecke (She/Her/Hers)
Betsy was raised in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood and she still lives in that neighborhood today! She loves working on mixed borders of flower gardens but struggles with houseplants. She believes that the best thing about gardening is how much there is to learn! Beyond the garden, she travels, plays with her dog and knits.
Geethika Vemulapalli (She/Her/Hers)
Geethika startrted collecting houseplants while living in an apartment to help brighten up the space. Now living in a house in Shoreview, she is developing a native, pollinator-friendly garden in her yard. She is interested in learning more about native plants and connecting with the community.
Melissa Wagner (She/Her/Hers)
Melissa worked with her grandfather in his community garden in White Bear Lake. Now she keeps vegetable and perennial gardens. She is planting and teaching her Girl Scout troop about pollinator gardening and loves working with scouts to make the world a better place. Melissa is a graphic designer and a state- and national parks hiker.
Kathryn Watson (She/Her/Hers)
Kathryn lives in Roseville and enjoys tending to the large perennial beds she inherited when she bought her new home. Her first gardening memories are of her neighbor sharing a corner of their large plot with her family, allowing her and her sisters to learn about raising vegetables. Kathryn looks forward to learning more about gardening research so that she can share the knowledge with her kids and community. She has a broad education as an architect focused on sustainable design.
Maria Wolff (She/Her/Hers)
Maria loves all kinds of outdoor activities: the more time outside, the better! She loves to work in the garden, growing vegetables and native perennials. She’s hoping to learn from the other volunteers in the Master Gardener program and use her experiences to teach others in her community.
Esther Young (She/Her/Hers)
When she was young, Esther's mom had each child plant a seed from a fruit they enjoyed in dixie cups. Surprisingly they all actually grew into trees several feet tall! Nowadays, she grows vegetables and herbs instead of fruit trees. She is looking forward to learning to be a better gardener and to getting to know her community. She loves to read, play board games, and share homemade food with others.