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University of Minnesota Extension

McLeod County Extension Master Gardeners Celebrate Significant Milestones

Source: Emily Hansen, University of Minnesota Extension - Wright, McLeod and Meeker Counties, hans6005@umn.edu 612-394-6302

The McLeod County Extension Master Gardeners are a group filled with loyalty and tradition. Since the group's inception in 1991, they have contributed thousands of hours of volunteer service to McLeod County and its residents. Many community members have attended the annual plant sale, Horticulture Education Day, and county fair booth, but the role of an Extension Master Gardener is more than those annual events. The Master Gardeners have volunteered to teach youth at the local farmers market in Hutchinson, provided free horticulture education in person and on YouTube, conducted Junior Master Gardener day camps, and more. 

In 2022, the McLeod County Extension Master Gardeners are celebrating six volunteer anniversaries. Congratulations to Diane Enstad - 10 years, Sandra Kaufman - 10 years, Deb Karstens - 20 years, Roxanne Stensvad - 25 years,  Marian Filk - 30 years and Janet Dolezal - 35 years for their commitment to providing horticulture education to the community. 

Featured in this article are stories of Roxanne, Marian and Janet’s significant impact to McLeod County through their combined 90 years of volunteer service and 5,100 volunteer hours.

Roxanne Stensvad, McLeod County Master Gardener standing in tall grass.

Roxanne Stensvad is a retired teacher of 40 years. After growing up on a small dairy farm in Todd County and receiving her Bachelor's Degree from the University of Concordia Moorhead, she was hired as a biology teacher at Glencoe High School. When she arrived at Glencoe High School, a fellow teacher sparked her interest in gardening.

“He asked my permission to bring in his plants to our greenhouse,” Stensvad said. “He brought them in and it just changed the whole environment of my classroom and the kids loved it.”

Stensvad also credits her love of gardening to a horticulture class that fell onto her shoulders.

“I was put in charge of a horticulture class,” Stensvad said. “My colleague had taught it for years, but it didn’t work into the schedule. I was down a biology section for that year and was assigned the task of taking it over.”

After taking over that horticulture class and learning to dig into her love of gardening, Stensvad joined the McLeod County Extension Master Gardener program. This year, Stensvad is celebrating twenty-five years in the program. Her longtime involvement brings along some of her most memorable moments which were participating in JMG day camps, Horticulture Education Day, and answering questions at the Minnesota State Fair and Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. 

Some of the projects that Stensvad has contributed to over the years include removing buckthorn at a local hospice center, creating a garden bed for the Silver Lake Lions, and tending to the garden beds at the McLeod County Fairgrounds.

“The best part of being a Master Gardener is that you are constantly learning and you get to meet new people and make new friends,” Stensvad said.

Stensvad and Marian Filk have been close friends since they both joined the program. Filk is celebrating her thirtieth year as a McLeod County Extension Master Gardener. 

Marian Filk, McLeod County Master Gardener

Filk’s love of gardening began when she was a little girl and has continued throughout her family today.

“When I was a little girl, my mother was a gardener and she would give each of us a little space to grow things in. My space was round and I grew Balsam,” said Filk. “At this stage of my life, I do mostly flowers, while my family does mostly veggies.”

Thirty years ago, Filk learned about the McLeod County Extension Master Gardener Program through a close friend. She soon thereafter joined the group with an open mind to learn about many different horticultural topics.

Throughout her time with the McLeod County Extension Master Gardener program, Filk has been involved in seventeen JMG day camps, our Annual Horticulture Education Day, and reading stories to toddlers and first graders during library story time.

“My most memorable event would have to be the JMG day camp,” Filk said. “Seeing the spark created when kids connect with nature and learning years later the flame has grown is rewarding.”

As a fair board director since 1981, and other various roles at the fair since, Filk has been a prominent member and volunteer of McLeod County.

“Other memorable moments would include the people I have met along the way,” Filk said. “Interacting with numerous people at the many programs we have presented is memorable.”

After thirty years of service to the McLeod County Master Gardeners, Filk is still creating memories and making an impact on McLeod County.

Janet Dolezal, McLeod County Master Gardener surounded by plants

Thirty years of volunteer service dates back to a year after the McLeod County Master Gardener program began. There is one volunteer that extends past that official inception, Janet Dolezal. Dolezal has served the Extension Master Gardener program for thirty-five years. 

Born and raised in McLeod County, Dolezal grew up on a dairy farm northwest of Hutchinson. 

“My dad was a gardener. We always had a huge vegetable garden,” Dolezal said. “I remember a lot of times, before he would come in for breakfast after milking, he would be in the garden and I would go out in the garden with him and learn.”

After getting married, having children, and attending vocational school, Dolezal became a member of the Horticultural Society in McLeod County. Dolezal’s involvement in this group resulted in the formation of the Extension Master Gardener program.

“I think I was the third one in the county that took the Master Gardener course,” Dolezal said. “That would have been thirty-five years ago.”

Throughout her time with the program. Dolezal became a certified horticulture judge for the county fair and spent her time teaching 4-H youth how to get plants ready to exhibit at the county fair. Her flower judging has spanned 20 counties in Minnesota as well as an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair. She has also been superintendent of the McLeod County flower exhibits for 46 years. 

As an Extension Master Gardener, Dolezal has provided education to McLeod county through various educational programs such as Gardening Knowledge for Free. She has also taught fair exhibitors the ‘tips and tricks’ of exhibiting through videos on the Hutchinson Community Video Network. 

“I have learned so much and I feel as though I need to pass it on so others can enjoy gardening,” Dolezal said.

After thirty-five years as a McLeod County Extension Master Gardener, Dolezal encourages others to join the program and volunteer in the community.

“You really do not have to be an expert to be an Extension Master Gardener,” Dolezal said. “There are so many different topics and you really learn so much.”

Congratulations again to Diane Enstad, Sandra Kaufman, Deb Karstens, Roxanne Stensvad, Marian Filk and Janet Dolezal for their countless years of service to the community. Thank you for your commitment to McLeod County and the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener program!


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