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The Georgia Master Gardener Association (GMGA) hosted its annual conference the first weekend in October. Part of the festivities is the presentation of the Award of Excellence to an Extension Agent who coordinates a county-level Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program.

The 2023 Award of Excellence recipient was Garrett Hibbs, Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent and County Extension Coordinator in Hall County. Garrett was nominated by his very own MGEVs who submitted his application for the award.

MGEVs in Hall County praise Garrett as an active educator. Annually, he teaches several classes in the MGEV training program, including Basic Plant Pathology, Integrated Pest Management, History of the Master Gardener Program, and Introduction to Volunteer Projects. He serves as an educational presenter at HCMG Garden Expo, the Gardening for the Masters series in the community, and as an educational speaker at monthly Master Gardener meetings. As new topics arise, Garrett does research and presents the data to the Hall County Master Gardeners to better prepare them for their service roles (think Joro spiders!).

Garrett provides exceptional leadership in a myriad of educational projects for 138 active MGEVs in Hall County. Whether it is hosting Ask-a-Master-Gardener booths at farm markets or responding to 2000+ requests coming through virtual and in-person Help Desks, Garrett makes sure Hall County has the answers they need. Garrett also communicates to the community via radio, print media, and social media.

Ten educational gardens in Hall County receive various forms of support from MGEVs. Recognizing that partnerships are essential for success, Garrett led the MGEVs in efforts with the Parks and Leisure Department including the creation of meadows at two county parks, where he offered hands-on training, open to the general public, and was a presenter on 7 different topics. He also led the establishment of a period gardens at a 1700s-era preserved cabin in Cherokee Bluffs and at one of the busiest parks in the city, Wilshire Trails. Under Garrett’s guidance, the MGEVs also worked with the City of Gainesville Parks Department and others maintaining the Linwood Nature Preserve to save the pristine acreage with native plants while educating the community and providing a public habitat. In addition, MGEVs assist with gardens at Patriots’ Park, a joint venture with the Daughters of the American Revolution; the Jubilee Community Garden; and educational demonstrations at the county Extension office.

MGEVs also impact more than 165 youth each school year through their support of youth gardening opportunities at one college garden, 10 elementary school gardens, two pre-school gardens, and the County School Board Gardens. Garrett leads the “Ag Day” program so that local elementary school children can learn more about the importance of agriculture and opportunities in their community.

This year was a banner year for Garrett and his program assistant, Karin Hicks. Together with MGEVs in Hall County, they served as county host for the annual GMGA Conference. They planned and coordinated an exceptional line-up of speakers and tours that helped MGEVs gain continuing education hours and individuals all across Georgia increase their knowledge of plants and gardening.

What distinguishes Garrett Hibbs as an Extension Agent is his ability take charge and fill any void. When the bi-annual plant auction arises and an auctioneer is needed, the MGEVs can rely on Auctioneer Garrett Hibbs. And, if you need a band, the Hibbs Family Band is there. Garrett Hibbs serves the Master Gardeners, the 4H community, the Cattlemen’s’ Association and the Hall County Community at large as the CEC. His plant pathology knowledge led the MGEVs and the community at large to be aware of what is going on locally.

Congratulations, Garrett!

PS: A great big thank-you to GMGA for sponsoring this award!

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