Photo: Tonie Fitzgerald (left)
 
PULLMAN – Tonie Fitzgerald, a longtime horticulture educator with WSU Extension in Spokane County, is the new program leader for the statewide Master Gardener program.
 
“Tonie is known for her leadership in bringing community awareness and educational programming to Inland Northwest gardeners, arborists and landscape professionals,” said Linda Kirk Fox, associate vice president and dean of WSU Extension. “We are delighted she will be in a position to bring her enthusiasm for the Master Gardener program and commitment to well-trained volunteers to this new statewide leadership role.”

Fitzgerald, whose clients range from golf course managers to home orchardists, participates in the Digital Diagnosis Lab at Spokane, part of national network of labs created with homeland security funds as a place where plant samples can be brought to identify and respond to any new pathogen or insect. She also specializes in water-wise gardening and landscaping.

“Extension is such a great resource in communities around the state,” Fitzgerald said. “It has been satisfying working in an organization that positively impacts individuals, businesses and the environment.

“I’m delighted and honored to be in a leadership position for the Master Gardener program,” she added. “I’ve seen firsthand the many important impacts that volunteers have made in their own communities, and I am looking forward to providing support and leadership for the statewide program.”

Founded by Extension educators in Washington State in 1973, the Master Gardener program provides volunteers with science-based education about many aspects of horticulture and related topics. Then, in return for this training, they assist local Extension personnel in providing information and education to gardeners in the general public. Today, there are Master Gardener programs affiliated with most land-grant universities throughout the United States.

Last year, an estimated 3,600 WSU Master Gardener volunteers were active in 36 Washington counties, contributing more than 220,000 hours of volunteer effort. Priority topics include:

Water conservation and protection of water resources;
Reduction of the economic and ecological damage by invasive species; Increasing the application of sustainable management practices to home and public landscapes; Increasing knowledge of native plants and their ecological value.

Fitzgerald succeeds former Master Gardener Program Leader Linda Chalker-Scott, a WSU Extension horticulture educator in Puyallup.

Kirk Fox thanked Chalker-Scott for her service. “Linda continues to support the Extension horticulture programs through her knowledge and expertise in urban horticulture and as a prolific writer in the field, including the Master Gardener Magazine,” she said