NEPTUNE, NJ – Twenty-seven men and women became certified Master Gardeners at a graduation ceremony last week at Jumping Brook Country Club.

Graduates of the 2015 program are: John Backes, Manasquan; Russ Bohlin, Farmingdale; Anne Caruso, Long Branch; Laura Dreifus, Millstone; Jackie Edelman, Aberdeen; Maureen Eng, Neptune;

Martha Finan, Wall; Jan Glass, Rumson; Cheryl Greenfield, Freehold Borough; Lee Hansen, Morganville; Hoan Kichen, Shrewsbury; Molly Kocsik, Freehold Twp.; Margarita Kuhlmann, Brick; Debbie LaGattuta, Tinton Falls; Carol Maccanico, Spring Lake Heights; Heather McGrath, Holmdel; Cheryl McHugh, Manasquan; Gary Michel, Ocean; Debby O’Rourke, Neptune City; Cheryl Perkins, Freehold Twp.; Viola Ravanelli, Wall; Jim Seidel, Neptune; Nancy Smith, Marlboro; Colette Tabor, Oceanport; Ellen Terry, Millstone; Mary Ann Uppstrom, Asbury Park; and Anna Williams, Neptune City.

The Master Gardeners are now certified gardening experts because they have completed a course of classroom and hands-on training in plant biology, propagation, soil science and disease and pest control. The trainees then began sharing their knowledge with others by conducting garden lectures, demonstrations, school and community gardening projects, and answering calls on the County’s “horticulture helpline.”

“This year’s Master Gardeners group has proven to be an exceptional class,” Freeholder Lillian G. Burry said. “Along with their veteran mentors, they logged more than 4,000 hours of service in the garden and grew 3,100 pounds of garden produce for donation to this worthy program. The value of the produce is estimated at more than $6,355!”

Eleven of the newest graduates won awards for 100 hours of service:Anne Caruso, Long Branch; Laura Dreifus, Millstone; Maureen Eng, Neptune; Jan Glass, Rumson; Cheryl Greenfield, Freehold Borough; Lee Hansen, Morganville; Debbie LaGattuta, Tinton Falls; Carol Maccanico, Spring Lake Heights; Debby O’Rourke, Neptune City; Jim Seidel, Neptune; and Ellen Terry, Millstone.

In addition, seven veteran Master Gardeners also earned 100-hour milestone awards:Veronica Gallagher, Manasquan; Debbie Gross Tulli, Manalapan; Judy Lipman, Holmdel; Joe Luongo, Freehold Twp.; Eileen Rodriguez, Fair Haven; Maya Speelmans, Rumson; and Sue Strabo, Freehold.

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For 250 hours of service, twenty-three Master Gardeners received recognition: Della Benevides, Shrewsbury; Lorna Bonner, Point Pleasant; Darin Carovillano, Howell; Cathy Delhagen, Freehold Twp.; Marie Early, Howell; Lillian Finlay, Freehold Twp.; Dorey Grimes, Howell; Beth Hutter, Marlboro; Jani Iyer, Freehold Twp.; Patti Kemps, Jackson; Roberta Kilduff, Middletown; Karen Laszlo, Freehold Twp.; Karen Lesto, Neptune; Elizabeth Lilleston, Atlantic Highlands; Susan Losapio, Freehold Twp.; Grace Lowry, Farmingdale; Joe Luongo, Freehold Twp.; Sandi Robertson, Bradley Beach; Cynthia Sambol; Cyndi Skove, Eatontown; Christine Testa, Manasquan; Andy Valdes, Freehold Twp.; and Betsy Wattley, Shrewsbury.

For 500 hours of service, twelve veteran Master Gardeners won awards: Andrea Abbott, Oceanport; Janice Beeby, Eatontown; Erin Beuka, Freehold Twp.; Stacy Curro, Atlantic Highlands; Carol Fornwald, Long Branch; Carolyn Giovaniello, Morganville; Cheryl Grant, Matawan; Pat Halligan, Manalapan; Isabelle Koren, Howell; Marvin Koren, Howell; Jan Mawson, Freehold Twp.; and Patty Miller-Pittman, Little Silver.

Ten Master Gardeners achieved 1,000 service hours honors: Elizabeth Bailey, Oakhurst; Jerrilyn Bean, Matawan; Gordon Boak, Colts Neck; Warren Carretta, Ocean; Wanna Chin, Eatontown; Janet Dill, Shrewsbury; Carol Farber, Freehold Twp.; Bill Gerth, Shrewsbury; Candy Tice, Wall; and Brenda Wilson, Aberdeen.

Another two Master Gardeners reached the 1500 service award level:Barbara D’Augusta, Middletown; and Cliff Fishman, Rumson.

Sue Malmi of Red Bank reached the 2,000 hour award level and Jeanne Patterson of Freehold Township was recognized for 4,000 hours of service.

“This Master Gardener class worked with the best in the horticultural field – faculty from Rutgers University and Brookdale Community College and professional staff at the Monmouth County Park System and the Cooperative Extension while completing their training,” said Bill Sciarappa, Agricultural and Resource Management Agent for Monmouth County’s Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office.

The Master Gardener program, conducted throughout the United States and Canada, is a two-part educational effort in which avid gardeners are provided many hours of intense home horticulture training. In return, they “pay back” local university extension agents through volunteerism.

In New Jersey, the program is a cooperative effort of Rutgers University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the county Boards of Chosen Freeholders. Monmouth County’s program involves the County office of Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Brookdale Community College and the County Park System.

Information about the Master Gardener program is available on the Monmouth County website at www.VisitMonmouth.com and from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service at 4000 Kozloski Rd. in Freehold Township, or by calling 732-431-7260.