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Polk County Master Gardeners and isu Extension and outreach in polk county  Presents


March 16, 2024 

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               Register NOW!

Located at the FFA Enrichment Center

Ankeny DMACC Campus

1055 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy,

Ankeny, IA 50023

Early Bird Registration opens 12.28.23

March 16, 2024 | 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Open to the Public!

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8:00 AM Check-in, coffee, and breakfast

9:00 AM Opening remarks, DMACC President Denson

9:15 AM Morning keynote, Benjamin Vogt

10:30 AM Morning breakout sessions

12:00 PM Lunch

12:30 PM Afternoon Remarks, Alicia Herzog

1:00 PM Afternoon keynote, Ed Lyon

2:30  PM Afternoon breakout sessions

3:30 PM Vendor raffle

Keynote Speakers

This year's symposium features speaker topics that support the "Growing a Greener Tomorrow" theme.

Morning Keynote: Benjamin Vogt: A New Garden Ethic

In a time of mass extinction and climate change, how and for whom we garden matters more than ever.

Our built landscapes reflect social ethics and values that guide our response to reviving wildness in and outside the urban environment. How can we recognize and develop compassion for other species? What role do native plants have in opening us to the perspectives of others? What happens to our society when we advocate for the equality and freedom of a silent majority? Through ecology, psychology, landscape design, horticulture, philosophy, and social science, we’ll explore the rich complexity of rethinking pretty and what a garden means in the Anthropocene.

Benjamin Vogt is the author of A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future and the best-selling Prairie Up: An Introduction to Natural Garden Design. He owns Monarch Gardens, a prairie-inspired design firm. Benjamin’s work has been featured in The American Gardener, Fine Gardening, Horticulture, Midwest Living, the New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Afternoon Keynote : ED LYON: Climate Smart Gardening

Our ecosystems will collapse if we don't return to all nativesThe species that conservationists fear most (invasives) are precisely the ones that nature needs most. Two contradictory statements, which is right? These are perhaps the most challenging times for gardeners in history. Conventional narrative is that climate change may be leading the world toward what some term as the earth's sixth great mass extinction. We all want to garden with ecological responsibility but where does advocacy become activism and what are the truths behind the controversy and hype? More than ever, we need open minds and accurate science-based education; Ed Lyon will delve deeply into some of those issues in this presentation.

Ed Lyon is the director of Reiman Gardens. For 20 years he has inspired and taught public, student and professional audiences through lecturing and writing and through Spellbound Garden Writing & Consultation. He writes for garden magazines and has created on-line classes for Fine Gardening and Garden Gate. He authored the book Growing the Midwest Garden, published by Timber Press in 2015. He serves on the executive board of the Perennial Plant Association. Throughout his roles in public garden administration and hands-on experience in the green industry, he has been as passionate about education as he is horticulture. 

Breakout Session #1

Sarah Nizzi

Unsung Heroes: Supporting Pollinators at Home

Join Sarah Nizzi with the Xerces Society as she discusses how we all can make a difference for pollinator conservation. Sarah will explain the current status and importance of Iowa's native pollinators, as well as provide steps on how to implement pollinator habitat. 

Sarah Nizzi is originally from central Iowa and is a graduate from Drake University with a Bachelor of Science in environmental science. Her specialties include habitat installation and management, native plant identification, diverse native seed mixes, and public speaking. Sarah has been with the Xerces Society for over five years. She covers all of Iowa, providing assistance to those interested in pollinator conservation, as well as assisting Iowa NRCS. Shaping state specifications and standards for pollinators and beneficial insects and training NRCS and partner staff is the core of her NRCS work. In her free time she enjoys recreating outdoors and volunteering.

Michael Washburn

Create a Family Legacy: Seed Saving in Your Backyard Garden

Have you ever thought about the word “heirloom” within the phrase “heirloom seeds?” Explore tips, techniques, and stories about heirloom seeds, and learn how to create a living treasure for your family by gardening and saving seeds from year to year and passing them on from generation to generation.

Michael Washburn serves as the Preservation Director at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa where they maintain a collection of 20,000 plus varieties of heritage garden seeds and apples. The Preservation Department works to educate about the importance of preserving biodiversity through seed stewardship and provide programming and other opportunities that engage gardeners, farmers, seed savers, and breeders with their collection. Michael is a long time seed saver who focuses on southern US and Middle Eastern varieties. Much of his work through time has focused on diverse organic farming systems and traditional farming practices.

Aaron Steil

Water-Wise Gardening in Iowa

Learn all about water-wise gardening for now and into the future. Topics discussed include tips to responsibly garden during dry years and ideas for creating a garden that can tolerate drought conditions well into the future – all specific to Iowa.

Aaron Steil is the consumer horticulture extension specialist at Iowa State University where he works with county Extension offices across the state to answer home gardening questions for all Iowans. Aaron is the host of the TV show “Gardening with Steil” on Iowa PBS and regular guest on Iowa Public Radio’s weekly “Hort Friday” segment on “Talk of Iowa.” Steil received his B.S. in horticulture and biology from Iowa State University and his M.S. in public horticulture from the University of Delaware. Prior to working for Extension & Outreach, he worked for 14 years at Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens and taught classes in Iowa State’s Department of Horticulture. He has previously worked as host of “Gardening Today”, a radio program on Newsradio 1040 WHO in Des Moines, as well as at the Iowa Arboretum; Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia; and the renowned Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.


Cindy Haynes

Growing Edibles in Containers

Extending the garden season and food production by growing vegetables, herbs and edible flowers in containers is one way to becoming more self-sufficient.  While gardening in containers works well for those with limited space, it is a great idea for all gardeners.  Let Dr. Haynes give you some tips on being more successful with container gardening.

Dr. Cynthia Haynes is a Professor in the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University.  Dr. Haynes currently teaches several classes in horticulture and provides leadership in Consumer Horticulture Extension.  Her research interests include the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) with recent work in horticulture pedagogy and andragogy or the evaluation of horticulture education of youth, college undergraduates, and master gardeners. 

Erica Northwick

Our Wild Neighbors

 Who is good in the garden? What other wildlife is around? As we expand our gardens, and urban areas, we’re seeing more wildlife in spaces we haven’t before. Come learn about who some of our wild neighbors are, how we can garden with them in mind, and debunk some common misconceptions about them.

Erica is a Naturalist for Dallas County Conservation with a degree in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University. Her favorite thing to educate about is wildlife misconceptions and gaining new understanding for the animals. Erica has experience working at various parks and nature centers in Minnesota, including at a residential environmental learning center. She especially gets excited talking about opossums and bears!

Mike Henderson

Soils- Let's Dig into the Underworld

Have you ever smelled fresh tilled soil? The smell is from geosmin, a compound produced by soil bacteria. The soil is made up of a mix of minerals and a dynamic community of organisms. Healthy soil is the basis for growing healthy plants. Learn how to assess your soils, what makes a healthy soil, and how improve soil health.

Michael (Mike) Henderson is the State Resource Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Iowa. As the State Resource Conservationist, he leads Iowa NRCS in conservation planning and ecological technologies to ensure science-based conservation. Mike has a strong background in agriculture production and conservation and has a passion for soil health. He worked as an Ag Coop Agronomist and farmed in NE Iowa before becoming a Watershed project Coordinator. He then began his career with the NRCS working as a Soil Conservationist, District Conservationist, and State Agronomist before becoming the State Resource Conservationist. Mike was raised on an irrigated crop farm in the Oklahoma Panhandle. He graduated from Oklahoma State University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Agronomy. Mike and his wife, Eva, have three daughters, one son-in-law, and two granddaughters.

    Sponsorship Opportunities:

Polk County Master Gardeners is a volunteer service program of ISU Extension and Outreach. The 350 plus Master Gardeners in Polk County provide an average of 13,000 volunteer hours a year. Our projects provide free gardening education, youth engagement, and restful demonstration gardens. Among our service projects is growing and donating produce to area food pantries--during 2023, our projects donated over 5,000 pounds of fresh food!

Master Gardener projects rely on funding support from our communities. Your sponsorship will allow us to provide a blue-ribbon educational event, and it may also help us  to continue our other outreach programs during 2024.  And, the Dig into Gardening Symposium is a fantastic opportunity to showcase your business or organization to this garden-focused audience!

 Check out the various sponsorship levels and opportunities here! 

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