For Hometown News
MARTIN COUNTY -- At their September meeting, the Martin County Master Gardeners recognized member, Paula Smith, with a Spotlight Award.
When she first signed up to take the Master Gardener course in 1985, Ms. Smith arrived for her interview at the Extension Office with twin babies in a stroller. Bob Whitty, the Extension Director at the time, looked at her in disbelief. He then said often times it's the people who are the busiest that end up making the largest contribution. Wow, was he right. Twenty eight years later, Paula Smith is still a valuable member of the Master Gardeners.
Born in London, Ms. Smith moved to the U. S. when she was 10-years old. She credits her mother as inspiring her to garden because her mother grew vegetables for as long as Paula can remember. She has lived in Martin County since 1983, is a Registered Nurse and works as the Nurse Coordinator for School Health for Okeechobee County.
One of her first volunteer projects as a Master Gardener (the twins were hardly out of diapers) was a weekly horticultural therapy workshop for the Council on Aging Adult Daycare Center. She also volunteered at Crystal Lake vegetable garden for five years which she created as part of the science curriculum (SEEDS- Student Environmental Education Discovery Site). At South Fork High School, Ms. Smith provided a twice a year presentation for all the culinary arts classes on tropical fruit and vegetables over a ten year period. It was thrilling for her to learn that many of those students remembered being part of the Crystal Lake garden.
Also at South Fork, she taught container vegetable gardening to special education students. They grew the vegetables in the school's agriculture area. The vegetables were beautiful until one day the cows got loose and ate every last crop! It was very hard to explain to these students what happened, but one of the kids did say, "Those are healthy cows!"
A prolific writer, the Master Gardeners and residents of Martin County also benefited from the educational materials Paula wrote for Martin County Extension in the 1990's on tropical vegetables and fruit. She had a regular column in the Stuart News called "Edible Garden" from 1997 - 2000, and she has also contributed articles to Florida Gardening Magazine.
Ms. Smith has probably educated and improved gardening practices for many thousands of residents of Martin County over the last 28 years. Her enthusiasm for growing Florida vegetables and fruit is contagious, as is her ready smile. She and her husband Ira, himself an accomplished gardener and former president of the Palm Beach Rare Fruit Council, have been the main event at the Master Gardeners' Taste of the Tropics for nearly three decades.
For more information, visit http://martin.ifas.ufl.edu or call (772) 288-5654.