It is a real privilege to announce our first scholarship recipient MR MASON WESTMORELAND. Mason is a fifth-year senior at UGA. He grew up in rural Madison County outside of Commerce. Mason says: 

I have worked with many Master Gardeners in different UGA programs during my time here particularly, Mrs. B.J. Garrett at the UGA Trial Gardens. B.J. has volunteered at the garden for years and I have learned much from my time working with her. Master Gardeners are crucial to the industry because they are social and passionate about plants. Master Gardeners can discuss and share their horticultural knowledge with so many people. And, when a group of people gets together and get excited about gardening, the green industry grows and more people are exposed to great gardens. Last year, I was awarded the Athens-Area Master Gardeners Scholarship. 

I like the floriculture industry because you get to start so many plants. In floriculture, you can sow a seed that garnishes someone porch, makes up a wedding bouquet, or becomes a decoration at the White House. There are so many opportunities and possibilities in the plants you produce in the floriculture and horticulture industries. That aspect of the industry excites me. 

Currently, I work with Dr. John Ruter in his plant-breeding program. In his program, we grow, evaluate, and breed different plants for the green industry. I get to work with the plants from their start in the greenhouse to their evaluation in containers or in the field. 

I think that the largest challenge for the horticulture industry is water management and conservation. Throughout the U.S., growers are experiencing erratic shifts in rainfall predictability. Severe drought can kill your crop one year, like in California. Then, the next year, your crop might suffer from too much water and root rot pathogenic pressure. Regulating water management is a tough issue in the American horticulture industry right now. 

I chose UGA for many reasons. UGA is a very prestigious university, and has a great horticulture program. I liked that it was close to home while still offering many great opportunities. I chose horticulture because I’ve always felt happiest outside, and I am really fascinated with plant identification. So, between the two, horticulture was a natural match. My sister and I were involved with 4-H at Commerce Elementary School. When I was a kid, we kept a 2-3 acre vegetable garden along with an ever-expanding shade garden in our yard. We never farmed for a living, but we were always growing something. 

We are very proud to have Mason as the first recipient of the Georgia Master Gardener Scholarship. We think he is a great representative for our program and wish him much success in his future endeavors.