Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fond Farewell to NC Extension Agent Michelle Wallace

Michelle Wallace (middle) accepts a 2011 financial gift
towards the Briggs Ave. Community Garden project
presented by Council Co-Presidents Marty Warburton
and Jean Gurtner.
Editor's note:  The Durham Council is deeply saddened that Durham Co. Cooperative Extension Agent Michelle Wallace will be moving to Ohio this summer! We have so many fond memories of working with Michelle on the Brigg Ave. Community Garden since 2011. Our best wishes to her on her future career endeavors--what a fearless executive leader!  Few can lead an energetic volunteer organization (can you say herding cats?!) to the efficiency and productiveness that Michelle did.

The following tribute from the July EMGV newsletter summarizes many of our own sentiments about Michelle and her contribution to the Durham community.
We Start to Say Goodbye to Michelle
By Kat Causey, Durham Co. Extension Master Gardener

It was a warm day in spring in 2006, much like today. Anticipation was building. A trio of candidates was giving presentations all vying for the honor of being the next Durham County Cooperative Extension Horticulture agent. Master Gardeners had been invited to sit in on the presentations. With me on that day were two other Master Gardeners, Theo Roddy and Phil Richards (now emeritus). We were all curious to see the finalists and hear what each had to offer our mostly urban county and its citizens.

As each applicant was introduced and gave their presentations, excitement built. Each applicant had something unique to offer and it seemed like it would be close...until this small, energetic woman got up there and started her sales pitch. She spoke of her employment background, her educational background and began addressing her proposal for and her vision for Durham County. In that proposal, she mentioned a demonstration garden, with the idea to show a deer resistant landscape, vegetable gardening and an orchard. Her enthusiasm was contagious and she got the job. Little did she know at that time that the Extension Service already had a few acres (approximately 50) of land that had been donated and could never be used for future residential or commercial development. From that innocent interview, an idea grew and became what is known today as Briggs Avenue community garden. It has many gardens contained on just one acre, so far. You can see a community garden, an orchard with a pavilion and the deer (and rabbit and groundhog) resistant gardens as mentioned in that interview so many years ago.

To me, Briggs Avenue community garden is part of Michelle's legacy, along with a vibrant, thriving Master Gardener program-a program where volunteers venture out to the public in various formats to spread the research based knowledge of NC State University. Thank you, Michelle, for being part of my growing experience, for letting me see what can happen if you have a vision and the energy to carry it through and enough assistance from your loyal followers. You will be missed! 

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