Tennessee Master Gardener Awards

Search for Excellence Awards – 2024 Winners will be announced at our state conference in October!

Our state SFE awards are managed by a state volunteer committee working closely with the TEMG workgroup.

Awards include both service project awards and individual awards for volunteers and contributing partners.

Tennessee Search for Excellence Awards

The Tennessee Search For Excellence (SFE) program is sponsored by the Tennessee EMG Workgroup. 

Its purpose is to recognize outstanding Master Gardener projects throughout the State of Tennessee.  All work done by volunteer Master Gardeners is significant to communities across the state. However, SFE awards recognize projects demonstrating overall excellence, high levels of ​learning and community outreach that embody the values of the Master Gardener Program:

Providing home horticulture education in a responsive and timely manner

Collaborating with local nonprofit and municipal groups to offer educational leadership for better gardening practices in area communities

Fostering a learning environment for volunteers

Encouraging continued education and the recruitment and training of new Master Gardener Volunteers

Offering information and education to Tennessee citizens through innovative programs with creative and new approaches

SFE Awards recognize outstanding group projects as opposed to recognizing an individual Master Gardener doing outstanding work.

There are six categories of SFE Service Awards

  1. Teaching Site
  2. Workshop or Presentation
  3. Innovative Outreach to New or Underserved Audiences
  4. Written or Recorded Educational Content
  5. Youth
  6. Research

There are three categories of SFE Individual Awards

Along with Service award categories, there are three categories of Individual recognition.

  • Outstanding Individual EMG- active EMGs contributing the the impact in the community and the culture of their local group.
  • Outstanding Contributing Partner- organizations or persons who are not Extension Master Gardeners, but who provides significant support to the Master Gardener mission
  • Outstanding EMG Coordinators- open to Extension agents who lead local EMG programs (county agents)
  • Individuals will be recognized at the following Tennessee Extension​ Master Gardener state conference along with other SFE winners.

2020 Search for Excellence Winners

Project- Hamilton County- McCoy Farm and Garden Butterfly Waystation and Cottage Garden

Educational Program- Williamson County- Library Series Talks

Written Materials- Knox County- Hardin Valley Elementary Learning Garden

Youth (3-way tie)- Greene County- Boys and Girls Club Educational Demonstration Garden; Hamilton County- Youth Adventures Day Camp; Sevier County- Junior Lunch and Learn Series

Outstanding Individual EMG- Lecia Anderson, Bobbi Henisen, Carol Matthews

Outstanding EMG Partner- Sevier County Fair and Fairgrounds; Chattanooga Area Food Bank

2017 Search for Excellent Outreach

Youth Programs – Hamilton County – Alpine Crest Elementary School Outdoor Classroom and Gardens

Demonstration Gardens – Shelby County – Collierville Victory Garden

Workshop or Presentation – Shelby County – MAMG Speakers Bureau

Innovative Project – Tipton County – Drummonds Park Arboretum

Written Education – Shelby County – Gardening in Shelby County: Gardening Calendar and Planting Guide


Outstanding Contributing Partner
Carol Reese – UT Extension Western Region Ornamental Horticulture Specialist

Outstanding Individual
Barbara O’Neil – Knox County;
Joan Clayton – Davis – Davidson County
Ginny Fletcher – Shelby County

2015 Winners

  • Knox County – Workshop or Presentation
  • Sevier County – Innovative
  • Knox County – Community Service
  • Knox County – Demonstration Garden
  • Cumberland County – Research
  • Cumberland County – Youth

2015 Outstanding Extension Master Gardeners

Barbra Bunting and Marsh Lehman





Award winning Garden
Youth SFE Category Winner Big Spring Master Gardener Association
Demo Garden SFE Category Winner - Northeast Tennessee Master Gardeners
Community Service SFE Category Winner Northeast Tennessee Master Gardener

If you have any questions, please contact the State SFE Chair, Suzanne Allen