BOCC Commemorates 15 Years of Volunteer Service by Master Gardeners

Herb Garden

Claudie Speed led some of the Master Gardeners in the effort to add an herb bed to the UF/IFAS Nassau Demonstration Garden at the James S. Page Governmental Complex

Joe Dirt

Mike McKay’s alter-ego, “Joe Dirt” has entertained and educated Nassau’s youth for much of his 15 years as a Master Gardener volunteer.


Master Gardener volunteers Claudie Speed and Mike McKay both have a love of gardening and a deep commitment to service.  After 15 years of volunteer work with the Nassau County Extension Service, they were honored by the Board of County Commissioners.

In 1998 Claudie received her Master Gardener training from County Extension Agents and got to work right away, offering County homeowners training sessions on culinary herbs and wildflowers.  Her herb classes have been very popular throughout the years and her depth of knowledge is appreciated by homeowners and her colleagues in the Master Gardener program.  She also has authored articles for the Extension newsletter, Horticulture News, as well has “Masterful Gardening,” a column in the former Nassau News newspaper.  The “Masterful Gardening” column won the Florida Master Gardener Award of Excellence in Written Mass Communications, in 2008.

Ms. Speed is also responsible for leading the effort to establish the Herb Bed in the UF/IFAS Nassau Demonstration Garden at the James S. Page Governmental Complex, where seasonal herbs are planted and harvested.

Her love of gardening and children led to her participating in Ag Extravaganza, where she helped teach about the life cycle of butterflies.

Mike McKay also received his Master Gardener training in 1998.  Hundreds of children have come to know him as his alter-ego “Joe Dirt,” His presentations to 4-H youth and elementary children who attended annual Ag Extravaganza sessions have been both fun and educational.  For over six years, he was a guest reader to elementary children for the State’s Ag Literacy program, always dressing “in costume” to entertain and engage the students.

Mr. McKay has also served on the County Extension/Horticulture advisory committee for the last 12 years.
The Master Gardener volunteers in Nassau County serve under the direction of County Extension Director/Horticulture Agent Rebecca L. Jordi.  Candidates must complete an application, interview and attend nine weeks of training.  Master Gardener volunteers must commit to 75 volunteer hours in the first year.  To remain accredited, they must earn 35 volunteer hours in subsequent years, and ten hours of advanced training.
Master Gardener volunteers participate in horticulture programming that educate County residents, and enable the horticulture agent to expand the number of people who benefit from the University of Florida’s research-based information.

“I am grateful for all of the volunteers in the Master Gardener program.  However, to achieve this milestone is a fantastic accomplishment for Claudie Speed and Mike McKay.  They truly represent the best of our programming and are both great role models for their fellow volunteers.  Nassau County is blessed to have them and their commitment,” stated Jordi.

For more information about the Nassau County Extension Service’s programs, call the office at 530-6353.