Search for Excellence 2023

Congratulations 2023 Search for Excellence winners! UC Master Gardener Programs in Riverside County, Placer County, El Dorado County, and Sacramento County won the triennial Search for Excellence competition. In honor of their achievement, winning projects receive a cash prize to support local program delivery and the opportunity to present their projects during the 2023 UC Master Gardener Conference.  To learn more about these exceptional projects watch their sessions below and read about them in the statewide blog.

Search for Excellence Posters Available Online

The 2023 UC Master Gardener Search for Excellence posters are now available online. Participants printed and displayed their posters for the entirety of the conference but now they can viewed by all online. These posters are not just showcases of excellence; they are windows into the world of community-driven gardening initiatives, educational projects, and innovative solutions.


First Place- Riverside County, $1500 prize

Taking the coveted first-place position is the remarkable project from Riverside County - Soboba Cultural Garden: Connecting the Past with the Future. The project focuses on educating and assisting the establishment of successful and sustainable food gardens within Native American tribes. The Soboba Cultural Garden serves as a significant resource, providing nutritious food for the community and showcasing native plants and seasonal produce, all rooted in traditional tribal knowledge and promoting food sovereignty and wellness. The project has formed partnerships with various organizations and individuals, extending beyond the Soboba Cultural Resource Department. One of our judges enthusiastically remarked, “The Riverside MGs are modeling the very best in education - partnership, respect and hands-on teaching of quality material. Bravo!”

Congratulations to the passionate team behind this outstanding achievement!


Second Place-Placer County, $1000 prize

In second place, we have the incredible project from Placer County - Engagement+Education+Enthusiasm = School Garden Success! The project focuses on using school gardens as outdoor classrooms to provide science-based education, teaching students about planting, care, fresh vegetables, pollinators, soil, and photosynthesis. Their goals involve providing support for garden-related classes, establishing sustainable parent-led models, expanding to more schools serving low-income families, and building a community of partners focused on success. Well done to all those involved!

Third Place

In the spirit of celebration, we have not one, but two exceptional projects sharing the third-place spotlight.

El Dorado County, $500 prize

First, we have El Dorado County's Cross Pollination, Growing Abilities: Cultivating Independence and Community in the Garden. This project's commitment to inclusivity and empowerment of individuals with special needs through gardening is truly commendable. The judges expressed overwhelmingly positive feedback, highlighting the UC Master Gardeners' unwavering commitment to fostering an inclusive and empowering environment where individuals of all abilities can thrive and acquire knowledge. Their dedication serves as an inspiration to others, showcasing the transformative impact of creating an inclusive learning space.

Sacramento County, $500 prize

Our second third-place winner is Sacramento County with their project titled Video Learning Reaches Larger Audiences. Through the power of technology and their dedication to community service, this project has effectively reached and inspired a wide audience, bringing the joys and benefits of gardening to even more individuals. The judges provided insightful comments, acknowledging the outstanding alignment of the project with its goals. They particularly appreciated the project's ability to simultaneously address external and internal objectives and commended the involvement of over 50 Master Gardeners in the creation of videos. The judges expressed gratitude for sharing the video production process through a clear and concise flow chart, recognizing it as a valuable contribution to the project's success.

Search for Excellence

The SFE  competition is an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the tremendous talents of UC Master Gardeners from across the state. County programs are invited to submit an educational and innovative projects for consideration. 

Cash prizes will be awarded to the three highest scoring entries among seven categories:

  1. Community service
  2. Demonstration garden
  3. Innovative project
  4. Research (applied scientific methodology) 
  5. Special need audience
  6. Workshop or presentation
  7. Youth Program

Outreach and making an impact in local communities should be the focus of the entries, which will be judged by a team of gardening and horticultural experts. The winners will have the opportunity to present the projects at the 2023 UC Master Gardener Conference. 


Past Winners
2023 SFE Application Information