The most giving of Master Gardeners

The Coconino Master Gardener Association Special to the Daily Sun

Jackie Alston wrote a column for Gardening Etcetera several months ago titled ‘The Nature of Gardeners and Giving.’ Little did she know that her column would inspire this article as Jackee was the ultimate of garden givers, sharing her time, energy, knowledge, seeds, and the most delicious baked goods for many a gardening event.

As many of you know, Jackee co-edited the Gardening Etcetera column and was the mastermind for the Grow Flagstaff! SeedLibrary. She will step away from these projects as she works on her newest venture as flower farmer and lavender specialist, growing both in Flagstaff and Cornville.

Jackie Alston joined the Master Gardener Program in 2012. Already an avid gardener, she brought her love of gardening, plants, and people to our program. She not only joined the program, but she took on many important roles that helped advance the mission of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

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The Grow Flagstaff! Seed Library became a reality thanks to Jackie’s vision and dedication. We know this library encouraged others to begin their own seed library and seed-saving adventures. Not only did Jackee organize monthly ‘seed library’ workdays for volunteers (seed libraries don’t just happen without lots of help), but she also sought out seeds for vegetable cultivars most suited to our high elevation growing conditions of northern Arizona. Jackie also provided heartfelt advice for the seed library at the East Flagstaff Community Library to help it germinate and grow.

Her vision for the library was (and still is) to develop, through seed saving and planting, vegetable cultivars that are uniquely suited to our terroir. She recently wrote, “Collecting and providing a pure source of seeds optimal for Flagstaff’s local conditions, a seed library increases the chance people will have a successful garden. With each successive year seeds are grown out in an area, the adaptive knowledge necessary to grow there is encapsulated (no pun intended!) in its next generation.”

Jackee and her husband Steve gave numerous presentations on seed saving to give gardeners the confidence to save their own seed. The very act of trading seeds becomes the ultimate gift of goodwill. A team of Master Gardeners including Seed Library co-chair Cindy Murray will keep her vision alive.

Another of Jackee’s excellent contributions to our gardening community was as co-editor of Gardening Etcetera, the weekly column that you are reading right now that appears in the Arizona Daily Sun’s Saturday edition. Corralling volunteer writers is somewhat akin to herding cats, but Jackee’s patience and diligence has helped keep this column going since 2019. She and co-editor Cindy were a nice combination as writers and managers.

In her column titled ‘The Nature of Gardeners and Giving’ from April 22, 2022, she remarked on the generous spirit of gardeners. She may not have realized this butJackee was writing about herself. She gives so much of herself to our gardening community including knowledge, time, seeds, encouragement, enthusiasm, and, of course, the very best snacks. Jackie wrote inspiring columns on the gift of gardening and encouraged everyone to give it a try. Gardening can change our lives for the better. She even wrote a column for her birthday on what makes a gardener and the joy of gardening. Her last line is still our favorite, “Happy Dirt-day to Me!”

We would also like to thank Jackee for taking over the grants and projects for the Coconino Master Gardener Association. These are two very important aspects of the association and are invaluable for assisting our community with garden education projects. Jackie is the epitome of a Master Gardener, a volunteer with a passion for gardening that makes our community better through horticulture education.

But wait, there’s more. When not in the garden and volunteering, Jackee writes books for young adults and tweens. Jackie and Steve are the parents of three amazing children. They’ve called Flagstaff home for over 17 years.

We would like to thank Jackie for her many contributions to the Coconino Master Gardener Program and we wish her the best in her new ventures. When she wrote us about this change, she said, “Dreams are good!” and she’s realizing her dream. Come summer, we look forward to seeing her at the Wednesday Community Market!

The Coconino Master Gardener Association is the non-profit arm of Arizona Cooperative Extension’s Coconino Master Gardener Program. For more information about the Master Gardener program, visit: In-person and online Master Gardener classes will be offered starting in January 2023.

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