Being a Master Gardener can mean more than having a reliably green thumb.

For Deborah Smeltzer of the Skagit County Master Gardeners, it’s meant pursuing ways for the group to connect more keenly with gardeners in Skagit County ... and even beyond.

For those efforts, Smeltzer has been honored as the state organization’s Master Gardener of the Year.

Smeltzer is quick to point out that this is the third such honor for a Skagit County member in the past eight years.

“It’s about what we do ... It’s not about me,” she said.

Smeltzer joined the Skagit County group in 2012 and has served in several roles, including board member, board president, and co-chair of the plant sale.

“I’ve worn a lot of hats,” she said.

While serving in those roles, Smeltzer helped set up a new webpage; developed booklets to train docents in the demonstration garden at the Washington State University Mount Vernon Research Center; and helped kick-start twice-a-year forums for neighboring counties’ Master Gardener groups to meet and discuss best practices.

That forum wasn’t her idea, Smeltzer said, but she’s proud of her part in helping it grow.

“Skagit was the group that pushed that forward and provided the lead to get that going ... it’s been an important and valuable venue for us to share and get to know colleagues in other counties,” Smeltzer said. “Those who participate find it can be even more valuable than the state conference. It’s a more intimate venue.”

Smeltzer has put in more than 5,200 volunteer hours for the Skagit County Master Gardeners since joining the group, which works with the Washington State University Extension to help guide and educate home gardeners.

A longtime gardener, she retired to Skagit County in 2009 after a long career in the biotechnology field.

Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156,, Twitter: @Sports_SVH,

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