Rachel Hoverman
Rachel Hoverman

VAN WERT – Van Wert’s Rachel Hoverman can never remember a time when love for nature didn’t play a significant part in her life. Every day she is either photographing, experimenting with or observing the world of plants, animals and insects in some form.

These days, her life’s profession has meshed with her heart as she has become the Program Coordinator for the Van Wert County Master Gardeners. In addition, she is also 4-H assistant for the local program.

Hoverman, originally from the Akron area, found her husband, Nate Hoverman, while they were attending Ohio State University. These days, Nate is a local elementary school teacher. While different aspects of soil type dictate a different type of nature environment than the Akron area, Hoverman has fallen in love with Mother Nature’s world in western Ohio.

“I’ve made a lot of friends here already,” said Hoverman. “I appreciate the way the community has embraced us from the first moment we moved here. Because of certain soil types, you see different things here than you do in the Akron area.”

Hoverman gained professional experience in her field of interest by working at nurseries and landscape companies while she was studying at OSU. Once they arrived in Van Wert, she was initially employed by Beinning Nurseries until the Master Gardener position opened up. Two of the local group’s projects include maintaining The Garden of the Senses in downtown Van Wert and the Children’s Gardens at Smiley Park.

One of her most recent projects has been gathering children to release various types of butterfly species at Smiley Park.

Hoverman said that the Ohio State University Extension Master Gardeners Volunteer Program provides over 50 hours of intensive training in horticulture to interested Ohio residents who then volunteer their time assisting with educational programs and activities for Ohio residents through the local OSU Extension County Office.

Topics covered during training include botany, soil science, growing fruits and vegetables, insect and disease diagnostics, growing herbs, annuals and perennials, trees and shrubs, entomology and lawn care.

Trainees receive 50 hours of training in horticulture topics. In return, trainees volunteer 50 hours of community service, Hoverman said. Once training and community service are completed, the trainee is certified as a Master Gardener volunteer.

“We are Ohio State University Extension trained volunteers empowered to educate others with timely research-based gardening information,” said Hoverman.

Hoverman said that group initiatives include integrated pest management, invasive species, backyard and local foods and environmental horticulture.

“Every day I am outside doing something. Each day I learn something I’ve never learned before,” commented Hoverman. “One thing I like about this job is that I am eager to get involved with dialogue with the community. I feel so fully dedicated to that task.”