Whirling Carrot-Top: Valeria Jeffries

by Bess Lovec

Give this gal a hurdle and she will either bulldoze through it or climb over it. For instance, when I interviewed Valeria Jeffries, she had just finished her first marathon. Not only did she complete it: She finished best of class in her age group (admittedly due to the help of Dr. “Joe”). She bonked due to the heat, yet recovered enough to finish. One of the perkiest people I have ever met, I’ve known Val for years through the Yellowstone Art Museum, where she served as Chair of the Board. She just radiates energy, even though she’s very busy as a regional executive with Holiday stores. I felt a surge of excitement when I saw that she enrolled in the Master Gardeners’ program the year I did.

How does she do it? Gardening overlaps with most of the six roles she wishes to improve upon: leader, gardener, chef, athlete, artist, and as a spouse. Allen and she have five acres by the Yellowstone River that provide numerous opportunities for creative gardening. Allen has a salsa garden of tomatoes, cilantro, and peppers among their four raised beds. Another is of wild flowers. Plus they have a pond that Val surrounds with a variety of bulbs. “I always enjoy plants” she shares. Carrot topWith her fast-paced career involving lots of travel, Val makes time to walk through nurseries to reduce stress. Unfortunately their property was hit by the recent hailstorm, but with her can-do attitude, she brushed off the property and views the changes as an opportunity for growth. Even though her car was totaled along with six windows and two roofs, her thoughts go towards the farmers struck by the devastation.

Her gardening days began in Minnesota when her mom sent her and her siblings to the garden to pick fresh vegetables. Lately Val finds joy in companionship gardens, in which gardeners share plants with other gardeners. She hosts the Master Gardeners booth at Pompey’s Pillar’s annual event and also volunteers with Chris Smith at Jim’s Jungle every weekend in May. Chris and Val first met when providing advice at Lowe’s.

Her praise for the MG program overflows, but her highlights include getting to know other gardeners and learning specifics about soil types, fertilizers, the essentials. She values Amy’s ability to build community. Val calls herself a Master Learner rather than a Master Gardener, although, based on photographs she shared, she’s both! The only area of improvement that she hopes will evolve for the MG program? Improved, updated videos.

She’s flummoxed by begonias but has found success with black-eyed Susans and bulbs. Next Val plans a shade garden on her back patio and, potentially, grapevines. She feels her best accomplishment as a gardener is yet to come. Her advice for new gardeners radiates wisdom! Volunteer, keep reading, ask questions, and participate. That formula sounds ideal for success in any endeavor.