Getting to Know the AAS Judges – Part 2!
Earlier this year, our AAS judges talked about how they got their start or beginnings in horticulture in our Getting to Know the AAS Judges – Part 1.
The next thing we asked was how they heard about AAS or how they came to be an AAS Judge and what makes their job easy or hard. It’s very interesting to hear their varied opinions and insights about this great organization.
Question #1: How did you first learn about AAS?
- I’ve seen that AAS symbol for years and have bought plants throughout the years. One day, shortly after I started my current job, I was searching for something online and stumbled across the website. I clicked on the “Become a Judge” tab, submitted my name, and the rest, as they say, is history! ~John Porter
- I’ve known about trial gardens since I was a kid from visiting Shenandoah and the different test gardens they had there. I first learned about AAS when I became an Extension Master Gardener in 2002. ~Scott Evans
- I seem to have always been aware of AAS. When we learned that our Metrolina trial garden could participle and we jumped at the chance.~Dr. Mark Yelanich
- From many visits to early trade shows across the U.S. Great booth reps explained the significance of AAS and we trialed many in our show garden. ~Brian Minter
- When I worked in the garden center we would either carry AAS plants or recommend them.~Pam Bennett
- I first learned about AAS when I started in this business. I remember reading about it and hearing that a plant was an AAS winner. ~Ryan L. Doughty
- I learned about AAS during my college years. I had a job with Michigan State University’s Horticulture Demonstration Garden while I was completing my degree, and I remember helping the Annual Trial Manager there transplant and week the annual beds one year. ~Rose Oberholtzer
Question #2: What makes you most excited about the AAS organization?
- It’s wonderful to be a part of new horticultural developments and able to show visitors the great AAS plantings in the garden. Their excitement excites me. ~C. Diane Anderson
- As a Judge and part of the Board of Directors for AAS, I really enjoy growing and reviewing the new entry varieties, but also the comparisons. We use a 30′ row for each and when you have all those plants growing, it’s fantastic to see such beauty and abundance from some very exceptional seeds. New varieties have a huge challenge to beat the current varieties that we can all grow and when they do, they are exceptional. ~Alex Augustyniak
- I love seeing the variety of entries every year and getting the opportunity to try so many new and different things each season. I will admit that sometimes standing out and eating 90 different tomatoes in one morning gets a little overwhelming, but it’s fun to be able to offer impromptu tastings to visitors if they happen to be out in the garden when I’m there. Unfortunately, COVID definitely put a damper on sharing experiences with guests, but I am hopeful that we will be able to interact and accept food from strangers again soon! I also really enjoy being able to connect with my fellow judges throughout the year. Most years many of us get to meet up at our annual Summer Summit to tour trials and talk shop, but luckily, I’ve been able to connect with many of my colleagues through email, social media, and an AMAZING judges meeting via Zoom where we were able to award the AAS Breeders Cup to Ping Ren, who has worked on many AAS winners! The judges are a truly amazing group of people that I am honored to be a part of. ~Jessie Liebenguth
- I think anyone would JUMP at the opportunity to judge the latest varieties. Knowing you helped decide a winner would make anyone giddy. The cherry on top is being associated with a prestigious organization like All-America Selections. ~Cody Whynot
- The opportunity to grow and show new genetics, new cultivars. ~Jesse Dahl
- Learning what is possible and what is coming up in the marketplace makes me most excited about AAS. Knowing that there are knowledgeable folks out there that actually use some logic, reasoning, and a scientific basis to evaluate new varieties lends credibility to the process of recognition and earning a reward. Far too often awards are based on popularity instead of merit. Knowing these new varieties went through the rigors of testing before winning an award and being part of the group of people that helps makes those decisions is exciting. ~Samuel J. Schmitz
- I love seeing the best new plants receive the spotlight that they deserve so that gardeners everywhere can benefit. ~Owen Vanstone
- The outstanding ability of the organization to professionally market the AAS performers. ~Steven Poppe
- I am most excited about learning how to evaluate and judge plants. [from a newly approved judge] I trial varieties and record information on them for work, so I am always trying to learn how to do my job better. I love AAS because I’m always interested in finding out about new varieties as well as some I’ve never seen that are already on the market. I find plant breeding fascinating and the brand new varieties in the AAS trials really show some great successes in plant breeding. ~Annie Johannessen
- The chance to highlight and promote plants that we know will work for home gardeners. It is such a thrill for a plant to be successful, especially for new gardeners. Who doesn’t love to share the joy! ~Penny Merritt-Price
Question #3: What is the best thing and what’s the hardest thing about being one of our AAS Judges?
- The best thing about being a judge is being a part of a group of amazing industry leaders! The hardest part of being an AAS judge is making hard decisions on some great plants. ~Denise Mullins
- The best thing is seeing new products and breeding trends coming onto the market. The hardest thing is judging entries that are so close in performance to the comparisons – finding those “significant improvements” is harder and harder because genetics are so darn good! ~Jenny Kuhn
- Getting to see all the new introductions is the best thing. The hardest thing is not to be able to share them until after the trial is finished! ~Denise Schreiber
- The very best thing is being outside in the trials, tending them, and watching them grow. The challenge might be in adapting to the new technology AAS is using. ~Patty Buskirk
- Seeing new introductions is great but having plants fail is tough. ~Shelly Prescott
- One of the best things about being an AAS Judge is trialing crops/varieties that I might not otherwise grow or eat. The hardest thing about being an AAS Judge is the number of tomato varieties + tomato plants to judge and take care of. ~Kirsten DeLong
- Best: seeing all the new things breeders are working on. Hardest: trying to be unbiased in my judgments and not compare to other varieties I know from my past growing experience.~Courtney R. Buckley
- Being new, I can’t say I have experienced any hardships or difficulties but a great part of being new to the team is the wonderful support I have received from other judges as well as the anticipation of getting to experience new plants! ~Brett Owens
“This post is provided as an education/inspirational service of All-America Selections. Please credit and link to All-America Selections when using all or parts of this article.”
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