Elinor Fong - Planting New Roots

A Master Gardener Volunteer Profile
Elinor Fong

Elinor Fong and her husband John Moore were “tired of the traffic and congestion” in the Washington, D.C. area, so in fall 2017 they moved to New Hampshire for the weather, outdoor activities and family.  Once here, Elinor wasted no time getting involved in community activities. She became a Master Gardener in 2019, and is now involved in several programs including the UNH Extension Infoline, Strafford County Master Garden Association and NH School and Youth Garden Network.

She began staffing the Infoline at the Extension Education Center in Goffstown. When COVID-19 hit the country in 2020, she shifted to working remotely from her Dover home. She likes “the breadth and variety of questions that come into the Infoline” and when she was there in person, enjoyed collaborating and getting to know staffers Nate Bernitz and Emma Erler. Through their knowledge, advice and suggestions, “I have learned a tremendous amount.” Now that she works from home, Elinor “saves an hour driving each way, so I have more time to volunteer” elsewhere and, she says, she “lowers her carbon footprint.”

While taking MG classes, Elinor was assigned a mentor, Marie VanGuilder, from the Strafford County Master Gardener Association (SCMGA). Last February she became SCMGA’s secretary. She also volunteers with Marie in the gardens at Hyder Family Hospice House. In addition to gardening at home, she also gardens at Portsmouth’s John Paul Jones Historic House Museum.  Her hobbies are knitting, ballet, yoga, hiking, cooking, and French lessons. Prior to filling her days with volunteer efforts, Elinor spent 33 years working for Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab as a radar systems engineer and manager. She holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

Elinor attended a graphics design class at Great Bay Community College. She wanted to help a non-profit organization with their website. The NH School and Youth Garden Network was looking for someone to help with their website and in December she started posting monthly blogs and related news. The network is an umbrella program of eight farm and garden related groups (including UNH Extension). It supports school and youth garden programs to improve children’s knowledge of healthy food choices by helping to establish successful gardens at schools and childcare sites in New Hampshire.

When contemplating retirement, Elinor remembered talking with a Master Gardener friend in Maryland about 15 years ago. “I was impressed with the volunteer work she was doing, but at that time I wasn’t as interested in gardening as I have become. Over time, not only did I become more interested in gardening, but also became more interested in sustainability. I felt that the Master Gardeners and Extension support both of these areas.” She has certainly dug in deeply and become a valuable member of the UNH Master Gardener program.

UNH Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteers share information about home, yard, and garden topics with the people of New Hampshire. Got questions? Master Gardeners provide practical help finding answers to your questions through the Ask UNH Extension Infoline. Call toll free at 1-877-398-4769, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or e-mail us at answers@unh.edu.