A Man With No Bounds

A Master Gardener Volunteer Profile
Mike Barwell

Mike Barwell is a man who is boundless. He’s worked in newspapers and public relations as a writer, designer, but “mostly editor,” before moving to Hopkinton in 1998 to work as communication director for St. Paul’s School in Concord.

Semi-retired, Mike became a Master Gardener (MG) and Natural Resources Steward (NRS) in spring and fall 2019. He quickly became steeped in the soul of Canterbury Shaker Village (CSV) where the NRS class was held. He designed and built a new perennial garden outside the Visitors Center for his MG project. He also gave a perennial workshop at the N.H. Permaculture Fair. Fairgoers and other NRS students helped him construct an organic garden at the Village. Topping it all, Mike spent nearly 100 hours this winter restoring a historic Shaker wooden fence. 

Mike was born in Amherst, NY. He attended Gordon College in Wenham, MA, graduating with a major in English Literature and a minor in Secondary Education. He and his wife Mary have four adult children and three grandchildren, all of whom live in NH.  When he’s not volunteering at CSV, he helps in his son’s landscaping company.

For pleasure, he’s a fly fisherman and member of Capitol City Fly Tyers, a group teaching each other imitation fly patterns. “Each year, I tie hundreds of flies in 32 patterns and give most of them away. It’s a good way to spend winter evenings.”

He is a member of The Stone Trust, a Vermont non-profit association dedicated to preserving and teaching the ancient art of stone masonry. In 2019, he attended four workshops, including a three-day intensive unit restoring historic stone walls. He is also on Extension’s Joint Continuing Education Committee developing programs and workshops for MGs and NRS, and on the education committee of NH Landscape Association. “I hope I can encourage professional landscapers to participate in Extension workshops and programs, and help develop new programs for landscapers.”

During his public relations career he had many adventures. “I was inside the Kremlin in Moscow, spent time in Nigeria, descended into the Great Pyramid chambers, had tea at Buckingham Palace and met Princess Diana, and worked twice with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”

Other adventures await at Shaker Village. “This spring I will continue volunteering to restore another garden near the Visitors Center,” he said. “I’m also helping draft a long-range garden plan with CSV staff and several NRS volunteers,” said Mike, who “loves the history” of the Village. “I hope to see it become more than a museum. I want it to become a community again and more than old buildings.”

He had his first garden at age 10 behind his parents’ garage. “Over the years, I became interested in organic and intensive gardening,” he said. “Sadly, I’ve left beautiful gardens in five states as we moved. I no longer have a vegetable garden, but enjoy a small, perennial garden at my home.” Becoming a MG and NRS “taught me how much I don’t know, but gave me the knowledge to discover more.”  Both of these educations, he said, equipped him to give back by sharing his knowledge as an Extension volunteer.

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.