Master Gardener 1998-2012
Before Johnson County had a master gardener program, Ben Oefinger trained and assumed leadership in Tarrant County. Then he was instrumental in establishing a master gardener program to serve the citizens of Johnson County. The story is that someone forgot to have the courthouse building open for the initial meeting in Johnson County so Ben stood in the street directing participants to his house instead.In Tarrant County he served as association president in 2002 and worked on several programs, most notably writing a developmental guide for building serenity gardens and assisting in the establishment of the garden on the property of the Teen Challenge Program. In Johnson County he served as secretary in 2004 and 2005 and then as president in 2007. Always a major contact of area elected officials, he helped to develop gardens at Cleburne Intermediate School, and assisted with landscaping at the Johnson County Court House, Guinn Justice Center, Cleburne Market Square, Johnson County Auxiliary Courthouse, and McGregor Park which is Cleburne’s Botanic Garden. In 2012, he was instrumental in having a piece of prime Cleburne property designated as the Johnson County Master Gardener Association’s first demonstration garden.
A beloved Cleburne teacher and school administrator, Ben is known for teaching in any situation. A Tarrant County Master Gardener recalls an executive board meeting to which he brought a Tomato Horn Worm loaded with beneficial insects. He placed it in the middle of the table where attendees could watch it being slowly consumed. He has spoken repeatedly at almost every gardening related organization in Johnson and Tarrant County—and at a number of places with no known connection to gardening. He was a lead speaker at Johnson County Lawn and Garden Shows over the years. The intern group of 2007 was especially fortunate to have him as coordinator of their intern project. He patiently dragged the group from design through completion of a garden at the local cemetery, and every moment was a teaching opportunity for Ben. The group learned a lot! But mainly they learned to respect Ben Oefinger for his wisdom, knowledge and humor. When Johnson County began having plant sales, Ben became the tomato and pepper man. Although he “retired” from the association in 2013, he was still there on sale day to lend advice to the vegetable sales team. Much of that vegetable knowledge was gained from the trial vegetable garden that Ben established and masterminded for several years. The traditional garden on property loaned by an elderly Cleburne resident was the center of summer activity for a large group of master gardeners and interested citizens for a number of years.
Perhaps this quote best sums up Ben Oefinger’s contributions: “He is a person who provides good ideas and advice. He helps keep us on track.”