In Jerry’s younger days, he was an undercover cop in Detroit, Michigan, posing as a gardener, tree trimmer, landscaper, and seed salesman. While recovering from a job-related injury, he decided to turn to the more tranquil pursuit of gardening. Through a lot of hard work in the “School of Hard Knocks,” Jerry eventually became America’s #1 expert on lawn, garden, and plant care. As part of that process, Jerry started using the name America’s Master Gardener® in 1964, and he was known, far and wide, as that ever since.
His folksy humor, practical know-how, and homespun philosophy were in part derived from his Grandma Putnam, a Native American who first taught him to talk to plants. Jerry lived with her for several of his most formative years, and it was she who showed him many of the tips, tricks, and tonics for common plant ailments and gardening problems that he used throughout his life. With a time-worn almanac in one hand and a dog-eared Bible in the other, Grandma Putt instilled in Jerry a deep respect for Mother Nature, Mother Earth, and all things green and growing.
Since his time with Grandma Putt, Jerry was determined to spread her gardening gospel, which supplemented the thousands of gardening tips, home remedies, and amazing cures he picked up along the way.
Jerry first gained a measure of fame and notoriety with the publication of his runaway bestseller, Plants Are Like People, in 1972. He also started the national craze of talking to your plants with the publication of a book by the same title the following year. Jerry followed that up with several other bestsellers over the next decade, which sold more than twenty million copies at retail.
Starting in the 1970s, Jerry was a frequent guest on TV shows like Dinah's Place, The Mike Douglas Show, The Merv Griffin Show, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He hosted his own TV show, Plants Are Like People, on KMOX (a CBS affiliate) in St. Louis, MO. Jerry also often appeared as a gardening expert on TV morning shows like Kennedy and Company in Chicago and on the ABC affiliates’ morning shows in New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles.
In 1987, Jerry helped found American Master Products, Inc. (AMP), a direct marketing and multi-media company based in Wixom, Michigan. AMP owns and manages the Jerry Baker brand, develops content and private label products, and negotiates licensing deals. AMP has published more than 50 books under the Jerry Baker brand name, with more than twenty million copies sold throughout North America. AMP also published the popular “On the Garden Line” newsletter between 1988 and 2008.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, AMP produced a series of Jerry Baker gardening programs that ran on Public Television stations in the USA and Canada. They were used by PBS as pledge drive specials; the programs featured Jerry and his down-home wisdom and commonsense solutions to all sorts of gardening problems. These shows are now available on DVD, and various video segments can also be viewed on this website and YouTube. From 1987 to 2007, Jerry hosted his own national call-in radio show called On the Garden Line, which was produced by Westwood One and broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting Network.
Over the years, Jerry served as a product spokesperson for a number of national lawn and garden companies including Jacobsen Lawn Mowers, Hudson Sprayers, U.S. Gypsum, and Plantabs. His big break came from his affiliation with the Garden Weasel, where he was the spokesperson in advertising materials, radio and TV ads, print, and point-of-purchase displays. Jerry became widely recognized for his signature line in the Garden Weasel TV commercial, "If you’re into gardening like I am..." In 1982, Jerry returned to his roots by becoming the national gardening spokesperson for Kmart Corporation’s Garden Centers, a relationship that lasted until 1996.
The Jerry Baker website (jerrybaker.com) went live in February 1998. The web changed a lot of things in the publishing arena, but it also provided the opportunity to greatly expand Jerry’s audience and bring folks even more great home, health, and garden tips, tricks, and tonics at the click of a mouse.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same. As Jerry liked to say, “Gardening is still gardening, and after 60+ years, I still longingly look back to those days I spent with my Grandma Putt, who said that all a fellow needs is the good earth, a handful of seeds, a little ‘grow-how,’ and a desire to get back to basics. It was that simple back in her day, and it’s still that simple today.”
Jerry had a lot to be thankful for in his life, and he always acknowledged a large debt of gratitude to the people who helped him along the way— his parents, his Grandma Putt, his family, and last, but certainly not least, to all of the folks who loyally and faithfully followed him over the years. As he so aptly put it, “Without your support, I couldn’t have gotten involved in all of the things that I’ve done, and I would never have had the success that I’ve had. Like a green thumb gardener, you’ve helped me develop, grow, and flourish as a person, educator, and entertainer, for which I’m eternally grateful. For all of that, I have but two heartfelt words to say: Thank you!”
Jerry Baker, America’s Master Gardener®, passed away peacefully in his sleep in March 2017.
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