What the Master Gardener Volunteer Program is NOT:
It is not a master's degree. It is not a degree or professional certification of any kind. It does not require any specific prior education. (Although you really should be able to read and understand basic science to get much out of it, and it could look good on a resume.)
What the Master Gardener Volunteer Program IS:
It is a program designed to train gardeners in research-based gardening information and practices that can then be passed on to the community through volunteer efforts. It includes about 45 hours worth of classes taught by folks from the Extension Office who do have degrees in things like forestry, horticulture and botany. When the class is finished, the students go on to complete 40 hours of volunteer work in order to become certified. To maintain their certification in the following years, participants must complete 5 hours of continuing education and 15 hours of volunteer service.
Class Topics Covered by MSU Master Gardeners: water quality, plant science, soil science, flower gardening, small fruit, household pests, woody ornamentals, pest management, tree fruit, lawn care, vegetable culture, diagnostics, and indoor plants.
What Master Gardener Volunteers Do: Build and maintain community gardens, teach children to garden, assist elders with gardening, run therapeutic gardening classes, teach gardening in prison systems, grow vegetables that supply soup kitchens and food banks, advise garden clubs, maintain public gardens, grow pollinator gardens... If you can imagine a situation where a garden might educate or otherwise assist the community, the Master Gardener's participate!
There are master gardener programs available in the U.S.A., Canada, and South Korea. If you are interested check them out!
- To find programs in the U.S.A., click here: http://www.ahs.org/gardening-resources/master-gardeners
- To find programs in Canada, click here: http://www.ahs.org/gardening-resources/master-gardeners/canada-master-gardeners
- For information about the S. Korea program, click here: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/mg/eb247/entry_6138/ (My apologies to S. Koreans. I am sure there is a direct website for G.A.R.E.S. & the master gardener program, but I do not speak Korean, so I could not locate it!)
How did this Begin?
The history of the Master Gardener's Volunteer Program really begins with the history of the land grant universities and the history of the extension offices.
In 1862, president Abraham Lincoln established the Morrill Land-Grant Act. This was a statute that allowed for the establishment of land-grant colleges for the purposes of teaching agriculture in the U.S.A. Michigan State University became the first university to take advantage of this act, becoming the nation's first agricultural university on February 12, 1855.
Then, in 1914, the U.S. Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act. This act allowed the creation of the Cooperative Extension Service in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In 1972, the Extension Service of Washington state started the first Master Gardener program. By 1978, Michigan also had a program that was first held in Wayne county. This first class had 25 participants. Today, the Michigan Master Gardener Program has trained over 30,000 people!
What Else Does the Extension Office Do?
Besides running the Master Gardener Program, the Extension Offices do a lot to teach about a variety of things. They have classes, pamphlets and newsletters on nearly everything related to agriculture, horticulture, natural resources, food, business, and even family issues. They run the 4-H club, do soil testing, help farmers and gardeners, train restaurant workers, run a class on food preservation... the list goes on and on! I picked up a catalog while I was at the class. It contains 70 pages that only list and describe the available programs! I was quite impressed. For more information check out their websites: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/ (for Michigan), or http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/ (for the U.S.A.)
If you live in the U.S., Canada or Korea, I hope that you will consider looking into this program for yourself. If you live elsewhere, perhaps you have a similar program available or can start one! Either way, I hope you found this post helpful.
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