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How does one become a Master Gardener?

By Al Cooke, Extension Agent
Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2005

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Master Gardeners are volunteers for the Cooperative Extension Service. Volunteer activities vary from county to county and the program is individualized for each county that has a Master Gardener program. Activities that Master Gardener Volunteers perform are consumer horticulture educational activities within the scope of the mission of the Cooperative Extension Service to help people put research-based knowledge to work for economic prosperity, environmental stewardship, and an improved quality of life.

To become a Master Gardener, one must complete the training program conducted by a county Extension Agent, pass an examination and volunteer a minimum of 40 hours per year (20 hours in subsequent years) through the local Cooperative Extension Service Center. Counties can make requirements that exceed the minimum requirements.

Typically these programs have played a bigger role in urban counties. There is no Master Gardener Program in Chatham County. There has been in the past, and there may be again. But in recent years I found that the time I was putting into managing the program exceeded the benefit in terms of extended outreach to the community. The last time I recruited volunteers for the Master Gardener program in Chatham County, I had seven applicants. I canceled that training and enrolled 55 people in the alternate Complete Gardener Series.

If you are interested in the Master Gardener Program for the volunteer component, we may have a place for you in the future. Meanwhile, if you are interested in the educational aspect, the Chatham County office of the Cooperative Extension Service continues to offer that. The primary difference in gardening classes that I offer to the public now is that I can focus on what gardeners want to know. For the Master Gardener program I had to focus on what I needed them to know. Those are not completely different but there are some important nuances there.

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How does one become a Master Gardener?
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