Across history, people have found comfort putting their hands in the soil, growing their own food, and planting flowers. This has certainly been the case through Covid. Nationally, we’re experiencing a proliferation of first-time and returning gardeners, planting vegetables, curating flower collections, and generally finding peace in the garden. Today, many gardeners come to this beloved activity with very little gardening background. Fewer new gardeners have a family history of farming or grow up on large parcels with subsistence gardens. So, for those seeking support in acquiring a green thumb, where do they turn?
Enter the Extension Master Gardener program. In each state, land grant colleges have a Cooperative Extension system, through which the college provides research and education in local communities. One impactful program of Cooperative Extension is the Extension Master Gardener program. Through this program, members of the public are trained in research-based food gardening, sustainable landscaping, and extension teaching practices. In exchange for training, Extension Master Gardener volunteers donate their time to answering gardening questions from the public. In 2018, Extension Master Gardener volunteers gave 6.5 million hours of their time to the program and educating the public.
The almost 90,000 Extension Master Gardener volunteers share something special – they all have a passion for gardening and a desire to share their gardening knowledge in their local communities. April is National Gardening Month and this week is National Volunteer Appreciation Week. It is also the ideal time to recognize and celebrate the incredible Extension Master Gardener volunteers who support our neighbors, community and school gardens, and more.
“Extension Master Gardener volunteers are such an important part of our consumer horticulture community! Volunteers share information and resources grounded in science. By doing this, they connect university research to practice. They support the success of gardeners and inspire a lifelong practice of growing plants that supports healthy people, communities, our environment and our industry.” – Missy Gable, UC Master Gardener Program Director and NICH member
Through the pandemic, Extension Master Gardener volunteers rose to the new virtual challenge of addressing gardening questions that were flooding into offices and email. As new gardeners proliferated, so did virtual classes, video-based plant diagnostic services, garden-at-home kits, and more. We are grateful for Extension Master Gardener volunteers and their service to support gardeners. Despite the chaos of the pandemic, gardeners seeking support, inspiration and ideas had (and continue to have!) a strong resource with the Extension Master Gardener Program. Curious about the program in your state? Connect for more information!
The National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH) is a consortium of industry leaders who are promoting the benefits and value of horticulture. NICH brings together academia, government, industry, and nonprofits to cultivate the growth and development of a healthy world through landscapes, gardens and plants — indoors and out.
Cheryl Campbell says
The generation from the 50’s spent much of their childhood’s playing outdoors in nature observing it’s wonder and appreciating the joys each Season brought. Imagination and creativity was fueled by a favorite tree or a hidden valley. Fairies danced in the garden if only you spent the time to look. The smell of fresh veggies being harvested at the side of a mentoring parent or grandparent was enjoyed or seeing the fields planted, grow and harvested.
Adulthood somehow stifled those experiences for many as responsibilities in life take over.
Becoming a Master Gardener after retirement is an opportunity to get back to those childhood teachings. Imagination, creativity and the love of Nature and all its wonders can again come alive and make us feel younger. Sharing it with colleagues and with our community is the perfect way to enjoy the second coming of childhood pleasures.