The Master Gardeners Program
Photos courtesy of Nichole Rouse
I am in the Master Gardeners Program in St. Lucie County Florida. I signed up for it knowing that I might be exposed to information that would not please me, like how to use pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers, but I believed that even so there was so much resource and education available to me through that program that the education I desired would far outweigh the information I did not care to practice. Boy was I right! I am in the last month of my training. I have an amazing stack of resource books, I have made great connections with others in the program as well as my mentor and several excellent Extension agents from two counties. I have had the pleasure of learning from various experts in the fields of agriculture, botany, entomology, horticulture, and plant pathology. I am learning so much and so quickly that I barely have time to assimilate. It is a good thing they give us so many books and handouts.
The Master Gardeners Program was dreamed up by an innovative Extension agent in Washington state in 1972. Urban and suburban growth was increasing in the U.S. More Americans were becoming interested in gardening and the environment and the number of mostly seasonal home gardening questions coming to the Cooperative Extension office were increasing. Volunteers such as Extension homemakers and the 4-H Club Leaders had always been part of the extension, but not for homeowner training. A group of volunteers were selected, trained and certified as Master Gardeners. That first group not only succeeded in meeting their objectives, they exceeded the expectations of the Extension Agent who had trained them, and so the Master Gardeners Program was born.
Master Gardeners Training programs are available in more than 30 states in the U.S., and in 62 counties here in Florida. Our group is composed of students from two counties because the county north of ours has joined us due to radical budget cuts at state and county levels. I suppose that is bad news really except for that county’s Extension’s Director Christine Begazo-Kelly comes south to teach some of our classes. She is a very good teacher with a background in agriculture. She is a great friend to the local and sustainable agriculture movement, and she was present at the SSAWG Conference in January.