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History of the MS Master Gardener Program

The following is a reprint of Master Gardener International Fact Sheet 95-01, July 1995. Master Gardener International, P. O. Box 526, Fall Church, VA 22040-0526.

The first Master Gardener program began in Washington State, in King and Pierce counties, in 1972. Dr. David Gibby, the Extension agent for horticulture in those counties, was overwhelmed by the volume of requests for information about gardening coming into his office. His efforts to use the media to answer questions more efficiently only seemed to result in an increasing number of telephone calls asking for individualized information. Gibby thought of finding gardeners who would be able and willing to answer the public's questions, and came up with the idea of trading specialized training in horticulture for a commitment to spend a specified number of hours doing volunteer outreach work. He sought and obtained the help of Extension agents, specialists, and administrators at the state university in planning and testing both a training program for volunteers and a format for plant clinics at which they would provide information to the public.

The first Master Gardener group to be trained by Extension specialists was from King and Pierce counties. Gardeners were eager to enroll in the program; more than 300 people applied to take the first class, and 120 were enrolled in the session which began in 1973. It was soon followed by a similar training program in Spokane County. Sites for plant clinics were then arranged, schedules worked out, and master gardeners began working with the public. During their first year of operation, these master gardeners served more than 7,000 clients. Twenty-three years later, Master Gardener programs have spread dramatically. Programs have been in operation in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and four Canadian provinces. In addition to the plant clinics, begun by the first group and now a basic activity of many others, Master Gardeners have undertaken a wide variety of other projects. They staff horticulture hotlines, coordinate environmental and planting projects, run demonstration gardens, do research, manage some existing public gardens, work with school groups and other special populations, publish newsletters, and broadcast radio and television programs as some of their many activities. Just as the projects of different groups vary, so do their training programs and organizations. Most programs are run on a local basis, but some are a cooperative venture on the part of several jurisdictions, and some are unitary statewide programs. The length of the training also varies -- from 30 hours to 120 hours -- and some programs offer advanced training sessions. The cost of different programs varies too, depending on local budgets and expenses. As a result of budget cuts in recent years, some programs have been curtailed or even suspended -- to the great regret of those involved and of the interested public as well.

As master gardening has expanded, so too have the organizations which maintain connections among those in one training area, within states and regions, and across countries. There are now nearly 700 active training programs, of which more than half have links to some ongoing association. However, of the estimated 50,000 master gardeners who have completed a training program, only a small fraction remain active volunteers and in touch with their local organizations. Some, to be sure, have moved to areas where there is no group available for them to join, or are taking a break from volunteer activities while maintaining their own gardens and perhaps influencing their neighbors.

In any event, the public eagerness for information has not slackened. Just as the response to notices about the first master gardener program far exceeded the number of places available, public expressions of interest in master gardening are large and impressive whenever information about the program(s) is made available.

For information about Master Gardening programs near you, contact your county Cooperative Extension Office in the U.S. or the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture.

[MGI is a nonprofit, charitable, educational and scientific organization established to support and promote Master Gardening programs internationally through information exchange, program support, specialized publications, and media outreach. Support is coordinated with local, state, and regional Master Gardening groups, the USDA Cooperative Extension Service in the U.S. and the Ministry of Agriculture in Canada, other national and international organizations, educational groups, and representatives of the horticultural industry.]

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News

Filed Under: Master Gardener March 19, 2018

 Gardeners can buy native and naturalized heirloom plants during the annual Metro Master Gardeners plant sale April 28.

Long, narrow lavender flower petals open wide among the dark green leaves.
Filed Under: Master Gardener, Flower Gardens, Vegetable Gardens February 20, 2018

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The Everything Garden Expo, presented by the Oktibbeha County Master Gardeners, will return to the Mississippi Horse Park on March 24 and 25.

 A closeup of the official Monarch Waystation sign is shown in the revitalized children's educational garden at the MSU Crosby Arboretum
Filed Under: Master Gardener, Plants and Wildlife, Places for Wildlife, Urban and Backyard Wildlife December 4, 2017

A project by the Pearl River County Master Gardeners aims to help increase populations of monarch butterflies by providing habitat and educating the public.

This past spring, the group revamped a portion of the children’s educational garden at the Mississippi State University Crosby Arboretum to serve as an official, certified Monarch Waystation. Master Gardener members recently dedicated the garden with the placement of a sign from Monarch Watch, the nonprofit organization that manages the waystation program.

One woman uses a shovel to break open a rootball on a small, unplanted tree while another woman and a man assist.
Filed Under: Master Gardener, Mississippi Homemaker Volunteers November 21, 2017

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Several Mississippi Master Gardener groups marked the state's bicentennial with near-perfect tributes -- by donating and planting Magnolia grandifloras in their communities.

"The tributes are perfect in a state known for its generosity, service to others and love for the environment," said Gary Jackson, director of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Warren County Master Gardener Yolanda Horne checks on worms living in a plastic bin on June 13, 2017. The worms were part of an exhibit on composting at the Know Your Roots: Grow Your Business workshop in Vicksburg, Mississippi. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Bonnie Coblentz)
Filed Under: Agri-tourism, Community, Master Gardener, Lawn and Garden June 16, 2017

VICKSBURG, Miss. -- Mississippians from a wide variety of backgrounds spent a day thinking of new ways to use landscapes and gardens to bring more profit and better value to agricultural enterprises and historic homes.

Know Your Roots: Build Your Business brought 29 participants together for the daylong workshop June 13 at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center. Sandy Havard, Warren County agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, coordinated the event.

Success Stories

Close-up of a young leafy green vegetable plant growing in a salad table with other herbs and marigolds.
Master Gardener, Food, Herb Gardens, Vegetable Gardens

If you are planning for your vegetable garden this spring, a salad table or two might be in order. Salad tables are a great addition to a traditional vegetable garden or wonderful on their own.
​(Photo by Kevin Hudson)

Two women smile as they enjoy colorful potted ornamental plants.
Junior Master Wellness Volunteer, Master Gardener, MS Volunteer Leaders Association, Natural Resources

If you’d like to volunteer more in the New Year, Extension has some wonderful opportunities. We have volunteer organizations designed for all ages and interests, including gardening, healthcare, natural resources and youth development.

Here’s a brief description of four of our...

A group of people stand beside a magnolia tree outside preparing to plant it as a way to honor Mississippi's bicentennial.
Community, Master Gardener

Did you know 2017 is the year Mississippi celebrates its bicentennial? That’s right—The state is 200 years old! You only turn 200 once, so MSU Extension wanted to do something to celebrate!
 
Since the state tree is a magnolia, we thought it would be great to encourage our Master Gardener clubs to plant one in their communities as a way to honor the bicentennial.

A male retiree in a plaid shirt and khaki slacks sits in front of a piano. On its soundboard is a picture of his late wife in her wedding gown and gloves.
About Extension, Master Gardener
Volume 3 Number 3

In 2016, Myrtle native Michael Hale was looking for a meaningful, lasting way to remember his late wife, Vicki M. Smith.

 

Six Master Gardeners pose in a rose garden after weeding it
Master Gardener, Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens

We've all been there. All of a sudden one of the plants in your landscape starts to die for no apparent reason. Or maybe a worm appears out of nowhere on a quest to eat all foliage in sight. Maybe you want to try your hand growing a garden but don't know where to start. Wouldn't it be great if there was a superhero gardening team that could swoop in and answer all of your questions? Well, there is! Extension's Master Gardener program is full of volunteers who are equipped with horticultural information based on university research and recommendations. 

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Monday, March 19, 2018 - 2:00am

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