Room to Grow: Master gardeners assist with cooperative extension

October 9, 2013 

I am fortunate to work with about 60 of the most gifted, dedicated volunteers in Macon, the Master Gardener Extension Volunteers.

This group is invaluable to our local County Extension offices, particularly in these times of budget reductions and staff shortages.

Following intensive horticultural training, these volunteers are involved in a variety of community activities, including answering homeowner questions at local farmers markets and in the Extension office; teaching elementary students in the Junior Master Gardener program; and maintaining the educational native plant garden at the Museum of Arts and Sciences.

There are projects across the state that could not be completed if not for the time and hard work of these dedicated volunteers.

Local MGEVs are trained in a multi-county program coordinated through several local Cooperative Extension offices. Individuals receive intensive training in horticulture, entomology, pathology and related areas.

Instructors include University of Georgia specialists, county agents, a professor from Mercer University, an arborist and several other professionals. Upon completion of the class, volunteers utilize their expertise and services to help educate others throughout Middle Georgia communities.

In January 2014, we will begin training a new group of volunteers. Classes will begin Jan. 30, 2014, in Byron. Sessions will be held from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (most days) Thursdays through April 17.

The new class will be composed of students from Bibb, Houston, Peach, Jones and surrounding counties. While many classes will be lecture style, we are also planning for a number of tours and learning opportunities.

Upon conclusion of the class, trainees are required to complete 50 hours of volunteer activities to become certified MGEVs. In subsequent years, Master Gardeners must complete 25 hours of volunteer service to maintain their active status.

We are often asked if vast gardening knowledge is a prerequisite of this program. The answer is no!

While some basic experience will be helpful, what we are looking for is enthusiastic people who want to learn and volunteer. Master Gardeners contribute a wide range of valuable skills, including photography, writing, editing, event planning, teaching and leadership.

Many join the program to learn more about gardening. However, the bonds that develop while learning and volunteering together are often the biggest rewards.

After becoming a Master Gardener, you’ll have plenty of opportunties.

There are chances for continued educational opportunities throughout the year. Field trips include venues such as farms, nurseries, gardens and college campuses. Monthly Master Gardener updates are organized to keep volunteers aware of upcoming opportunities as well as offer educational sessions.

Our local Master Gardeners also raise funds through events such as the Spring Home and Garden Show (in Perry) and biennial plant sales (in Macon). These funds are used to support a wide variety of community projects.

The fee for the class is $195, which includes two books, materials, nametag and speaker costs.

Applications must be postmarked by Nov. 15. Because the class size is limited, interviews will be held Dec. 4 and 5.

If you are interested in taking the class, contact your local County Extension office. Bibb County residents can email Kathy at kensley@uga.edu to receive application materials or for more information. Houston County residents can contact Teddie at 478-987-2028 or mg@uga.edu

Upcoming event

Debunking Energy Efficiency Myths - Why Your Bottom Line Depends on Energy Efficiency: Half-day seminar Oct. 17 Engineering Annex, 760 Third St. Registration fee covers seminar and lunch. Email beth@southeastgreen.com for more information or register at https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?llr=tjfrircab&oeidk=a07e86523eq0efce93e.

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