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Master Gardeners extend the reach of Cooperative Extension

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I’ve said it a number of times before, and after working for Bibb County Extension for 10 years, it still holds true: The Bibb County Master Gardener Extension Volunteers are some of the best folks around!

The group of volunteers provides an invaluable service to our community. They offer one-on-one advice, teach youth and adult programs, answer questions at local stores and markets, support school gardens, oversee the Native Plant Garden at the Museum of Arts and Sciences — the list goes on and on. Master Gardener groups can be found across the state dedicating countless hours of service to the communities where they live.

Our Bibb County MGEVs are trained in a multi-county program coordinated through Cooperative Extension offices in Bibb County and surrounding counties. Individuals receive intensive training in horticulture, entomology, pathology and related areas. Instructors include University of Georgia specialists, county agents, local professors, arborists and other professionals. Upon completion of the class, volunteers utilize their expertise and interests to educate others throughout Middle Georgia.

In February, we will begin training a new group of volunteers. Classes will begin Feb. 2 and will be held from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (most days) each Thursday through April 27. Classes will be held in the Extension offices, with field trips to UGA campuses in Griffin and Athens. The new class will include students from several Middle Georgia counties. Classes will include lectures by subject matter experts as well as tours and hands-on 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 is helpful, the main attribute we look for is enthusiastic people who want to learn and share their knowledge through a variety of volunteer opportunities. Master Gardeners contribute a wide range of valuable skills, including teaching youth and adult programs, writing 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 opportunities to continue learning. There are chances for continued education 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 to offer educational sessions.

The fee for the class is $195, which includes a book, materials, name tag and speaker costs. Applications must be postmarked by Dec. 1. Since the class size is limited, interviews will be held in December and/or January. If you are interested in taking the class, contact your local county Extension office. Bibb County residents should contact Kathy at 478-751-6338 or kensley@uga.edu to receive application materials or for more information.

Upcoming Events

“Fall in Love with Gardening” Series: Join Bibb County Extension staff for this series at Washington Memorial Library, 1180 Washington Ave. Free and open to the public. Sessions: 11 a.m. Oct. 8, “Planting a Fall Vegetable Garden”; 11 a.m. Oct. 15, “Planting and Caring for Shrubs & Trees.”

ServSafe Manager Training: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 19-20, Macon-Bibb County Health Department, 171 Emery Highway. The Servsafe certification exam will be administered. The cost is $140 and includes the 6th Edition ServSafe Manager book. For more information, e-mail thomaskj@uga.edu or call 478-751-6338.

Contact county Extension agent Karol Kelly at karolk@uga.edu.

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