What does it mean to be a Master Gardener?
We are an organization based on knowledge and the sharing of knowledge. Master Gardeners is a University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) program. We strive to respect and promulgate unbiased, high-quality, science-based information to our communities regarding the health of their gardens and natural surroundings.
In addition, our members feel strongly that it is the people they have met, the people they work with, and the experiences they share together that all form the real glue that keeps them involved. It really is a great group of people! Obviously, we are there because we care about nature, gardens, plants, and sharing that love with others. And, we all enjoy learning more about those things, and again, sharing with others. The contact with people at farmers markets, community gardens, library workshops, county and harvest fairs, etc., is a key part of volunteering as a master gardener. And it’s fun! We get to meet people: some local, some not, all interested and interesting. We get to help and inform them. We get to encourage them to grow vegetables, shrubs, trees, fruit, flowers, use less water, make compost, start worm bins, responsibly fight plant diseases and pests, whatever! – and be FireWise about it. We get into discussions on no-till and why it’s better… sometimes that subject gets interesting with old-timers. It’s all interesting.
In order to ensure that the Master Gardeners can successfully serve our communities, we have minimum requirements on volunteer and continuing education hours. There are many ways to earn those volunteer hours: obviously, manning the various information tables is one, but the Garden Sense program offers help to individual gardeners who want to learn to use less water in their gardens and pairs of MGs actually visit their gardens and give them advice… it’s a great way to get to know your county better and meet interesting people! Or, if you enjoy giving presentations, the Speakers Training will help you improve your presentation skills, and the Library series provides a terrific forum and is a great educational tool. Do you love growing food? Composting? Worm bins? The Food Garden Specialists have an education component in their monthly meetings and provide access to volunteering to help and educate in community gardens and at the Library series.
There are many ways to volunteer. Here are some of that may be of interest:
- Do you love bugs and plant problems? Then the Integrated Pest Management group will welcome you with open arms. Or, if Sudden Oak Death is your special interest, we have a SOD program. Welcome!
- Love propagating plants?... We have a Plant Propagation group! You learn from the hands-on sessions while starting plants for our plant sales.
- There are some special projects: the Harvest for the Hungry garden, Quarry Hills educational tours, Sonoma Garden Park, and the Youth Garden Project, that are all potential candidates for earning volunteer hours. And, one of the biggest special projects is our biennial Bloomin’ Backyards garden tour. Our 2020 tour will be held in Petaluma, and helping with that will really boost those volunteer hours – and, it’s lots of fun!
- Or, maybe you enjoy writing, computers, social media, etc.? (We call those the “PJ jobs” as you can do them in your jammies if you wish!) We, of course, have an active group involved in this.
If you choose to become a Master Gardener and take our classes, you will get to choose how you want to be involved. Whatever your choices, you will be welcomed and you will learn new skills. You will make many friends and meet many interesting people. Promise.
Finally, some thoughts from current MGs:
“I have found a wonderful sense of community since joining the Master Gardener organization. I enjoy volunteering alongside these amazing, like minded gardeners. I have made many friends and learned so much. No matter where I choose to direct my interests (food gardening, water conservation, habitat and environment protection, plant propagation, teaching and training) the experiences have always been rewarding.“ Sally Barton, UCMGSC
“For me, I love taking the newbies and nurturing them through training and watching their love of nature...plants, edibles, diseases… the whole ball of wax...and become enhanced through our education. Sometimes it is an ‘ahh haa” moment. And then showing them that EVERY ONE can help promote sustainable and regenerative gardening in their own backyard watershed. If everyone thought of their little piece of home as a watershed, we might make a difference in climate change. “Suzie Shield, UCMGSC
For me, I actually had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had recently moved to West County from Truckee where I had met a “Master Gardener” through my involvement in reviving the local community gardens, but, beyond knowing that “Master Gardener” was an earned title that was completely impractical for anyone living in Truckee to pursue, I knew nothing about Master Gardeners. And then I went to my first farmers market here and saw two people sitting at a table with a “Master Gardeners” sign and a light-bulb flashed! Needless to say, I walked up and asked “How?”. Pure impulse that I have never regretted for one second. I loved the classes… each class is taught by one or more specialists in the particular field and they are super; some of the best teachers I have ever experienced, and passionate about their subjects! I really, really enjoy working with all the people I have met. I have made wonderful friends. And accumulating those volunteer hours has taken me to places I would not otherwise have gone, to meet people I would not otherwise have met, and my life is richer for it.
Sign up, take our classes and join us!
We are looking forward to meeting you.
Penny Fink, UCMGSC and web editor.