Extension Master Gardeners: A Valuable National Resource

You make a valuable contribution to your community and your nation as an Extension Master Gardener. The 2009 national Extension Master Gardener survey points out the magnitude of that value, including:

  • Total number of extension master gardeners in good standing: 94,895.
  • Total annual volunteer hours: 5,000,000+
  • Value of volunteer efforts: $100 Million+
  • Pounds of produce donated to local food banks and pantries: 685,554
  • Personal contacts (e.g. hotline calls, e-mails returned, live audience presentations, site visits): 4,850,285

As you talk about your local or state Extension Master Gardener program, please remind folks that you’re a part of something big. When you do, I encourage you to share these impressive numbers to back up your point.

However, I’m sure that many people would be interested in some of the ways that you communicate the value of the time you invest in your local or state master gardener program (I know that I would!). When you have an opportunity to speak to elected officials, the media, or even relatives at a family reunion about the great work that you do in your communities, what do you tell people?   

I would appreciate you taking a moment to click on the comment link below (near “tags” and “posted in”) and jotting a few notes about how you value the program. Tell me what you’re most proud of regarding the contribution you and your colleagues make as extension master gardeners.


Bill Hoffman, National Program Leader, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Washington Post Coverage of Extension Master Gardener Family

In April 2010, two Washington Post articles highlighted the efforts of master gardener volunteers and educators.

On April 1st, an article ran titled: The extension service’s programs help local gardeners grow. Written by gardening columnist, Adrian Higgins, it advocates for a strong extension presence in cities and suburban areas to aid homeowners in growing plants and improve the health of their landscapes.  His concluding statement is:

“Showing new generations how to protect the environment and feed themselves in the crowded city and suburb may be as vital in the 21st century as helping farmers to cultivate the fruited plains in the 19th.”

Another article followed on April 12th titled Agriculture Department seeds the way for “people’s garden,” which describes efforts to undertake public garden projects at USDA headquarters and other USDA facilities around the world. At headquarters, an abbreviated “Executive Master Gardener” training program was undertaken this year with the help of extension educators:

“This year, the agency decided it would require volunteers to complete a six-week Master Gardener training program and pass an exam before being allowed to volunteer. Taught by extension-service experts who flew to Washington from throughout the country, the course covered topics including botany and storm-water management. That requirement did not dampen enthusiasm for the program. The class’s 80 spaces were filled within 15 minutes of the announcement, and 70 other people were turned away, said Livia Marques, director of the People’s Garden Initiative.”

Class attendees were encouraged to enroll in local master gardener training programs to gain more extensive training and/or to engage in local master gardener projects. The following courses were offered by master gardener coordinators and other educators from around the country:

  • Garden Botany – Curtis Smith (NMSU)
  • Master Gardener Program – Sandra Farber-Bandier (UDC)
  •  Soils and Fertilizers – Trish Steinhilber (UMD)
  • Plant Health – Mary Kay Malinoski & Dave Clement (UMD)
  • Intro to Insects/IPM – Carol Sutherland (NMSU)
  • Water Use/Conservation – Angela O’Callagan (UNR)
  • Answers to Garden Questions – Rick Durham (Kentucky)

The United State’s Forest Service’s David Pivorunas also gave an excellent presentation on garden wildlife. Watch this blog for future announcements regarding video availability of these presentations.

Best, Bill Hoffman