Becoming an Extension Master Gardener
The Extension Master Gardener (EMG) program was started in 1972 in King and Pierce counties in Washington state by local horticultural Extension agent David Gibby, Ph.D. This unique volunteer program has become internationally recognized and often duplicated as a model for other volunteer programs. Today, Extension Master Gardener programs exist in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Examples of projects or activities in which Extension Master Gardeners participate, include:
- Conducting garden consumer hotlines
- Setting up exhibits
- Writing news articles
- Educating in community gardens
- Conducting yard and neighborhood environmental programs
- Controlling invasive plants
- Establishing public demonstration gardens
- Providing sensory gardens and other gardens and gardening techniques for the handicapped
- Helping with community plantings
- Teaching youth, elder, and at-risk audiences
Trained by the Cooperative Extension Service, Extension Master Gardeners receive and recommend university and research-based information. The initial basic training for EMGs usually consists of 40 to 80 hours of classroom courses; in return, the participants give an equal number of volunteer hours during the next 12 months. Beyond the first year, annual volunteer expectations are usually lower, 20 to 30 hours, and the educational requirement even lower, approximately five to 15 hours of continuing, advanced, or specialized training. Most programs distinguish between actively volunteering EMGs and those who are inactive and no longer provide volunteer hours. To remain active, both educational and volunteer requirements usually must be met each year.