The Florida Master Gardener Program
To assist Extension Agents in providing research-based horticultural education to Florida residents.
The Florida Master Gardener Program is a volunteer-driven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the citizens of Florida. The program relies on dedicated volunteers who have an interest in gardening and in giving back to their communities.
In 1979, a group of Florida Extension agents chose to maximize resources by using a new volunteer training model developed in Washington in 1973, called the Master Gardener program. The horticulture "Master" volunteer concept is so effective that it has since spread throughout the United States and several provinces of Canada. Read more about the development of the original program (Washington State University website; PDF).
Within Florida, each county Extension office chooses whether it wishes to participate in the statewide program. Active counties select a Master Gardener Coordinator, typically the horticulture Extension agent for that county, who coordinates that county's volunteer recruiting, training, and management efforts. You can find a list of county coordinators here.
The Statewide Master Gardener Coordinator provides overall guidance and a centralized curriculum to the county coordinators. The statewide office also issues programmatic policies that counties with active programs must follow.
For example, in October 2006 the state Master Gardener office released updated statewide bylaws. In July 2007, the statewide office created an identity standards guide to help Master Gardeners and county coordinators understand the use of the Master Gardener name and the Florida Master Gardener logos, which is updated regularly.
The success of the program has been phenomenal. In 2014, more than 4,500 volunteers contributed 423,968 hours to local county Extension educational programs, providing horticultural services to citizens of Florida in 60 Florida counties. This equals $9.78 million or 203 FTEs provided to Florida's economy.
Other noteworthy statistics include:
- 2009 was the 30-year anniversary of the Florida Master Gardener Program.
- From 1979 through 2009 Florida Master Gardener volunteers have donated a total of 6.2 million volunteer hours, valued at well over $98 million.
- More than 80 percent of counties adopted the program within its first two decades.
- Each county has an average of 66 trained volunteers
- More than 82 percent of active counties train one new class of Master Gardeners each year.
The ultimate end to the educational outreach efforts of the Florida Master Gardener Program is to extend the vision of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, all the while protecting and sustaining natural resources and environmental systems, enhancing the development of human resources, and improving the quality of human life through the development of knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and making that knowledge accessible.