- Growing Need
- More About Master Gardeners
- History and Stucture
- Program Success
- State Bylaws and Identity Standards
Countless homeowners contact their county Extension offices for answers to their gardening questions. But with so many inquries, how can county Extension agents keep up?
The answer lies in a specialized volunteer training program--the Florida Master Gardener Program.
The Florida Master Gardener Program recruits individuals who are interested in gardening and enjoy sharing what they learn with others. Participants complete a 50-hour (or longer) training course sponsored by the University of Florida. In return for their training, these new Master Gardeners serve 75 volunteer hours within the first year of their certification, per the statewide program bylaws (PDF 57KB).
Certified Master Gardeners educate Floridians and provide research-based information about gardening--America's most popular pastime. Master Gardeners can fulfill their volunteer hours in a variety of ways, including:
- answering horticultural questions over the phone, in person or through a regular newspaper column.
- participating in community and school garden projects.
- giving educational programs to the public.
- supporting youth activities.
- performing soil sample evaluations.
- certifying Florida-friendly yards through the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program.
Master Gardeners can renew their certification by participating in 10 learning hours and completing 35 volunteer hours each year, as well as adhere to the Master Gardener policies (PDF 99KB).
Since 1979, Florida Extension agents have maximized resources by using a "learn and return" model, which was based on the original Master Gardener program developed in Washington in 1973. Read more on the Washington State University Web site. Or for a list of Master Gardener coordinators in other states, click here.
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, Tom Wichman, 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.
The success of the program has been phenomenal. During 2007, more than 3,835 volunteers contributed 425,445 hours to local county horticulture extension educational programs providing services to citizens of Florida worth $7.9 million.
Other noteworthy statistics include:
- more than 80 percent of counties adopted the program within its first two decades
- as of July 2007, fifty-six of Florida's sixty-seven counties were running active Master Gardener programs
- the average lifespan of county programs is twelve years
- each county has an average of seventy-three trained volunteers
- more than 82 percent of 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.
The state bylaws were updated in October 2006 and are available online (PDF 59kb). 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 (PDF 99kb).