The Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program

Our Mission and Vision

Mission: To assist Extension agents in providing research-based horticultural education to Florida residents.

Vision: To be the most trusted resource for horticulture education in Florida

The Florida Master Gardener Volunteer 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.

History

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).

Program Structure

Within Florida, each county Extension office chooses whether it wishes to participate in the statewide program. Active counties select a Master Gardener Volunteer 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 Volunteer 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 2017 the state Master Gardener Volunteer office released updated statewide bylaws. The statewide office maintains a identity standards guide to help Master Gardener Volunteers and county coordinators understand the use of the Master Gardener name and the Florida Master Gardener logos, which is updated regularly.

Program Success

The success of the program has been phenomenal. Even during the 2020 pandemic, Florida Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) were able to contribute to the UF/IFAS Extension service and volunteered 186,000 hours. A volunteer hour is valued at $24.93 in the state, resulting in a contribution worth $4.6 million to the citizens of Florida.

Despite the limitations of stay-at-home orders, volunteers were able to answer horticulture questions via phones and email. They also held horticulture trainings for Extension clientele via online learning platforms such as Zoom.

Volunteers also increased their personal horticulture expertise by logging over 60,000 continuing education credits. Additionally, 700 new MGV trainees were trained to become active in the organization.

The ultimate end to the educational outreach efforts of the Florida Master Gardener Volunteer 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.

Think you might be interested in becoming a Master Gardener Volunteer? Read on.