ASK THE HORT AGENT
Question Is the Master Gardener training different from county to county?
Answer Yes and no. Not all county Extension offices have a Master Gardener (MG) Volunteer program. About 88 out of the 100 counties in North Carolina have MG programs. Although there are similarities between counties, there are also many differences. Having flexibility to be different allows each county to custom fit their MG program and training to their horticulture agent and the needs of that county.
MG training is conducted by the countyís Extension horticulture agent. Each hort agent has a different method of conducting MG training. Usually the agentís personality is reflected in the training. Each agent uses a different combination of guest speakers, other MGs, field trips, teaching methods, demonstrations and so on. In other words, no two MG trainings will be exactly the same.
While they are different, there are similarities. MG training is a curriculum approximately 40 hours in length. In most counties, it is spread over a 13 week period. It covers a wide range of scientific and practical topics like lawn care, pest management, propagation, soils, vegetables, houseplants and much more. Trainees all use the same manual in every county (created by Erv Evans). Like any other training, real learning happens when this knowledge is applied. The Master Gardener program gives you a chance to apply your knowledge to horticultural projects.
Most folks are only interested in the training part of the Master Gardener program. They don't realize the wonderful, yet intense, training is only the beginning. The MG program is actually a volunteer program. In lieu of payment, each trainee is expected to donate 40 hours of volunteer time towards MG projects over the next year. Master Gardeners are trained volunteers that work with their county horticulture Extension agent. While people usually join to obtain the training, they end up enjoying the service aspect. It's like joining the Peace Corps with all the comforts of home and no malaria.
Master Gardener volunteers are also similar from county to county. They are the most fun, hard working and down to earth volunteers I have ever seen. Having a good time is conducive to learning. All hort agents agree on that.
Horticulture is an applied science. The fun is certainly in the application. Sowing and reaping is the theme of the Master Gardener program on many levels. For more info on Master Gardeners, visit this website http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/masgar/ If you do not have internet access, call us at 910-893-7533 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Harnett County's Master Gardener training will begin February 21st. The classes will be on Thursday mornings from 9 to 12. Call our office to register. A willingness to learn is the only requirement. Remember, I guarantee our Master Gardener training to be malaria free.
Gary L. Pierce
Horticulture Extension Agent