Master Gardeners complete annual recertification by completing educational and volunteer hours

Master Gardeners in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula give back annually to communities by educating others through community service gardening projects.

Garden at City Hall in Ishpeming, Michigan. Photo credit: Rebecca Krans, MSU Extension

Garden at City Hall in Ishpeming, Michigan. Photo credit: Rebecca Krans, MSU Extension

The Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Program has a history that began in 1978. Its mission is two-fold: Provide research-based horticulture science to motivated and active gardeners through MSU Extension, and provide MSU Extension with trained gardeners who will educate others in the community about environmentally and economically sound practices through horticulture-based volunteer activities.

Participants in the program are initially required to complete 45 hours of educational training related to gardening. They are then required to complete 40 hours of community service to earn the distinction of MSU Extension Master Gardener. To remain certified, they annually complete educational credits and volunteer hours. Today, over 30,000 residents from 72 counties have earned and enjoy the MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer designation. In 2013, a total of 3,222 Michigan Master Gardeners donated 370,000 volunteer hours which equates to an economic value of 8.3 million.

MSU Extension Master Gardeners within Michigan’s Upper Peninsula contribute to this effort by working with communities to establish beautification projects, community gardens and school gardens. The Master Gardener’s project focus is on the educational efforts involved in each project. Examples include teaching other community members who are volunteering about proper plant selection and care, to providing guided tours of the gardens to elementary students.

One outstanding example is the gardens at the Peter White Library in Marquette, Michigan. This project was started in 2007 and continues to be overseen by Carol Fitzgerald, Advanced Master Gardener. She has improved existing landscape beds and installed numerous others. Visitors can choose to explore the children’s garden, enjoy a shaded bench for a rest, or take in the beauty of the many plants. Residents comment on the beauty of these gardens and many take advantage of them as a backdrop for wedding photos.

Children's garden
A portion of the Children’s Garden at the Peter White Library. Photo credit: Rebecca Krans, MSU Extension

“The Master Gardener Program has given me the opportunity and the credibility to find a wonderful place to use my training and foster my passion. It has been so much fun to see the library gardens grow and enhance the enjoyment of the library for people in the community,” said Fitzgerald. She has used the knowledge and skills gained through the Master Gardener Program to guide and educate others who assist her with the gardens.

Another project is the First United Methodist Church grounds in Marquette, Michigan, which is coordinated by Pat Gruber, Advanced Master Gardener since 2007. She has recruited other parish members, who are not Master Gardeners, and is educating them in how to maintain and care for the gardens. Gruber is also working to convert a portion of the church grounds into a community garden/kids garden.

The city of Ishpeming, Michigan has many new beautification projects thanks to the dedication and efforts of Linda Andriacchi, Advanced Master Gardener since 1999. She has also recruited others and is coordinating their efforts in a number of gardens throughout the city.

As a new group of MSU Extension Master Gardener trainees will complete their educational requirements this December. They will then have until December 2015 to complete their volunteer projects. Some have already determined they will develop beautification projects within their own communities, and some are interested in assisting existing projects, thus creating sustainability.

If you are interested in becoming a MSU Extension Master Gardener, visit the Master Gardener Volunteer Program website. You can also search for upcoming classes available in your area.

For more information on a wide variety of smart gardening topics, visit the Gardening in Michigan website at www.migarden.msu.edu or contact MSU’s toll-free garden hotline at 1-888-678-3464.

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