Master Gardener Volunteer Program
The Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program (MGVP) is a horticulture education and volunteer leader training program. Volunteers are committed to improving the quality of life in Michigan through horticulture-based volunteerism and beautifying communities throughout the state.
Beginning the Master Gardener Volunteer Program requires only an enthusiasm for gardening and a willingness and commitment to volunteer. Applicants attend training classes to learn basic horticulture principles and environmentally sound practices. Once they complete at least 40 hours of community-based service, they earn the title of certified Master Gardener Volunteer.
Through continued education, knowledge sharing and creation of more livable communities, the MGVP continues to make the Great Lakes State one of the most diversely beautiful states in the country.
The original Master Gardener Volunteer Program was created at Washington State University in 1972. It has grown to include more than 600 programs in 46 states, the District of Columbia and several Canadian provinces. MSU Extension offered its first Master Gardener Volunteer Program in 1978. Today, more than 30,000 residents from more than 72 Michigan counties have earned and enjoy the Master Gardener Volunteer designation. In 2009, MGVP volunteers donated nearly 231,000 hours to improving their communities. This time, valued at more than $4.6 million (based on the value of a volunteer hour as determined by Independent Sector, a coalition of nonprofit organizations) has benefited Michigan’s economy through increased tourism and property values.
The Master Gardener Volunteer Program serves two major and equal functions:
- To provide instruction in basic, research-based horticulture science to motivated and active gardeners through an adult educational program offered through MSU Extension.
- To provide MSU Extension with trained gardeners who will educate others in the community about environmentally and economically sound practices through horticulture-based volunteer activities.
The MGVP’s educational component provides an overview of major horticulture subjects in a classroom setting. Master Gardener Volunteer trainees attend a series of classes that address a minimum of 12 topics that are presented in an 800-page Master Gardener Volunteer manual.
Topics covered in the 12 basic class sessions are:
- Introduction & Volunteerism
- Plant Science
- Soils for Plant Growth
- Flower Gardening
- Woody Ornamentals
- Lawn Care
- Vegetable Culture
- Small Fruit Culture
- Tree Fruit Culture
- Plant Health Care
- Indoor Plants
- Household Pests
- Volunteer Commitment
The Master Gardener trainee’s commitment to volunteering is just as important (if not more so) than the educational component of the course. Trainees have the chance to educate and inspire others in their communities through horticulture activities. Volunteer tasks may include everything from designing an elementary school garden with children, to creating a horticulture therapy program at a senior center, to helping a neighborhood beautification team with site and plant selection.
Upon completion of the educational component and 40 hours of volunteer service, the Master Gardener trainee will receive his or her Master Gardener Volunteer certification.