Happy 2022! As we start a new year, we look forward to new beginnings, new goals and new adventures. The events of the past few years brought a surge of interest in all things gardening.
Despite the pandemic, the Master Gardener Extension Volunteers (MGEVs) of Cobb County have continued to carry out their mission to “improve the quality of life in our community by delivering research-based horticultural information, education programs and projects.”
What is a Master Gardener?
In the early 1970s, Dr. David Gibby, who was known as the father of Master Gardeners, was a county extension agent with the Washington State Extension office. At that time, the public had only two options for gardening information — libraries or a county extension agent. It didn’t take long for Gibby to become overwhelmed by the volume of questions he received from home gardeners. He needed help, so he discussed the problem with his superiors. Unfortunately, their suggestion of lectures and TV spots only increased the number of inquiries he received, compounding his problem.
Soon after, Sunset Magazine sponsored a garden clinic with Gibby at a local mall. Understanding his dilemma, they followed up with an article stating that Washington State Extension was looking for volunteers to assist him in answering questions and providing gardening information to the public. So many people responded, the Extension developed a training course, which became the first Master Gardener program. As news about this innovative volunteer program spread, other county extension offices across the nation followed suit. Today, there are Master Gardener programs in all 50 states, as well as internationally.
The Georgia program began in 1979, when a group of metro Atlanta Extension agents organized the first training program, with 140 trainees. Today, the University of Georgia (UGA) Extension website cites more than 2,270 active Georgia Master Gardeners, providing 111,065 volunteer hours. In Cobb County, we have 264 active members contributing more than 21,000 volunteer hours annually.
What do Master Gardeners do?
They assist the Extension office in numerous ways, manning the Master Gardener helpline, presenting educational programs, conducting hands-on demonstrations, maintaining educational and community gardens, volunteering in schools, and working with Habitat for Humanity. Along with their gardening knowledge, they contribute valuable skills, such as photography, writing, editing, event planning, teaching and leadership.
How do you become a Master Gardener Extension Volunteer?
You go back to school! UGA Extension offers an annual 50-hour training course with a limited number of seats per county. Using several textbooks, and with lectures from a variety of specialists, you will learn about botany, soils and plant nutrition, basic pathology, plant physiology, entomology, pest control, annuals and perennials, woody ornamentals, turf selection and maintenance, composting, mulching, vegetable gardening and waterwise gardening, just to name a few. And, yes, there is a midterm and final exam. If you break out in a sweat at the mere mention of the word exam, don’t worry. There are plenty of study sessions to help you prepare.
Do I need to be an experienced gardener to apply?
Some basic experience and knowledge are preferable, but enthusiastic people who want to share their love of plants with their communities through our Extension education programming and horticultural projects are welcome to apply.
What is expected of a Master Gardener?
Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County interns must contribute 50 hours of volunteer service in their first year to earn certification. Most interns are paired with a mentor to help them through. After that, volunteers are expected to complete at least 25 hours of service annually on an approved Cobb County Master Gardener project or program. In addition, MGEVs are required to complete at least six hours of continuing education per year.
How do you apply?
Applications are available at www.cobbmastergardeners.com. In addition to the program application, applicants must provide three references, agree to a background check, and be interviewed by the selection committee.
Being a Master Gardener Volunteer of Cobb County does not require you to be a master at gardening. It does, however, require you to be enthusiastic about gardening, to enjoy meeting and working with other like-minded people, and to enjoy the rewards of volunteering and contributing to your community.
Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County, Inc. (MGVOCC) is a 501(c)(3) organization that promotes and supports horticultural education programs and projects in Cobb County, Georgia. Members have been certified by the University of Georgia Master Gardener program. For gardening questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk, UGA Cooperative Extension/Cobb County at 770-528-4070.
– Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County is a part of the University of Georgia Extension