Master Gardeners grow strong with help of volunteers
By BRYAN PECK
Farming and agriculture has a long history in southern Ohio, from professional farming operations to recreational gardens run by residents. For those with little luck in producing home grown produce, there is plenty of help available, through the Ohio State University Extension Office Master Gardener Volunteer program. For those considering planting a garden of their own in 2013, asking a Master Gardener Volunteer for some pointers would be a good place to start.
The Master Gardener program originated in Seattle, Wash. in 1972, when the Extension Agent for the King County office of the Washington State Extension Service began to train and utilize the expertise of volunteers in order to more effectively reach the gardening public with research-based educational information. The program gained popularity in the United States over the next 10 years, arriving in Ohio in the late 1970s. There are now Master Gardener programs across the United States, as well as Canada and other countries.
While the program’s initial focus was in the more urban counties of Ohio, there are now more than 3,000 active Master Gardener volunteers in more than 62 Ohio counties, urban, suburban and rural. In addition to education, Master Gardener Volunteers typically meet periodically to participate in community service and beautification projects.
According to Faye Mahaffey, an OSUE Master Gardener Volunteer for Brown County, Master Gardeners in Ohio have been very active.
“Last year Master Gardeners spent over 150,000 hours leading projects, giving horticultural presentations and raising gardening awareness,” Mahaffey said. “Their volunteer efforts resulted in $3.3 million worth of community service contributions throughout Ohio.”
Brown County’s Master Gardener Volunteers have been engaged in community work at the Southern Ohio Veterans Home in Georgetown.
“On the third Tuesday of each month, through the gardening season, we meet with the veteran gardeners at The Ohio Veterans Home located in Georgetown,” Mahaffey said. “Working side by side with these enthusiastic gardeners is a great privilege. What do we do? Anything they need help with. Tilling, mulching, and especially pulling those pesky weeds. We love swapping stories about the best tomato, the largest head of cabbage, and what will be in the garden next year.”
One of the biggest benefits to a Master Gardener program is information. The OSUE Master Gardener program’s main goals are to spread awareness about integrated pest management, invasive species, backyard and local foods, and environmental horticulture. Volunteers also provide detailed information to the public through a series of seminars. According to Mahaffey, there will be several gardening seminars held at the Fincastle campus of the Southern State Community College in 2013. All seminars are open to the public and are held in the SHCTC library from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Seminars include Jan. 17, roses; Feb. 21, miniature gardens; March 21, native plants/ identification; April 18, vertical gardens; and May 16, water gardens.
Those interested in becoming OSUE Master Gardener Volunteers should contact their local OSU Extension office for more information. A complete list of Master Gardener events and active programs is available at http://mastergardener.osu.edu.
According to Mahaffey, those interested in becoming Master Gardener Volunteers simply need a passion for learning about gardening and sharing knowledge with others. Working with county OSUE personnel, Master Gardener Volunteers provide such educational services to their communities such as answering gardening questions from the public, conducting plant clinics, gardening activities with children, senior citizens, or disabled persons, beautifying the community, developing community or demonstration gardens and more.
“The benefits of becoming an OSUE Master Gardener Volunteer, for me, personally, would have to include meeting new gardening friends, access to research-based gardening information, and the opportunity to spread the joy of gardening in my community,” Mahaffey said.
Mahaffey said there is still time to register for the upcoming training classes to become a Master Gardener Volunteer. The Adams, Brown, Clermont and Highland County Extension Offices have begun the process for the 2013 Master Gardener courses, which will begin on Feb. 20 and end May 22. The Adams County Extension Office is handling the registration for this class, and can be reached at (937) 544‑2339. The OSU Extension Office Master Gardener Volunteer training course costs $150 for this session, and the deadline to register is Feb. 11. Other Master Gardener classes in other counties may have different fees for this course.
(Bryan Peck is the editor of the News Democrat in Georgetown.)