Coordinator’s Corner: How to Volunteer While Staying Home and Staying Safe

By Nate Walton, MSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Instructor and MG Coordinator

Many of you will already be aware that MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers and Trainees are not being required to complete their volunteer hour requirements for certification in 2020. However, there has not been a decrease in the need for the services that our program provides. Fortunately, we can continue to serve our communities, we just need to adapt how we do that in order to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved. Here is a simple message that I would encourage you to share with individuals or organizations that we partner with: 

Due to current travel restrictions and safety guidelines, MSU Extension has modified how we work with our clientele. We are still here to provide the information and resources you need, just in different ways than we have in the past.

In the spirit of that message, I am working hard to create volunteer opportunities that MSU Extension Master Gardeners in the Grand Traverse area can engage in while staying home and staying safe. All of these opportunities involve interacting with others only via remote methods such as telephone, online video conferencing, and/or the postal service. 

Lawn and Garden Q&A with MSU Extension Master Gardeners

Every Wednesday from 11am to 1pm, MSU Extension Master Gardeners join me for a live plant diagnostic clinic for local residents via Zoom. You can join just to listen in and learn, or you can help by providing one-on-one diagnostic support to our clients. I would also encourage you to bring your own plant or insect questions to the session. It is easy to join. You can join via internet on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. You can also join by telephone. The link to join by Zoom is:

If you’d like to join by phone, contact me (, 231-256-9888 ext 323) and I will provide you with the phone number and instructions. 

Become a Garden Mentor

I have had requests from a number of local non-profits, schools, and individuals who have an interest in creating vegetable gardens, some of them for the first time, to provide food for those in need in our communities in the Grand Traverse area. To help these enthusiastic new gardeners succeed, I’d like to connect each of them with an MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer mentor. The Garden Mentor’s role will be to help them via remote methods (phone, internet, etc) by providing gardening expertise, aid in planning their garden, problem solving, and so on. I have created an online survey tool that will allow me to link MSU Extension Master Gardner Volunteers with these organizations and individuals. The tool will allow you to choose whether you’d prefer to work with schools, individuals, organizations, or all of the above! I will then be able to pair you with an appropriate mentee on an as-needed basis. The link to the survey is here:

Thank you for reading! I will keep you all updated as new opportunities emerge. Also, please continue to share with me any and all volunteer opportunities or ideas that you might have. I wish you all a safe and happy spring gardening season!