The Volunteer Selection Process (VSP) for EMGs and a new location for this spring’s EMG training program!

By, Nate Walton MSUE Master Gardener Coordinator and Consumer Horticulture Program Instructor

I am happy to announce that this year’s (2020) MSU Extension Master Gardener training program is moving to be a little bit closer to Traverse City. We distributed an online survey this fall to find out where our pool of prospective trainees would prefer to hold the class this year and there was overwhelming support for a Traverse City location. I was able to reserve an event space at the Grand Traverse Regional Arts Campus (Leelanau Studios), which is located just north of TC at the intersection of Cherry Bend Rd. and M-22 in Elmwood Township. The classes will begin on Thursday March 5th and will continue every Thursday from 4 – 8 pm through June 14th.

Registration is open for this spring’s training program so please help to spread the word! The deadline to pay by check is February 11th and the volunteer application must be completed by February 21st so there is no time to waste. As you may be aware, the process to become an MSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer has changed in the last few years and these changes mean that prospective trainees have to begin the application process earlier than ever. When talking to potential applicants, I would recommend emphasizing that the program is first and foremost a volunteer service program. Extension Master Gardeners are trained to be out in Michigan’s communities, leading, teaching, and gardening alongside Michigan residents of all ages and all walks of life. Sometimes, this means working with vulnerable populations. To protect these people we serve, it is extremely important that all our MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers pass through a vetting or screening process. For Extension Master Gardener volunteers, the screening or Volunteer Selection Process (VSP) consists of 3 main components:

  1. An electronic application, which is completed on a secure MSU Extension website. The application will include consent to background checks (national and state) and Sex Offender Registry checks. 
  2. References. The online application requires that you provide the names of 5 references (friends, EMGs, co-workers, etc.). 
  3. A face-to-face interview with a trained MSU Extension staff member (most likely with yours truly, Nate Walton). The volunteer interview is an opportunity, in a casual setting, for you and your EMG coordinator to learn more about you, your volunteer interests, and expectations of the program. 

There is also an abundance of information on the MSU Events registration page for the class, which is located here:

Starting in 2020, all currently certified EMG volunteers will be asked to complete the VSP as well. For certified EMGs who have not already completed the VSP, the process will be an abbreviated version of the process described above, but is essentially the same. The exact timeline for EMGs to begin the process is not yet determined, but you will be invited by email when it is time for you to begin the VSP. Let me know if you have any questions about the training program or the VSP. I can be reached at or 231-256-9888 (x323). We know how important your volunteer work is and we hope this process will improve the impact of that work. Your feedback and participation as always, is greatly appreciated!