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Cheryl Gross & Elise Carolan
The MG Volunteering season is upon us! With each new sprout or bud, gardeners are itching to kneel in the dirt, plant seeds, and sharpen our pruners. It is time to share our Master Gardener horticultural, science-based know-how. But, wait! How do we do that?
Elise, our MSU Extension consumer horticulture liaison, is keeping very busy with learning the details of the MGANM partnership and Master Gardener Program coordinating ropes, participating in strategic planning with MMGA and the other regional groups, and representing our area’s Master Gardener Program to the state. Catching her on the run, she made the following volunteering guideline suggestions:
‘In brief, Extension Master Gardeners are volunteer horticultural educators. MSU Extension can accomplish SO much more research-based, scientifically sound horticultural outreach with your help! As a local resident, I am very appreciative that you, as Extension Master Gardeners, have chosen to participate in this program to accomplish this very important, common goal!
But, in terms of volunteer hours to stay up on re-certification, what counts and what doesn’t? Well, we are currently in a strategic planning process for the Master Gardener Program, and there is a chance that things may change (The “working plan” will be finalized with the collaboration of MMGA, local associations across the state, Extension Master Gardener’s-at-large, and the Extension consumer horticulture work team on Monday, May 4th on the MSU campus in East Lansing).
However, here are some specifics to keep in mind as you go about your role as an Extension Master Gardener: The service must be non-paying, horticulture-related, public education (outreach)-related, and should be provided to or with a non-profit organization. Again, an intentional educational purpose directed towards the public is the key! As an example, you could educate a garden committee at a local non-profit about what type of plants would be the “smartest” for their garden. You could develop a brochure to be disseminated by me or MGANM regarding a horticultural topic of your choice, you could create signage for “smart” plants at a public garden to make the garden educational.
I’m am currently working on two such projects, and I welcome the involvement (or leadership) of any Extension Master Gardeners with them.
- The first: An educational native landscape and rain garden at the Leeleanu County Government Center. There is a beautiful, native/well-adapted, and horticulturally sound garden here at my office. However, permanent, exterior, educational signage could educate the Government Center’s visitors and staff as to the benefits of working with well-adapted or native plants and also of having a rain garden to trap contaminants and excess water from the parking lot runoff.
- The second: the Leelanau Community Garden this serves as a space for horticultural education for those interested with small scale, vegetable gardening. For instance, on May 28th we are having 60 West Middle School students out to help plant the garden and educated these “Greenagers” about how fun and easy home vegetable production can be. However, there is much to be done from a management and coordinating perspective to keep this space up and running to facilitate horticultural, public outreach education. Let me know if you’re interested!
If you have any questions about this or are interested in brainstorming about your fabulous volunteering educational ideas please call my direct line at the office: (231) 256-8323. Let’s have a conversation about it. My voicemails go right to my email, so I can call you back even while traveling. Though, for most inquiries, please call the Leelanau Extension office at (231) 256-9888 for a more speedy reply to your questions.
One more time for good measure: the end goal needs to be both horticulture education and community outreach oriented.
Please be aware of the following: MSU Extension Master Gardener programming offered to young people is called 4-H! 4-H is not just livestock – Who knew, right? Any MSU Extension program dealing with youth development is under the 4-H umbrella. Again, this includes Extension Master Gardeners! And, it is not confined to just the Junior Master Gardener Program.
If you enjoy working with youth as an Extension Master Gardener, GREAT! MSU Extension has staff people in every county to support you! This is something you may already be aware of, or, something that I or my 4-H colleagues, may be calling you about over this next year if you have logged hours for youth programming, but are not in the 4-H system.
Here’s the good stuff: Our local 4-H Program Coordinators in northwest Michigan are poised to help you reach out to youth, facilitate partnerships with youth organizations and/or schools, provide resources such as trainings, curriculum, funding and liability insurance!
Here are our local, 4-H program coordinators:
Susan Lee, email@example.com, (231) 256-9888
Grand Traverse County
Karin Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org, (231) 922-4825
Debra Lawes, email@example.com, (231) 882-0025