Over the past decade, the Texas Master Gardeners have established themselves as with their paid colleagues — Extension agents and specialists — Master Gardeners are committed to providing high-quality educational programs about horticulture and the environment in Texas communities and neighborhoods. Over 4,660 Master Gardeners comprise this corps of volunteers, which provided 204,666 hours of service in 1998. Equivalent to 98 full-time employees, this service presents a $2.8 million contribution to the State.
A love of gardening and search for knowledge are the catalysts by which Texans from every walk of life enter the Master Gardener program. In 1998, 1,251 volunteers received local training in horticulture and leadership under the Master Gardener program. These Master Gardener “Interns” completed at least 50 hours of training, and have one year to complete a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service to become a certified Master Gardener.
Since the creation of the Master Gardener program in Washington 27 years ago, answering telephone inquiries has been a mainstay of Master Gardener work. Highly-training Master Gardeners now respond to the vast majority of home landscape and garden telephone calls in urban areas of Texas, which totaled 105,317 in 1998.
In preparation for a new century, Master Gardeners are now navigating the worldwide web to extend information delivery and problem solving to Extension clientele. Master Gardener programs have their own web pages and assist in answering thousands of home gardening questions each year.
Speakers’ bureaus are provided by many Master Gardener programs. A significant outreach of Extension, these public presentations deliver research-based information to garden clubs, civic clubs and other community organizations. In 1998, Master Gardeners made 1,271 presentations to over 28,505 people.
Master Gardeners logged 31,478 hours of service under program administration and leadership, suggesting that the volunteer program continues to mature, further easing the workload of the county Extension agent.
Master Gardeners are recertified every two years by fulfilling 12 hours of training and 12 hours of volunteer service. In 1998, 1,710 individuals retained their title of Master Gardener through recertification (representing over one-third of all active Master Gardeners). These Master Gardeners have participated in the program at least three years beyond their initial certification training, suggesting a significant return on Extension’s investment in training Master Gardeners.
The Master Gardener program substantially increases the capability of county Extension programs to meet local needs through education. Master Gardeners provide leadership and support to educational programs targeted at critical issues including youth development, environmental stewardship, solid waste management, water conservation, leadership development.
Master Gardeners have successfully plowed new ground in preparing youth for the future by using the garden as a classroom. Teaching academics and life skills via gardening, Master Gardeners provided coordination and expertise to 536 School Gardens in 1998. Some 53,669 students (49% percent ethic minorities) were exposed to the wonders of gardening and the environment.
In 1990, Bexar County Master Gardeners began bringing positive change to the lives of local inner-city youth. Eight years later, Our Lady of the Lakes University submitted their research findings on the impact of the Bexar County Master Gardener Classroom Garden Project on youth participants. Over 105 local schools participated, impacting the lives of over 7,000 Hispanic and African American children (10,000 children citywide). All youth from every economic and cultural background showed advanced life, leadership, and academic skills, increasing their knowledge and awareness from exposure to this project.
Junior Master GardenersSM
Stemming from Extension’s tradition of youth-development excellence and the commitment and zeal of Master Gardeners to share their knowledge and love for gardening with youth, a new and ambitious youth gardening program is underway: the Junior Master GardenerSM program (JMGSM). The JMGSM program will mirror its senior counterpart by providing in-depth horticultural and leadership training to youth gardeners, who then return volunteer service to the community.
The JMGSM program will use a specially developed curriculum to enhance the academic, life, and leadership skills of youth gardeners, while meeting TEKS and TAAS requirements of the schools. JMGSM Handbooks, Leader’s Guides, garden facilities, and youth gardeners will sprout up in after-school child care programs, classrooms, 4-H clubs and home-school groups.
The JMGSM program is on the fast track to success, fueled by over $400,000 in grants from private foundations that believe gardening can help prepare Texas children for the future. The JMGSM program will debut in the fall, 1999.
In 1987, Texas had only 6 county Master Gardener programs. The number has grown to 48 local Master Gardener programs, including the only collegiate program in the nation, the Aggie Master Gardeners at Texas A&M University. Through lasting dedication of Master Gardeners, Extension has multiplied its efforts, continues to expand educational programs to new audiences across the state, and has helped to improve the quality of life for Texans.