Master Gardeners Support Extension’s Network,
Meeting Needs of Texans in over 100 County Programs
Master Gardeners support many educational programs sponsored by Texas Cooperative Extension’s network of county offices, research and Extension centers, and academic departments. Together, the Master Gardeners and Extension faculty share a commitment to enhancing Texas horticultural and environmental programs.
As of 2002, Texas Master Gardeners are based in 106 counties. These 5,300 volunteers contributed 350,285 hours of time and talent to Texas Cooperative Extension. This volunteer service, equivalent to 168 full-time employees, increases the human capacity of Texas Extension by 14 percent. The economic value of this service translates to a $5.3 million benefit to the State of Texas.
Master Gardeners support Extension offices, centers and departments in the development, implementation and evaluation of youth gardening curricula, including “Cylinder Gardening,” “Jurassic Gardening,” “Squirmy Worm Recycles,” and Junior Master GardenerR. More than 65,000 children each year discover the science and wonder of gardening as a result of Master Gardeners’ services.
This competent and dependable cadre of volunteers also supports Extension demonstration gardens, applied research plots, and other environmental programs in:
- Landscape plant selection (CEMAP, Texas Superstars)
- Landscape water management (Smartscape, Xeriscape, WaterWise, Xtreme Gardening)
- Turfgrass evaluation
- Fire ant management (Fire Ant Academy)
- Internet education (Aggie-Horticulture, TexasMasterGardeners.com, JMGKids.org and 27 other county Master Gardener websites)
The Master Gardener Specialist program was developed in 2000 to empower Master Gardeners who wish to assume increased roles in Extension educational programs. As trainers, demonstrators, and public educators, Master Gardener Specialists provide volunteer leadership to Extension programs in Fire Ant Management for Communities, Junior Master GardenerR, and Firewise Landscaping (sponsored by the Texas Forest Service). One of the primary requirements for Master Gardener Specialists is that they multiply their efforts by training current, and prospective, Master Gardeners. In 2003, Master Gardener Specialist trainings in Plant Propagation and Entomology are planned.
The Master Gardener Specialist program is but one avenue by which the Texas Master Gardener program changes to address the demand for high-quality training and to ameliorate Extension financial issues. In addition, Extension county offices work together to train new classes of Master Gardeners. Multi-county Master Gardener trainings insure a critical mass of students, justifying the time and expenses of training.
Using current technologies, Master Gardeners are often trained via the Trans-Texas Videoconference Network (TTVN). Digital slide presentations, designed for use by both individuals and groups, are now available for Master Gardener training in entomology and diagnosis and management of plant health. Computer-driven modules are under development by turfgrass and agriculture education faculty to train Master Gardeners in turfgrass management.
This Texas community-service program continues to be the largest program of its kind in the United States. The dedication and expertise of Master Gardeners permit Extension to expand its educational programs in youth development, environmental stewardship, water conservation, and leadership development Statewide.