Master Gardeners Support Extension’s Network,
Meeting Needs of Texans in over 100 County Programs
In 2003, Texas Cooperative Extension trained and certified over 1,600 Texas Master Gardeners. To gain certification, each Master Gardener contributed a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service. In 2003, 5,450 Master Gardeners served Texas by providing 353,643 hours of their time and talents through Extension educational projects. This volunteer service, equivalent to 170 full-time employees, increases the human capacity of Texas Extension by 16 percent. The economic value of this service translates to a $5.8 million benefit to the State of Texas. Together, Master Gardeners and Extension professionals share a passionate commitment to enhance horticultural and environmental education in Texas.
New projects highlight the Texas Master Gardener program in 2003. These projects focus direct support to the 110 county Master Gardener programs through advanced education, an expanded network of training professionals, digitally enhanced training materials, and increased financial resources.
The Master Gardener Specialist program was developed in 2000 to empower Master Gardeners who wish to assume increased roles in Extension educational programs, thus further multiplying Extension’s capacity. As trainers, demonstrators, and public educators, Master Gardener Specialists provide volunteer leadership to Extension programs in Fire Ant Management for Communities, Junior Master Gardener programming, and Firewise Landscaping (sponsored by the Texas Forest Service). In 2003, the Master Gardener Specialist program expanded to include trainings in Plant Propagation and Entomology. Currently over 140 Master Gardener Specialists from 51 counties have been certified to support five educational programs.
An “Agents Only” Site for Master Gardener Coordinators was established on the Aggie-Horticulture website. Over 70 Extension professionals are currently registered to access the site which contains 33 Power Point presentations for use in training Master Gardeners and the public. Presentations were contributed by Extension Agents and Specialists and Master Gardeners.
The Master Gardener Trainer Network expanded significantly in 2003 to meet the expressed desire by Agents and Master Gardeners to maintain high-quality, face-to-face training for new Master Gardeners. Extension Specialists have been the primary trainers who travel across Texas to train Master Gardeners. In 2003, 11 County Extension Agents formally committed to train Master Gardeners outside their local counties. Ten years ago, Extension employed twice as many Extension Horticulturists as County Extension Agents-Horticulture. Today, the number is reversed and the county level horticulturists are becoming primary educators for the 1,600 new Master Gardeners trained annually.
A Texas Master Gardener License Plate for automobiles was established by the 78th Texas Legislature via legislation sponsored by Representative Dianne White Delisi, a Texas Master Gardener from Bell County. On November 1, 2003, the plates became available through the Texas Department of Transportation. Within the first two months, 75 sets of Master Gardener License Plates were sold. Of the $30.00 annual fee per set of plates, $22.00 will be directed to Extension to fund graduate student assistantships and activities related to the Texas Master Gardener Program. The legacy of this project is “to develop the next generation of Extension Master Gardener Coordinators.”
The Texas Master Gardener program continues to be the largest in the United States and leads the way with innovative projects to support this volunteer development program.