“First Responders” in Horticultural Education
Texas Master Gardeners are arguably the largest and most recognized corps of volunteers serving Texas citizens. Their activities, projects and expertise continue to significantly multiple the efforts of Texas Cooperative Extension.
In 2004, County Extension programs trained over 1,600 Texas Master Gardener Interns. To gain certification, each Intern must contribute a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service. In 2004, the ranks of Texas Master Gardeners expanded to over 5,550 Master Gardeners, providing 360,710 hours of their time to Extension educational projects. This volunteer service, equivalent to 173 full-time employees, increases the human capacity of Extension by 17 percent. The economic value of this service translates to a $6.2 million benefit to the State of Texas.
These numbers are impressive, yet what the Master Gardeners do is simply amazing. These highly-trained and talented volunteers have become the “first responders” for horticultural education in 112 Texas Counties.
Responding to telephone inquiries is a mainstay of Master Gardener work. Well-trained Master Gardeners answer the majority of home landscape and garden calls in urban Texas, totaling over 112,000 annually.
Thirty-seven (37) County Master Gardener websites enhance Extension educational programs with localized gardening information and promotion of events. All the “web masters” for these websites are Master Gardeners
Speakers’ bureaus are a component of most Master Gardener programs. A significant multiplying outreach for Extension, these bureaus provide public presentations, delivering research-based information to garden clubs, civic clubs and other community organizations. In 2004, Master Gardeners made over 1,317 presentations to over 52,614 people.
Demonstration gardens have become a significant part of Extension’s horticultural education program statewide. Through the expertise, physical work, and financial backing of Master Gardeners, 68 demonstration gardens showcase environmentally-sensitive, research-based horticultural practices and superior plant materials.
Master Gardeners remain committed to preparing youth for the future by using the garden as a classroom. Teaching academics, leadership and life skills via gardening, Master Gardeners provided coordination and expertise to over 550 School Gardens in 2004.
The Master Gardener program enhances the Extension’s capability to meet local educational needs. Master Gardeners provide leadership and support to educational programs targeted at critical issues, including youth development, environmental stewardship, water conservation, and leadership development.
Through dedicated leadership of County Extension Agents and Master Gardeners, the Texas Master Gardener program continues to be the largest Master Gardener program in the United States.