What is a Master Gardener? by Byron Chitwood
The Texas Master Gardener program is an educational activity offered by the Texas AgriLife Extension Program of the Texas A&M University. The program is designed to increase the availability of horticultural information and increase the availability of this information throughout the community.
Master Gardener prospects are selected for training in an extensive schooling and teaching project that is formulated and presented by the County Agent for Texas AgriLife Extension. Future Master Gardeners who will be taking this training will be unpaid volunteers who will spread their knowledge to others throughout community. In this schooling, instructors are selected for their knowledge of specific horticulture problems and goals for projects benefiting both professional and amateur horticulturist. Some of the community needs can be environmental improvement activities, horticultural therapy projects or school garden programs. Before being accepted as a trainee, the future Master Gardener must pass a background check. This background check is repeated every three years. After completing 60 hours of classroom training, the next phase for the future Master Gardener is one year as an intern. During this one year period, the intern must perform 50 hours of volunteer work, which includes at least 5 hours in the Extension office, and at least 5 hours of work in the Heritage Garden, and take an additional 12 hours of continuing education. The Intern is responsible for keeping a record of his or her hours for all these functions and reports them monthly to the Extension Agent. This sounds like a lot of hours but the truly dedicated person will usually exceed the required hours by a substantial margin. The saying “time flies when you are having fun” certainly holds true for the dedicated person.
Continuing education is in the form of field trips, attending programs presented by other Master Gardeners and those programs that are offered by the AgriLife Extension Service. Also, many Master Gardener Chapters conduct programs such as Rain Water Harvesting, Composting and Fall Vegetable Gardening. As the individual Master Gardener becomes proficient in some subject that he or she is interested in, they might want to compile their knowledge in one of their own programs. At first, authoring your own program seems to be an almost impossible task and the first time is very time consuming. However, the task becomes easier with experience. The only requirement is that only researched based, scientifically proven data is used. Usually, there is another Master Gardener who is proficient at preparing a PowerPoint presentation and they will be more than happy to give instructions on how to prepare a presentation. Master Gardener programs are in great demand by garden clubs, civic organizations, and schools.
The next Master Gardener training school is scheduled for the fall of 2015. However, if a person is interested in this training, it is suggested that they call or come by the Extension office to be added to the application list. Applications will be mailed out to individuals the first part of May 2015. Space will be limited. You will not be disappointed in the training and probably will learn a lot of new things.