40 years of Master Gardeners

John Lawrence’s message from July 8, 2019

Any gardener can seek education for self-improvement, and many do. However, Extension Master Gardener volunteers seek and use research-based horticulture and gardening knowledge and practices to benefit others. They also take on projects that promote healthy communities. Iowa Master Gardener volunteers have been building a strong Iowa for 40 years. Did you know?

  • ISU Extension and Outreach piloted the Master Gardener program in Scott County in 1979, using a program that had originated in Washington State. Today, there are Master Gardeners in more than 80 Iowa counties.
  • Master Gardeners receive specialized training in garden best practices from ISU Extension and Outreach. In return they contribute their time (20 hours per gardener per year) doing garden-related volunteer outreach in their communities.
  • Once again, our Master Gardeners are partnering with our Human Sciences staff to fight hunger in Iowa. Thanks to USDA SNAP-Education funding, 22 mini grants were awarded to Master Gardeners in 2019 for food pantry donation gardens. Last year, over 90,000 pounds of fresh produce were donated.
  • At the International Master Gardener Conference last month, the Linn County Master Gardeners were recognized for their ongoing pollinator project. They built partnerships to increase pollinator habitat by 2,000 acres.
  • State coordinator Susan DeBlieck says nearly 2,000 Master Gardeners were active across Iowa in 2018, compiling 113,392 volunteer hours. That averages out to nearly 60 hours worked per volunteer. Those volunteer hours are valued at $2.7 million spent improving Iowa.

Over the past 40 years, more than 14,300 Iowans have participated in the Master Gardener training to volunteer in their communities. Iowans who would like to join this impactful group can apply online to attend Master Gardener training, starting around the state in August.

One more note: Take a moment to review the July program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.

A special thank you: Today is Linda Brinkmeyer’s last day as my administrative assistant. She is retiring to start the next adventure in her life. I want to personally thank her for helping me get grounded in this job and for being an important part of the leadership team. She kept the plates spinning as we worked on several priorities to move our organization forward. She will be missed. Thank you, Linda!

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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