Posts Tagged ‘volunteers’ Sharing Your Garden Bounty with Neighbors in Need

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

What has 180,000 hands and is changing the world? The Extension Master Gardeners of the USA! That’s how we at think of you—thousands of hands working in the soil, sharing valuable knowledge with growers in every corner of America, and changing the world one garden at a time! is a national program, connecting gardeners with local food pantries so that excess garden bounty can be shared with those in need. Gardeners everywhere can use our site to find a pantry for those times when they just have too many greens or cucumbers (or any other extra veggies, fruits, herbs, or nuts).

Food Pantry volunteers, happy to receive donations of fresh food to share with their clients

Food Pantry volunteers, happy to receive donations of fresh food to share with their clients

We have nearly 7,000 food pantries registered on our site from every state. These are pantries that may not have the time or budget required to maintain a website or advertise their services online. For many pantries, their free profile on our site is the only web presence they have, and the only way that gardeners can find them when they have food to share.

We’ve got some exciting news! We’re celebrating our 5th birthday with a complete overhaul of our website. We will be adding new and exciting features to make it easier for gardeners and pantries to work together to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in America. We hope you’ll bookmark our page ( so you can see the new site when it’s up and let us know what you think.

If you’re growing food at home, helping in a community garden, or working with Plant-A-Row, we want our site to be another one of your gardening tools. Whenever someone asks us for gardening help, we send them your way and we hope that when you encounter someone whose gardening experiments yield too many tomatoes, you will send them our way so they can help feed a hungry family.


Harvest day at a community garden and this is just what was left over after the gardeners took their share! It all went straight to a pantry found on  Send photos of what you’re growing and sharing to

Harvest day at a community garden and this is just what was left over after the gardeners took their share! It all went straight to a pantry found on Send photos of what you’re growing and sharing to

Like us on Facebook and share our page with your gardening friends to help us spread the word. If you are already growing and sharing with a food pantry, share this blog with the pantry coordinator to encourage them to register on our site so that other gardeners can find them and donate their excess produce as well.

Thank you for teaching and leading by example. Thank you for keeping the knowledge of our national agricultural traditions alive in your communities. Thank you for changing the world.
Emily Fulmer is the Grower Outreach Coordinator at She is a back (and front!) yard vegetable gardener and she has recently added a small flock of Buff Orpington hens to her tiny urban farm. You can reach her at

Iowa Master Gardeners participate in CenUSA Biochar project

Monday, March 17th, 2014

In Iowa, to help determine biochar’s viability as a soil amendment product for the home garden, Master Gardeners are testing its ability to increase productivity in vegetable and flower gardens. Iowa Master Gardeners assisted with recording crop production and health data from the three test garden sites located across the state.

Iowa State Master Gardeners teaching about biochar research

Iowa State Master Gardeners learned about biochar

These sites, which include the Armstrong Research Farm in Lewis; the Horticulture Station in Ames; and Fruitland Research Farm in Muscatine; are each made up of different soil types and composition.

Ames horticulture research farm

Ames horticulture research farm – good black loam


Armstrong plot (for sure)

Armstrong farm in Lewis – marginal soils



Fruitland in Muscatine – sandy soils

These soil differences will help to provide a broader spectrum of results from our test plot gardens. As sister plots to the biochar test garden plots in Minnesota, Iowa’s test plots included the same crops, as well as the same levels of biochar incorporation at each of the test plot sites in both states. The same crops will be planted for testing again in the 2014 season.

Harvest data was taken in a similar fashion in both Iowa and MN for most crops – however 2013 weather extremes may have skewed the data from “normal” years, due to the late planting dates (due to wet weather); above average rainfall, followed by hot and dry periods.

Harvest weighed

Harvest weighed


Plant growth measured

Leaf color checked

Leaf color checked

Iowa Master Gardeners are gearing up for 2014 – and hope to experience a “normal” growing season – we are due!

If you would like further information becoming a volunteer with the biochar project, contact Yvonne McCormick at

Iowa State Master Gardener Participating in CenUSA Bioenergy project

Stay tuned – Iowa State Master Gardeners are ready to step back in these test gardens in 2014!

“The CenUSA Bioenergy project is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2011-68005-30411 from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.”

How the Master Gardener Program Started 40 Years Ago at WSU Extension

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

{Editor’s note: As described in this blog post, WSU Extension established the first Master Gardener program in 1972, with the first public training in 1973. Today Extension Master Gardener programs exist in nearly all 50 states. For more information, see the EMG White Paper or find an Extension Master Gardener Program near you. To learn how the Master Gardener program ties into the history of the nation’s land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension Service, see Exploring Our Roots: A Short History of Extension and the Master Gardener Program. }

Some Early Days in Extension

Donald Tapio "Some Early Days in Extension"

Donald Tapio recalls some early days at WSU Extension and how the Master Gardener program began.

I welcome the opportunity to share some history of Extension prior to the Development of the Master Gardener program. I cannot think of anyone more appreciative of Master Gardener volunteers than I, since I was involved with Washington State University (WSU) Extension prior to the development of the Master Gardener program.

My career with WSU Extension actually began in the summer of 1969 when I was hired as a summer work-study student in the Pierce County Extension office in Tacoma, WA. I was assigned to work with a horticulture agent who was very pleased to have me in the office to take the hundreds of calls that came each week from home gardeners. WSU was well aware of the demand for home gardening information and soon installed a “Dial a Garden Tip” service with daily messages on seasonal pest problems and options for their control.

Answering Hundreds of Gardening Questions Per Day

After graduating from WSU, I was hired by WSU Extension as a Horticulture Program Assistant in Seattle. Home gardening calls coming into the King County office averaged over 100 per day. Most days I never got off the phone for more than a short lunch break. In addition to the incoming calls, there were dozens of letters and plant samples delivered to the office on a daily basis. A year later Mr. Johanson retired and I was asked to work in the Pierce County office in the mornings and the King County office in the afternoons.

WSU made it clear that I would never receive agent status without an advanced degree. Just as I was leaving for graduate school, a young woman came into the office and after a long discussion made the remark that she thought my job and extension work would be so much fun. That individual was Sharon Collman and she was hired by WSU to fill my position. (You will read more about her in another blog post. She was one of the first teachers in the new Master Gardener progam.)  After completing my graduate degree I was hired as the horticulture agent in Snohomish County.

While I was gone, WSU hired Dr. David Gibby as the horticulture agent for King and Pierce counties. He was a true visionary in recognizing that in many respects Extension was simply “bailing out the ocean.” The demand for home gardening questions and information was so great it was nearly impossible to do any programming beyond answering the telephone. WSU Extension in King County at the time had 8 incoming telephone lines and we had one individual who was a switchboard operator to direct calls.

Master Gardener Program Trains Volunteers to Teach Others

Soon after his arrival, Dr. Gibby made his historic trip to Puyallup where there were discussions with a number of specialists and agents on the idea of training volunteers who would then conduct diagnostic plant clinics in the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area. I am convinced that no one at that time was aware that the Master Gardener program would become what it is today with thousands of volunteers throughout the state or nation-wide. The concept of training volunteers to teach others seemed to be the answer to addressing the need for home gardening education and the program was quickly adopted throughout the nation.

Master Gardener training in these early days was much different then. There was no charge and no textbook for the classes. However, I vividly recall as an instructor, lugging around boxes filled with publications for the class. (Many agents were assigned station wagons during those years since we hauled so many publications to various meetings. Both the springs and shock absorbers on these vehicles were usually shot from the weight of the publications!) At the end of training, an individual from the Washington State Department of Agriculture would come in and give a closed book exam. Those passing the exam became licensed pesticide applicators, which qualified them to provide recommendations for pesticide use. We quickly learned that many, many volunteers had great anxiety over taking a closed book exam and did not do well.

The evolution of the Master Gardener program continued as more and more counties throughout the state adopted the program. Those of us involved as instructors would schedule our training so that we were presenting in a different county each day beginning with Whatcom, by the Canadian border, and ending in Clark, on the border with Oregon. Once trained, most counties utilized their newly trained volunteers to staff plant clinics. As more and more volunteers became trained, volunteers were able to expand their educational outreach through presenting programs, writing news articles, and developing demonstration gardens.

Appreciation for the Work of Master Gardener Volunteers

I know that I speak for many agents in saying we simply cannot imagine Extension work today without Master Gardener volunteers. The amount of time invested in training and managing volunteers is paid back more than a thousand fold. I continue to be in awe of how innovative, enthusiastic, and dedicated Master Gardener volunteers are in carrying out the mission of WSU Extension. I am convinced that Washington State University will continue to be recognized nationally for the impact and success of the Master Gardener program in making our communities better and more beautiful places.

Donald D. Tapio
WSU Extension Regional Specialist
Grays Harbor/Pacific Counties Extension

“Reprinted with permission from the July 2009 issue of Seeds for Thought, the newsletter of the Master Gardener Foundation of Washington State.”  Parts of this have been abridged with permission from the author. To see the entire article go to:


Flower Philanthropy: Sharing a Bounty of Beauty

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

We grow all sorts of wonderful veggies and fruits to feed and fuel our bodies, but we also grow an abundance of beauty to feed our senses and souls.  While it is certainly satisfying to share our edible abundance, in many ways it is a special joy to give away my flowers.

Flower Philanthropy…An Idea I’d Love to See Grow

‘Flower Philanthropy’, as I call it, is an idea I’d love to see grow!  I am now enrolled in the Master Gardener course through our county’s Extension Office, where I have learned tons AND found a committed community of like-minded – okay, fanatic! – gardeners.  Who better than Master Gardeners to talk with about the possibilities of sharing a bounty of beauty.

The first project I was involved with this past summer grew out of wanting to share the gazillion flowers I grow.  I contacted our town’s community garden and asked if they could think of some way to use these blossoms and blooms.  There are many Master Gardeners involved with the Community Garden, still none of us could foresee how many, many people this sharing effort would reach, and touch.

Each Thursday throughout the summer, two dedicated volunteers, Jane and Ted Metzler, came to my gardens and cut baskets and buckets of flowers.  Sometimes Jane’s sisters Pat and Pam joined in picking, and even crafting the mini-bouquets of those flowers.

Bouquets for Meals on Wheels

Jane Metzler with a box of mini-bouquets on their way to Meals on Wheels (Photo credit: Ted Metlzer)

Meals on Wheels

Jane and Pat Cheney finishing mini-bouquets for delivery to Meals on Wheels recipients. (Photo credit: Ted Metzler)

Mini-bouquets for Meals on Wheels

Those bouquets were distributed locally to Meals on Wheels recipients. I don’t have words big enough to tell you how much those bouquets meant to everyone. The volunteers delivering the meals were touched by the recipient’s obvious pleasure.  Over 500 of these mini-bouquets were distributed in 2012.

Jane shared some of the responses to the flowers…

“Best comment from a client was a letter filled with praise for the kindness, beautiful colors, the smells, and dreading the day when the frost would halt the project. The men and women who delivered the meals with the flowers got as much reward from the project as the recipients. Our client who sent the letter full of praise said “ps I do like the meat loaf that you sent too but the flowers are the best.”

Dried Flowers Extend Flower Philanthrophy Through Winter!

We do have long winters here in Maine, so we knew how much folks would miss the blooms. Hmmmm… I dry enormous numbers of flowers all summer…statice, strawflowers, astrantia, celosias, ageratums, and so much more. We had planned to fill miniature pumpkins with dried flowers for each table at the Community Garden’s annual Harvest Supper, but oh! what Jane and Ted did with the remaining dried blossoms!!

Armloads of dried flowers soon to become mini-bouquets to help. Meals on Wheels recipients through another Maine winter

Armloads of dried flowers soon to become mini-bouquets to help. Meals on Wheels recipients through another Maine winter  (Photo credit: Ted Metzler)

Flower Philanthropy, in this case, sharing the bounty of beauty, is an idea that could easily grow across the country.  I can’t imagine anyone better suited to this possibility than Master Gardeners, who are so generous in sharing their time, energy, expertise, experience, and love of all thing green and growing!

Do you participate in or know of ‘flower philanthropy’ type of opportunities near you?

Mary Webber
Yarmouth, Maine

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Master Gardeners During National Volunteer Week

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

In today’s (Almost) Wordless Wednesday post, you’ll see examples of how some Master Gardeners from across the United States are volunteering or being recognized this National Volunteer Week 2013.

As Terry Straub mentioned last year in his Well-Educated Volunteer article, while volunteer recognition is definitely appreciated, so are meaningful, and life-long learning opportunities. Thus,  you’ll see examples of Master Gardeners participating in meaningful and fun volunteer events and also how Master Gardeners are being recognized in programs across the U.S during National Volunteer Week 2013!

This is just a beginning.  We’d like to know: How are Master Gardeners volunteering or being recognized in your program this week? (Let us know in the comments section).

Educating Youth

Educating Youth via the Junior Master Gardener Program
University of MN Extension Master Gardeners – Hennepin County
April 23


Instructing youth on how to measure plants

Citizen Science

Phenology Day Walk
Pima County Master Gardeners, University of Arizona
April 20

VolunteerDataPhenoDay 2013

Master Gardeners were part of the 25 people plus 15 volunteers who collected data at 6 sites along our Tucson Phenology Trail

Master Gardeners and other volunteers participate in Phenology celebration via the Tucson Phenology Trail

Master Gardeners and other volunteers participate in Saturday’s phenology celebration via the Tucson Phenology Trail

Get the latest on Master Gardeners and Nature’s Notebook

Find more about Master Gardeners and Citizen Science Opportunities


Answering Gardening Questions

Answering Infoline Questions
North Carolina Extension/Guilford County Master Gardeners
April 24 (date photo taken)

Dana and Jim on Infoline

Dana and Jim on Infoline


Betty & Anita- Answering the InfoLine

Betty & Anita- Answering the Infoline

Annual Plant Sales

Prep for Annual Master Gardener Plant Sale
UNCE Master Gardeners

April 20, 2013

UNCE Master Gardener and Katie from Hungry Mother Organics starting seeds to prep for annual MG plant sale.

UNCE Master Gardener and Katie from Hungry Mother Organics starting seeds to prep for annual MG plant sale.

Left to Right Mark, Walt, Katie, Joyce, Sadie, Celia.
Photo by Bill Kositzky

UNL Spring Plant Affair Plant Sale
Nebraska Master Gardeners
Photos from 2012
Plants Sale is April 27 

Volunteer Photo 3

Nebraska Master Gardeners at Spring Plant Sale


'Plant Sitter' Station keeps purchased plants so people can attend talks and educational events.

‘Plant Sitter’ Station keeps Spring Affair purchased plants so people can attend talks and educational events.

Propagation Team Propagates for Plant Sale
Lafayette Parish Master Gardeners
April 20th

Propagation team, propagating usual plants to raise funds for outreach programs.

Propagation team, propagating usual plants to raise funds for outreach programs.

See more about Spring Master Gardener Plant Sales

Volunteer Recognition and Awards

Appreciation for Answering Horticulture Questions
Hillsborough County Master Gardener Program
, University of Florida
April 22

April 21st – April 27th is National Volunteer Week. National Volunteer Week honors the people who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in their communities.

I want to personally thank each one of you [Master Gardeners] for all that you do to make the Hillsborough County Master Gardener Program a success. You give your time, talents, and creativity, and provide science-based, research information that improves the natural environment and the lives of our adult and youth citizens. THANK YOU!!!


Thank You Volunteers

Thank You Volunteers!


County Proclamation
Somerset County, Rutger Master Gardener Program
April 23

“Here in  Somerset County, NJ we honor all our Extension program area volunteers with a County Proclamation recognizing their efforts”

-Nicholas Polanin, Associate Professor, County Agent II, State Coordinator, Rutgers Master Gardener Program

Rutger Program Recogntion

Rutger Program Recogntion

Volunteer of the Year
Sacramento County MG program

Tuesday, April 23

University of California Lifetime Master Gardener Farmer Fred Hoffman was honored as Master Gardener “Volunteer of the Year” for 2012 by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (April 23). Fred hosts two popular Northern California gardening radio shows each week and spreads extension information via numerous social media platforms, his website, blogs and newspaper columns. Next to Fred and dressed in green, is Sacramento County MG program coordinator Judy McClure.


Sacramento-Volunteer of the Year


Volunteer Recognition
UNCE Master Gardener, Washoe County
April 22

Master Gardener Volunteer Dale Hildebrandt’s volunteer service was acknowledged on Monday at the Washoe County Commissioners meeting. She is pictured here with the other volunteers recognized, she’s in the center of the third row, to the left of the Nevada flag and to the right of the uniformed gentleman in the third row.

Master Gardener Volunteer, Dale Hildebrandt with other Washoe County, Nevada Volunteers


Awards Breakfast
NC Cooperative Extension/Guilford County Center
April 17

We held an Awards Breakfast last Wednesday, during which our Horticulture Agent, Karen Neill, presented County Commissioner Linda
Shaw with a “check” for $368,854.26, representing the volunteer contribution of Guilford County’s EMGs to the residents of the County.

During the Breakfast, Jeanne Aller was presented the award for Veteran of the Year for 2012, honoring in part her contribution of more than 500 hours to the program; Intern Ken Bastion, who put in more than 180 hours as well as signing on as Co-Chair of our Demo Garden Committee during his trainee year, is shown accepting his Rookie of the Year award.

-Linda Brandon, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator
NC Cooperative Extension/Guilford County Center

Exploring our Roots – A Short History of Extension and the Master Gardener Program

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

(Editor’s note: Exploring our Roots is an excerpt first written by Bob Kellam for the North Carolina Extension Master Gardeners Volunteer Association Newsletter.  His preface is directed at members of the North Carolina Extension Master Gardener Association, but has relevance for all programs exploring the roots and connections between Extension and the Master Gardener program.}

Preface:  Those of you who attended last year’s conference in Asheville may remember the lively discussion we had at the membership meeting concerning the addition of “Extension” to the Association’s name.  I was struck by the number of Master Gardeners who wondered aloud why we would want to do that.  What does Extension have to do with the Master Gardeners anyway?  It occurred to me that, beyond the fact that our program is part of Cooperative Extension, my own understanding of how and why Extension came to be was sadly lacking.  So I set out to do some research on the subject.  The results of that effort are below, albeit a bit condensed.  Some of the questions I set out to answer were:  Where did the name Cooperative Extension come from and why do you usually get blank stares when you mention it?, Who was the first Extension agent?, What was the real reason for creating 4H?  and, Where does the EMG program fit in?  I hope you will find the answers as interesting and illuminating as I did. – Bob

The Beginning: Industrial Revolution Brings Progress, Agriculture Struggles

It wasn’t so long ago that about half the U.S. population lived on farms.  Now only about 2% of us do, and only 17% live in what are called “rural areas”.  80 years ago, most of us would have been very familiar with the work of Extension. Now only about 1 in 5 would recognize the name.  And therein lies the rub: Extension has never been just about agriculture, but even most of the 20% would say: “oh, yeah, that’s 4H and the ag agents.”

In the latter part of the 19th century, the industrial revolution is well underway and the cities are growing, but half of us still live on farms, and it has become, for the most part, a hardscrabble life.  Agriculture in America is an unproductive system, built on tradition, superstition, and backbreaking toil.  Families spend as much as 40% of their income on food, and the disparity between the quality of life on the farm and life in the city is getting larger, with a considerable proportion of the former suffering from poverty and illiteracy.  Most farmers are suspicious of the new techniques being developed by the fledgling USDA, referring to them as “book farming.”  As a result, productivity is down, soils are being depleted in as few as 5 years, and food prices are going up.  Something has to give.

By the 1870s America's Cities are bustling with activity

By the 1870s the industrial revolution is in full swing and America’s cities are bustling with activity


Poor crop rotation and lack of contour plowing are depleting soils at an alarming rate

Poor crop rotation and lack of contour plowing are depleting soils at an alarming rate


Life is different on farms

Life is different on farms in late 1800s, where poverty and illiteracy grows

Morrill Act Forms USDA and Land Grant Universities

Early in President Lincoln’s first term, Congress finally gets its act together, despite the fact that there’s a war on, passing in the same year the “Organic Act” which formed USDA and the Morrill Act of 1862.

The Morrill Act establishes “Land Grant” universities in each State to educate citizens in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts, and other practical professions.

Morrill Act

Morrill Act


In the first year as a land grant university (1889), NCSU boasts 72 students and 6 faculty.

The idea of a “land grant” is actually a practice we borrowed from Europe, in which the government provides a grant of federal land to be used for a specific purpose, or which can be sold to raise funds for that purpose.  In this case, the specific purpose is considerably different from the liberal arts curricula of most institutions of higher learning.  The implementation of the law leads to the formation of the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts in 1887 and it’s first class matriculates in 1889.

Hatch Act Creates Agricultural Experimental Stations

'Father of Extension'?

Seaman Knapp

In 1867, the Hatch Act creates agricultural experimental stations and, in 1890, the second Morrill Act, aimed at the former Confederate states, provides additional funds, but with a catch: the states must demonstrate that race is not a criterion for admission.  In those separate but not so equal times, this leads to the founding of our second land grant university, NCA&T.  But the USDA, charged with raising productivity and bringing down the cost of food, is still grappling with how to get farmers to embrace the new practices being developed.

Enter one Seaman A. Knapp, felt by many to be the father of Extension.  He is a physician by training, a college instructor, and comes to farming late, but is impressed by the new farming techniques being developed in Michigan and Iowa.  In 1902, he’s dispatched to Texas to start a demonstration farm to help combat the cotton boll weevil.  The farm is a successful cooperative venture with local farmers and the idea quickly spreads across the South.

In 1907, the USDA sends Cassius R Hudson to North Carolina to start a similar demonstration program.  Unfortunately, he isn’t received all that warmly by the local farmers who view him as just another Washington bureaucrat who is out of touch with “real agriculture.”

Cassius Hudson

Cassius Hudson

Under the rules of his employment he must be paid by the State, and the only federal support he is given is $1.00 for mailing expenses.  North Carolina grudgingly assigns him office space adjacent to the area where the corn and grain exhibit for the state fair is stored, and numerous, well-fed families of mice from next door visit regularly, much to the distress of the secretaries.

Clubs promote growing and food preservation practices

In 1908, to promote some of the new growing practices, NC State signs a memorandum of understanding with USDA to start Farmers Boys’ Clubs, the forerunner of 4H.  The success of the resulting “Corn Clubs” is still being celebrated 50 years later.  In 1911, Jane S McKimmon is hired to develop girls’ “Canning Clubs” and “Tomato Clubs” in response to an epidemic of food poisoning, due in large part to poor food preservation practices.  This focus on youth is largely motivated by the USDA’s repeated failure to persuade older farmers to adopt better practices.  USDA begins to realize that raising a new generation of farmers more open to improved techniques may be part of the solution.  And the strategy pays off.

Corn Club

Corn Clubs, the forerunner of 4H

Canning Club

Girls canning clubs help to combat food-borne illness

Smith Lever Act Extends Practical Applications of Research to Counties

The growing success (literally) of these programs leads to the passage in 1914 of the Smith-Lever Act, also known as the Extension Agriculture Act. Smith-Lever is designed “to aid in diffusing among the people of the United States, useful and practical information on subjects relating to agriculture and home economics, and to encourage the application of the same.”  The Act forms a partnership between the USDA and the land grant universities to extend the practical applications of research through demonstrations at the county level (e.g. your cooperative extension office), and requires the states to match federal funding on an equal basis.

Smith-Lever is still considered one of the most responsible and ingenious pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress.  It provides the authorizing legislation to create an Extension presence at the county level and does so by shared funding with state and local governments.

Father of Extension?

Squanto, the 1st Extension agent?

There is some dispute about who should be recognized as being the first Extension agent.  Seaman Knapp, of boll weevil fame, is one contender.  But another popular candidate, given the mission of Extension, is Squanto, a member of the Patuxent tribe who, legend has it, helped the Plymouth colonists through their first hard winter in 1621, by teaching them how to grow corn by adding a fish for fertilizer.

Core Principles of Extension Revealed Through Acts

The things that the implementers of the Morrill, Hatch, and Smith-Lever Acts learned in translating these laws into effective programs can be distilled down to a simple statement:

If you want to persuade people to undertake something, the effort needs to be: responsive to a recognized need or issue; cooperative and interactive; practical, well-demonstrated, and service-oriented.  Throw in un-biased, research-based information and include a focus on youth, and you pretty much have the core principles of Extension – and the Extension Master Gardeners.

Extension During the Farm and Great Depression

Over the next several decades, there are several more forces that help to shape Extension.  In the Farm Depression of the 1920’s the focus changes from production to economic concerns and quality of life issues.  Extension’s ranks thin, emergency funds disappear and the program become more dependent on volunteers.  This has the positive benefit of stimulating rural leadership, however, as well as the formation of local cooperatives.

The Great Depression obliges Extension to become more dependent on  volunteers and local cooperatives

The Great Depression obliges Extension to become more dependent on volunteers and local cooperatives

The next major test is the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s.  Extension draws farm families into county, state, and national public affairs.  Home economic programs focus on self-sufficiency.  Ultimately, Extension is called on to manage several new agencies: initially the Farm Seed and Loan program and, later, the Soil and Water Conservation Service, Agricultural Adjustment Act, Rural Electrification, and Federal Housing Administration.

Volunteers Become Extension Backbone After World Wars

During and after the World Wars, Extension helps the country focus on food and fiber production for the war effort and volunteer leadership evolves.  It is during this time that volunteers become the backbone of Extension.

WSU Forms the First Extension Master Gardener Program

In 1972, the Washington State Cooperative Extension, in response to a high demand for urban horticulture and gardening advice, forms the first Master Gardener program.  By the end of the decade, the program has spread across the country to North Carolina.  New Hanover county gets bragging rights for creating the first gardening hotline in 1979, but Wake County, NC graduates the first class of Master Gardeners in the same year.  By the 2009 survey, there are more than 95,000 Master Gardeners nationwide, providing 5,000,000 hours of volunteer service annually.

So, How Does the Master Gardener Program Align with Extension?

One of the questions I had posed for myself when I began this research was: where does the Master Gardener program fit in to Extension? The answer I’ve come to understand is: just about everywhere.If you line the Master Gardener programs up against the core principles of Extension the match is clear:

  • We respond to the recognized needs of waterwise strategies, avoiding invasive species, and minimizing fertilizer and pesticide use.
  • We provide cooperative and interactive phone and email support, successful gardening clinics, speakers’ bureaus, farmers’ market assistance, and junior Master Gardener training.
  • We offer practical help in best gardening practices and teaching courses like Vegetables 101.
  • And we are service-oriented through our community gardening, Habitat for Humanity, and horticultural therapy programs.

Cooperative Extension Programs –  Yesterday and Today

And, should you be tempted to subscribe to the notion that Extension has somehow become less relevant as America has become less rural, consider the kinds of programs that Cooperative Extension currently offers to counties.

In Community and Economic Development, Extension offers municipal official development, rural-urban interface studies, land use issues, public policy, and water quality programs.  For families and youth, there are programs on health and food safety, managing family and household resources, strengthening family life, volunteer and leadership development, and improving the life skills of youth. In agriculture and natural resources, Extension manages programs in plant and animal science, fruits and vegetables, turf and gardening, farm management, forestry and forestry products, and marketing agricultural products.

It would appear that Extension’s responsibilities have broadened over the years.  If you focus on what Smith-Lever wanted to happen in the area of food production: greater reliance on research; higher and more efficient production; and cheaper food, you might argue that we have succeeded too well.  As far as the goals for its second century, we do have some hints: promoting local food (the current flagship program in NC), encouraging sustainable production (not depleting our resources faster than we can replenish them), and, at least, recognizing the potential adverse impacts of some of the research inroads we’ve made in the last few decades (pesticide and hormone residues, GMO, mono-cropping, and the narrowing of the gene pool.

Strong Belief in Equality of Individuals, Possibility of Change and Progress, Reliability of Scientific Information, Power of Education

If we focus on the underlying principle of Extension as improving the quality of American life, then the periodic adjustment and re-calibration of our goals is wholly consistent with a research-based organization.  And, throughout its history, the guiding philosophy of Extension has remained unchanged: a strong belief in the equality of individuals, the possibility of change and progress, the reliability of scientific information, and the power of education.

Liberty Hyde Bailey, another of Extension’s founders was a member of the Cornell faculty and dean of the New York College of Agriculture from 1903-13.  He observed:

  “Extension work is not exhortation.  Nor is it exploitation of the people, or advertising of an institution, or publicity work for securing students.  It is a plain, earnest, and continuous effort to meet the needs of the people on their own farms and in their localities.”

And, since he was a teacher, he had the habit of asking his students: “What do you know today that you did not know the last time we met?”


Rake and Take Master Gardener Project: Coordinating Fallen Leaves into Gardener’s Gold

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

{Editors note: The Howard County Maryland Master Gardeners  Rake and Take volunteer program that helps turn one’s surplus of leaves into another one’s mulch and compost was worth waiting to share for National Volunteer Week, Earth Day and Arbor Day celebrations – as it hits on all these themes. Thank you Pat Hooker and the HCMDMGs for sharing the story about how this program is coordinated and implemented. – Karen Jeannette}

What is Rake and Take?

“Rake and Take” is a program of the University of Maryland Extension Howard County Master Gardeners which pairs leaf ‘Rakers’ with leaf ‘Takers’.

Rake and Flyer

Clip from ‘Rake and Take’ flyer

Rakers agree to bag pesticide/herbicide-free leaves and place them at the curb of their residences. Takers agree to pick up the bags. Takers either use the leaves for their own compost piles or shred the leaves for mulch.  Some leaves even make it to the compost demonstration sites in Howard County (see our composting page for more info) via members of the HC/MD/MG Composting Committee.

While most of the Takers have been Master Gardeners, the Rake and Take program is open to any Howard County citizen and several non-Master Gardeners participate, especially those who have recently become interested in composting.

Information about the composting demonstration sites is included in the promotional Rake and Take flyer.

What does Rake and Take Look Like?

First the ‘Rakers’ rake and bag

Raking leaves

Raking Leaves

Bags of leaves waiting to be shredded

Bags of leaves waiting to be shredded

Then the “Takers’ shred leaves


Shredding leaves under tree

Then “Takers’ mulch….

Some leaves mulch garden beds

Some leaves mulch garden beds

..or make compost

Some leaves go to compost heap

Some leaves go to compost heap

Insulating compost pile in late fall with leaf bags

(The compost pile gets insulated in late fall with leaf bags)

The compost is cooking

The compost ‘cooking’

Compost - 'black gold' on a garden bed

Compost – ‘black gold’ on a garden bed

Rakers and Takers Get an Opportunity to Talk ‘Compost’

Sometimes Master Gardener Takers have an opportunity to have a conversation with Rakers and this year we are asking them to share a Backyard Composting brochure to educate more people about composting. When Takers have a chance to interact with Rakers it is a very positive experience for both and helps spread the word about good gardening practices.

How Rake and Take is Coordinated

As the Rake and Take coordinator, I keep a database of names, addresses with zip codes, e-mail addresses and phone numbers of participants. Both Rakers and Takers register with me annually. When a Raker notifies me they have leaves available I use the zip code to match with a Taker in the same general neighborhood (for the sake of mutual convenience) if I already have a Taker name.

Otherwise I send a notice to the Howard County Master Gardeners e-mail list stating the number of bags and the general location of the leaf pickup. When I get a response, I provide the contact information to the Taker, who then makes pickup arrangements with the Raker. I make a point of not including personal contact information on the e-mail list posting since that is freely available to the general public on the web. In some cases people who have been paired one year contact one another directly the following year and the relationship continues from one year to the next.

Promoting Rake and Take

The program is advertised through local newspapers, on our Howard County MG Rake and Take website and on the Howard County Green Central Station website. Lindsay DeMarzo who writes a blog for Green Central station in Howard County MD has recently done a very nice posting “Share the Wealth with Rake and Take’ about our Rake and Take program. Additionally we distribute the Rake and Take flyer at the Plant Clinics during the late summer and fall months.

If you are interested in coordinating a Rake and Take project near you, we’d be happy to answer any question you may by contacting us through our  Howard County MG Rake and Take website.

by Pat (Patricia) Hooker
Howard County MD Master Gardener

Getting Involved: National Volunteer Week 2013 Coincides with Earth Day and Arbor Day

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Celebrate National Volunteer Week, Arbor Day, and Earth Day with EMGs from across the U.S!

Celebrate National Volunteer Week, Arbor Day, and Earth Day with EMGs here and elsewhere, April 21- 27, 2013

Our National Extension Master Gardener Social Media team couldn’t help but notice that April 21 – 27, 2013 is full of things Extension Master Gardener volunteers could share about and celebrate next week!

Last year we had a number of wonderful National Volunteer Week blog posts submitted from programs across the U.S. about how Extension Master Gardener volunteers are celebrated for their service.

This year, we wanted to highlight what Extension Master Gardener volunteers do related to Earth Day and Arbor Day, whether it may be tree planting, providing educational plant sales, or participating in any number of award winning gardening and educational projects. So stay posted April 21-27 for a number of blog posts along these lines!

How Can You Participate in ‘National Days’ and Make Them Locally Relevant?

Volunteers plant tree - an activity that could be celebrated during National Volunteer Week 2013, Arbor day, and Earth day!

EMG volunteers plant trees. An activity that could be celebrated during National Volunteer Week 2013, Arbor day, and Earth Day.

National Days’ are a good way to celebrate, communicate and provide education because so many related organizations will also join to celebrate and raise awareness about related topics.  Looking for ways and idea of how to participate?  Consult the following guides/resources:

  • National Arbor Day, see How to Celebrate Arbor Day.   For many this is a day to come together to celebrate tree care awareness.  Even if your state has its own arbor day a different time of year,  National Arbor Day can be a good time to explain why this is or isn’t a good time to plant trees where you live.
  •  Earth Day, see Actions for Earth Day. Join others in getting involved, or tell Earth Day how you are getting involved.

Options for Participating in National Days with Social Media

You can use social media to participate in national days simply by sharing what you are doing in social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Below are a few ideas of how to participate using social media during National Volunteer Week, Earth Day, or Arbor Day. We’d love to hear your ideas too (let us know in the comments section).

1) Post Related Examples and Resources to a Blog or Facebook

  • These are great times to re-share educational resources like how to plant a tree or how to make compost, or to simply remind people of resources at your extension gardening website.

2) Tweet Using Twitter Hashtags

  • If you tweet, there are several hashtags you could use to join the conversation.


    For example, you can use the #exemg hashtag if the tweet includes ways your Extension Master Gardener program is participating in any of next week’s events (so we can reply or retweet). Use #NVW13 for National Volunteer Week 2013, #EarthDay for National Earth Day or #ArborDay for National Arbor Day.

  • Note: Click on the hashtags that are hyperlinked above to see the conversation that has already started!

3) Make a Pinterest Pinboard

Create a Pinterest pinboard to collect resources or press releases relevant to your program’s mission or activities. For example, you could share a pinboard of Arbor Day-inspired resources (e.g. trees to plant in your state, county, or region) perhaps title it “Arbor Day Tree Care Tips” or you could make a pinboard about your volunteer activities, “_Your Program’sName_Arbor Day Activities.”  Type #exemg in the description of your individual pins, and we’ll know its related to your EMG program (and reshare or blog about it).

4) Have Other Ideas You Plan on Trying? We’d love to know about them.

Are you ready?   How will you participate in National Volunteer Week, Earth Day, and Arbor Day Activities?

Perhaps you are doing your normal types of volunteer activities – learning or teaching others to garden. Next week is a great week to share those opportunities with others.

Looking for ways to inspire others? Perhaps a few of these quotes will help!







Wordless Wednesday: Jefferson County Master Gardeners Create Garden for Local Charity

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012