Earlier this month I finally handed in my final exam for the Marin Master Gardener program and a week later I got my pin, diploma, and bumper sticker. I had always known I'd go through the program and join the group, but the slowdown in the economy inspired me to go for it sooner (perhaps many years sooner) than I might have, and I'm sure glad that I did. It's a huge time commitment and the Thursday classes were tough to work my schedule around, but the pay-off has been huge and I've really only touched the surface.
Besides the wonderful group of classmates from the 2010 class, there are over 300 Marin Master Gardeners that I'm slowly being introduced to and, of course, they are all proving to be wonderful Marin Gardeners who are passionate about so many of the same things I am. I'm getting more involved with the Marin Art and Garden Center, lovingly referred to as "MAGC", the School Gardens, the County Fair, a local therapeutic garden, and a host of other projects. They also work hand in hand with the MMWD to help our communities save water in their landscapes. Did you know there is a growing organic demonstration farm at the IVC campus?
The resources the Marin Master Gardeners and the good folks at the UC System provide to our community is truly a vast piece of work. The Cooperative Extension works to get the information of the ANR, the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources out to the public. The UCCE has been helping people solve horticultural problems since 1913 when “Extension Agents” supervised “Victory Gardens” during the world wars. The Master Gardener Program was started in King and Pierce counties in Washington State in 1972. The California Master Gardener Program was started in Sacramento and Riverside Counties in 1980, followed quickly after by Fresno in 1981. In 2006, it was recognized as a statewide program and included 36 counties and over 3200 certified master gardeners. The Marin Master Gardener program was started in 1986 and Napa county followed in 1995. The list of Master Gardener County Websites now totals 45. A detailed historical overview of the Master Gardener Program can be found as a PDF document here. As of 2006, the certified California Master Gardeners had donated over 1,931,787 hours of volunteer time valued at over 2.09 million dollars. In 2009, the Marin Master Gardeners donated more than 13,000 hours of volunteer time to community projects.
The specific Core Values and Purpose of the Master Gardener Program are as follows:
The purpose of the UC Master Gardener program (MGP) is to extend research based knowledge and information on home horticulture/pest management issues to the residents of California. There are a set of core values that guide the program. These core values are the criteria for designing and implementing educational activities and measuring educational impacts. These core values are:
a. UCCE MGP activities focus on education, not service.
b. Activities meet identified clientele issues and needs.
c. Master Gardener Volunteers are guides to learning and respect others’ viewpoints andabilities.
d. Educational activities are inclusive, not exclusive.
e. MGs extend only researched based and technically accurate information.
f. UCCE MGPs encourage improved environmental quality and sustainable gardeningpractices.
g. MGs emphasize “learn-by-doing” methods.
h. MGs teach new skills, validate achievement, and encourage extending to others.
i. Activities build community support for UCCE through improved visibility.
Some of the best resources, besides classes, telephone hotlines, plant clinics, fairs, horticulture seminars, and demonstration gardens, are websites full of useful and (fairly) easy to find information. These websites are open and available to everyone.
The most favored is probably the UC IPM website. This site is the gateway to a wealth of information from the technical to the simple on best management practices for most horticultural issues. The California Gardening site is also a big winner, but is primarily an easier directory to the IPM site.
Shortcut links to my favorite spots on the IPM site are:
Natural Enemies Photo Gallery (beneficial insects and other organisms who help!)
There are SO many other resources! A full listing can be found on the CommServ, the ANR Communication Services Web Server.
Some good ones from the Marin site are:
Oak Mortality Task Force (staying up to date with S.O.D)
Marin Master Gardener Plant Selector Tool (water needs, deer, wildlife value, etc.!)Any list or description of some of the fantastic resources supplied by the UCCE Master Gardener Organization would not be complete without mentioning The Desk. Located at 1682 Novato Blvd. in Novato, The Desk is the place to bring samples of plants, pests, and all things horticultural to be identified and problems solved. The Desk is open from 9 to noon and from 1-4pm Monday through Friday. OR… you can call at 415-499-4204 or email at HelpDesk@MarinMG.org.
I'm looking forward to a long and rewarding relationship with my growing network of newfound Master Gardener friends, grateful for the opportunities to give back to the community in so many helpful ways, including opportunities to speak, write, and teach, and very proud to be a part of such a fine program.
(-and now that the training program is over, perhaps I can find time to blog once again! ;-)