PULLMAN, Wash. — This week April 12-18 has been proclaimed Washington State University Master Gardener Week by Gov. Gary Locke, marking the 25th anniversary of the volunteer educational program.
Master Gardeners are avid gardeners who volunteer a minimum of 50 to 60 hours of their time to serve the public in exchange for about 60 hours of plant science courses taught by WSU faculty. Diagnosis of yard and landscape problems and integrated pest management are emphasized.
The program was developed by Washington State University Cooperative Extension faculty in King and Pierce counties in 1972 as an experiment to help respond to an increasing number of questions being asked by gardeners.
Three hundred people applied for the first class. A total of 120 were selected to receive intensive training in the winter of 1973. The program has since spread across the state, the nation and into four Canadian provinces.
Last year the state’s 3,378 Master Gardener volunteers helped nearly 350,000 people at community plant diagnostic clinics, farmers markets, flower and garden shows, according to Van Bobbitt, WSU Cooperative Extension community horticulture coordinator. They also provided advice on radio talk shows and in columns written for local newspapers. He said their donation of time was calculated to be worth more than $2 million.
“Master Gardeners take science from the university and help people put it to practical use,” Bobbitt said. “These dedicated volunteer educators use their love of gardening and extensive training to address such serious environmental issues as safe pest management, water quality protection, recycling of yard waste through composting and native plant vegetation. They also help low-income families grow their own food and offer gardening classes for children.”
Volunteers benefit as well as the public, according to Margaret Duncan, Master Gardener Foundation President. “Not only have Master Gardeners become more knowledgeable horticulturists, but other aspects of their lives have been enhanced as well. They benefit from improved self-worth; confidence; decision-making abilities; management and leadership skills.”
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