The Master Gardener program of The Ohio State University Extension Service is an organization that started in Cuyahoga and Franklin counties about 14 years ago. Our local chapter is based in the Trumbull County Family & Agricultural Center in Cortland, and was established in 1997.
Graduates of the program have gone on to give significant amounts of time back to the community as well as beautify their own yards and improve their gardens.
The Trumbull County Family & Agricultural Center in Cortland also houses this and many local, state and federal agencies. For example: The Trumbull Soil & Water Conservation District, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Farm Service Agency, and the OSU Trumbull County Extension Service.
To become a Master Gardener one has to attend weekly classes for four months, take a comprehensive exam at the end of the classes and then commit to volunteer hours in the community each year to complete continuing education credits. Volunteer opportunities include working with schools, elder care facilities, manning a "hot line" to answer gardening questions and other forms of public outreach.
The community development page of the OSU Extension website states their its goals as: "We provide perspectives to residents and leaders regarding local development issues; increase the knowledge base for individual and community decisions; develop clientele skills necessary to help achieve their individual and community goals; and help create an inclusive decision-making environment." The Master Gardeners are just one part of accomplishing that mission. The Extension Office also sponsors 4-H activities,
There is an old Chinese proverb that states: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." This past summer, Master Gardeners were instrumental in supporting the victory gardens established in Warren. These gardens can often be grown in very small spaces but still yield much needed vegetables. The Master Gardeners taught people who had never gardened before how to choose plants, how to plant them and what to watch out for in the way of insects and other garden pests. It is hoped that these fledgling gardeners will continue to grow their own food and to share information with others.
In September, Mike Paquet and Marie Economus, Master Gardener educators, helped host the very successful State Master Gardener Conference on Courthouse Square in Warren. This included such highlights as winery tours, private garden tours, local landmark and historical tours. There were classes held by experts in various gardening fields. The OSU Extension brought into to give the keynote speech Will Allen, owner of Growing Power, a mature urban farm project in the greater Milwaukee, Wisconsin area and 2008 recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant. He has been cited as one of the most influential persons in the national safe, sustainable food movement.
With all the focus on education and community outreach, the alumni of this program have decided to organize for some fun events too. President Genevieve Germaniuk shared with me the purpose of the new group, "The membership wanted to pursue more socialization, entertainment and, of course, learn from each other."
To this end, the group has opened membership to associate members, that is, anyone with the educational status or recognition as a knowledgeable horticulturist. Spouses of Master Gardener graduates are always welcome at their social events. The newly formed group is planning quite a few activities in the New Year to which the public will be welcome. Some ideas that were discussed were bus trips to places like Kingwood Gardens in Mansfield or Stan Hywet Hall in Akron. They also wanted to present craft opportunities for the public at various local greenhouses like Cottage Gardens in Hermitage or possibly a tour of Gilmour's Nursery in Warren.
"We still have to keep up our volunteer activities to complete our continuing education credits, but the Alumni Association will give us an opportunity to have some fun together as a group," Germaniuk said.
For more information about becoming a Master Gardener and, therefore, becoming eligible upon graduation to join this fun-loving group, contact the Ohio State University Extension Office in Cortland, at 330-638-6783.
O'Connor is a Brookfield resident. Email her at email@example.com