Nearly 50,000 Minnesotans got answers to their gardening problems in 2020 thanks to University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners. That’s one of the inspiring statistics and stories in a recently released annual report from the group.
If you are not familiar with them, master gardeners have been around since 1977. The program is run by the extension service and is deeply connected to research at the U of M and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Volunteer gardeners sign up through their home county. They receive an excellent education program that covers everything from soil to insect pests to gardening for pollinators.
Master gardeners share university-based knowledge with their home communities, volunteering a minimum of 25 hours a year each. (And, many MGs volunteer much, much more.) This work includes things like answering questions at a farmers’ market, the Minnesota State Fair or on a phone line, teaching classes and helping out at community gardens. They write newspaper columns and post to social media about gardening topics. In McLeod County, for example, a volunteer created five educational videos providing gardening information accessible to anyone in the county. In Houston County, the local group worked with Habitat for Humanity, assisting new homeowners with landscaping projects. In Benton County, volunteers partnered with a local senior center to provide fresh produce and recipes for how to use it to home-bound elders. Those are just a few of the stories.
In 2020, despite the pandemic, more than 2,550 master gardener volunteers gave nearly 70,000 hours helping 49,414 Minnesotans. About 15 percent of the applicants to the 2020 program were under age 30! And, here’s really great news: increased interest in gardening resulted in a record-breaking class of master gardeners for 2021. A total of 435 new master gardeners will be volunteering this summer.
At the hort society, we enjoy working with master gardeners in many different ways—as class teachers, as volunteers with our Garden-in-a-Box program recipients and with community gardens served by Minnesota Green. Their help is invaluable.
Thank you, master gardeners!