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How to Garden Through Community Service

April 30 2010

For many homeowners, gardening is a simple pleasure with a lot of payoff; it allows them the enjoyment of fresh air, a way to get some exercise, express some creativity, and even save some money while cultivating their own flowers and foods. 

But for new homeowners with little or no gardening experience, trying to learn about everything from honey bees to pesticides can be daunting. Where can you go to learn basic gardening skills? 

Enter the Extension Master Gardener Program, founded in 1972 as a community outreach and education initiative.  In exchange for equal hours in community service work, you can learn how to become  a certified Master Gardener.

Provided through Land Grant Universities, the program teaches you everything you need to know about gardening in a 40 to 80-hour class, scheduled according to your local institution, so there may be some variance in curriculum from state to state. 

There are a lot of benefits to taking classes instead of reading a book or going online  – hands-on experience, and one- on-one personal direction from more experienced “green thumbs.” You’ll also find out much more about your community and make new friends.

After successfully completing the class, which includes a cumulative “final” exam, you’ll be required to participate in and accrue some 40 EMG-sanctioned volunteer service hours during the next twelve-month period, but the benefits are well worth it.

As a certified Extension Master Gardener (EMG) you’ll continue to learn new things about gardening techniques, and you’ll also have a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community.  EMGs and volunteers have contributed over 5 million service hours by educating the public on how to grow plants, providing programs for seniors and youth, and producing foods for local food banks – all of which adds to over $101 million in goods and services donated to the general public.

If this sounds like a way that you would like to both get involved and learn some handy tricks to beautify your home and neighborhood, then check out Extension.org and search for the Master Gardener Program to find the institution nearest you.