Georgia Master Gardeners help backyard gardeners across the state grow. And the service they provide is literally worth a fortune. To celebrate the programs' contributions, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension will celebrate Master Gardener Day in Georgia March 19.
“This time of year we present our annual report, and we represent the amount of the Master Gardener volunteers’ service in dollars. It helps people comprehend the value of that service,” said Marco Fonseca, the state Master Gardener coordinator.
Last year, Master Gardeners in Georgia worked 221,184 hours and travelled 945,375 miles, donating the equivalent of $4.8 million through the volunteer service.
The Master Gardener program idea sprouted in 1972 at Washington State University. Overwhelmed with requests for help with plant problems, WSU Extension horticulture agents began to use well-trained volunteers to help them answer backyard gardeners’ questions. They called these volunteers Master Gardeners from the German word Gartenmeister, which means “having a top proficiency level in horticulture.” The program has grown worldwide.
UGA Extension brought the program to Atlanta in 1979. More than 3,000 Volunteers in 69 counties now participate in the program. Though many volunteers help clients in the UGA Extension offices, the Master Gardeners conduct projects outside the office, too.
Projects include teaching classes on home vegetable gardening, plant clinics, establishing demonstration gardens and water conservation methods. They teach at schools, parks, camps, hospitals, prisons, nursing homes and community gardens, all voluntarily to help Georgia gardeners of all ages be successful, Fonseca said.