Ron Ritter and Lois Watson completed their intern year as an Aitkin County Master Gardener. Jim Ravis presented them with their official Master Gardener certification in January. Currently taking the core course is new intern, Iona Meyer. Master Gardeners are paraprofessionals who are vital to the University of Minnesota Extension’s goal of getting research-based information to Minnesotans. Here are the steps to becoming a Master Gardener: 1. Be accepted by a local program. Contact Aitkin County Extension Service for an application packet, complete the application, have an interview and pass a background check. 2. Complete the core course training: The Master Gardener Core Course, designated HORT 1003 through the University of Minnesota, gives 48 class hours of horticulture training. It’s taught by Extension educators and faculty and is available on-line, in the Twin Cities area and at several greater Minnesota locations. Topics include soils, entomology, gardening resources, diagnostics, trees, herbaceous plants, lawn care, plant pathology and more. 3. Complete an internship. After completing HORT 1003, the internship will continue with 50 hours of volunteer time to be completed within the first year of participation. 4. Celebrate: When the internship is done, participants may start the next calendar year as an active Master Gardener in the community. 5. Stay involved. To maintain active Master Gardener status, gardeners will complete at least 25 hours of volunteer time and required continuing education per year.
About Master Gardeners
The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener program is an internationally recognized volunteer program. It exists in all 50 states, in Canada and in the United Kingdom. Nationally, there are nearly 100,000 volunteers from all walks of life. They reach about five million people each year – the equivalent of more than $100 million in value to communities. In Minnesota, the Master Gardener program is coordinated by University of Minnesota Extension and has strong ties to the research and outreach of the Department of Horticultural Science. The Master Gardener program began in 1972 at Washington State University. The University of Minnesota program started in 1977 with the first class of 25 people. The activities of the Master Gardeners benefit schools, community gardens, youth programs, environmental education programs, farmers markets and much more. Master Gardeners are required to volunteer 50 hours the first year as interns and 25 hours annually thereafter as certified Master Gardeners. Active volunteers are also asked to participate in education of 5-12 hours per year, depending on the county in which they volunteer.