Are you interested in gardening and you’d like to offer your services to other people and change their lives? If you have such a passion, the becoming a master gardener is without a doubt something that you should indulge in without a second thought.
However, being a master gardener is not a no-brainer task that anyone can just practice. There’s a protocol to be followed for those who are interested, and if successful, they are passed fit to serve the community as master gardeners. The requirements vary from one state to the other. However, despite the jurisdictional variations, a significant number of the requirements are similar.
The article will seek to give a step by step guideline of the duties and the responsibilities of a master gardener as well as the procedure of enrolling to the program.
How to check if you are eligible
In many cases, the master gardeners are expected to execute the mandate of the horticultural department extension officers for the states that they are serving in. On that regard, one should check on the State’s Extension Website (such as this one) to check whether the master gardener course is available in their jurisdiction.
A visit to the website directs one to the respective State’s master gardener organization that lists all the programs on offer. It is imperative that not all States have this program. Only the organizations that fulfill the following requirements are required to offer the course:
• The organization must be affiliated to a university. This is the institution that should be used for offering training to the master gardener volunteers
• The aim of the organizations should be to offer master gardener courses primarily
• The organization should also ensure that the information that goes out to the public is thoroughly researched and found fit for distribution.
• The organization should complete the volunteer’s training by giving them certificates
• The organization should be primarily focused on educating the volunteers
Just like it is in any other course, it is mandatory to go through the application process before being allowed to start lessons for the course. The primary step is filing of an application through the county extension service.
• Fees. During the application step, one is required to pay a fee. The money is used in conducting a background search to see whether the applicant has any criminal record or any other breach that can prevent him/her from qualifying. However, not all counties charge an initial fee. Instead, others will only ask the applicants to pay the fees once they have passed the initial step of the application.
• Background check. The authorities then conduct a check to ascertain whether one qualifies for the post of a master gardener. However, if you’ve been involved in an altercation with the police at some point, it doesn’t mean that you cannot become a master gardener.
Most of the times, the background checks are intended to disqualify candidates of capital crimes such as serious assault, murder, and rape. You will not be denied the chance to become an extension master gardener just because you were some time back arrested for committing a petty crime such as over speeding.
• Time. The time that your application will take to get accepted for the program will vary depending on the State or County where you apply from. Some states are specific concerning the period when applicants should file their applications while others work all the year round.
Once the background check is over, the shortlisted candidates are then passed over to the interviewing panel. The interviews aim to cut the numbers to fit in the available slots within the State’s organization. Some organizations do not interview the clients and take up all who pass the application process. This happens especially in cases where there is a significant demand for additional master gardeners in the specific State, or the organization can accommodate them all.
Once the students meet the interviewing panel requirements, they are then enrolled in classes to begin taking lessons. Each student is expected to attend at least 66 hours of studying various horticultural disciplines. Some of the lessons that are taught in such institutions include entomology, safety use of pesticides, and many others related to horticulture.
Master Gardeners are much-valued professionals in the society, and for this reason, they are taught by tutors from the Land Grant University who are highly experienced in the field. The lessons are offered at a cost that is variable from State to the other. It is the responsibility of the student to attend all the classes as each discipline is considered crucial.
After completion of the learning, the students should pass the tests. The pass mark is not fixed, and it varies from one state to the other.
After passing the test, the students then enroll in an internship program. During this program, the interns are expected to volunteer in the extension agency for at least 50 hours. This is supposed to take about one year.
During this period, interns are involved in activities such as responding to consumers queries regarding horticulture, educating the community on agricultural issues, garden visits to check how the farmers are conducting their farming and many other tasks that are beneficial to the community.
After the internship tenure is successfully over, the intern is now a fully certified master gardener. However, this certification is only applicable if the individual is ready to lead a dedicated life through volunteering to help farmers in society. A master gardener should volunteer for at least 12 hours in a year.
The gardener must also attend training for at 6 hours in a year to ensure that their certification remains valid. There is also a membership fee that each needs to pay every year to the organization, and the amount varies from one State or County to the other.
In conclusion, being a Master Gardener is a calling that depends on the individuals will. One has to be fully willing to absorb the pressure that comes with the tasks involved. Without the self-driving force, it is impossible to achieve a thing in this field. Interested individuals can follow the above-illustrated process, and if successful, they stand a chance to fulfill their childhood ambition.