Only a couple of the members of my garden club are Master Gardeners. I always thought I wanted to pursue this status, but honestly, was never sure what it actually means. It sure sounds prestigious.
In the United States, a Master Gardener usually refers to a person who has completed a course of study conducted by the county extension agency office in cooperation with the land-grant university of the student’s home state.
A land-grant college or university is an institution that has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The original mission of these institutions, as set forth in the first Morrill Act, was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanical arts as well as classical studies so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education.
The Morrill Act (Land-Grant Act) signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862, gave each state a grant of federal land within its borders for the establishment of a public institution to fulfill the act’s provisions. At times, money was appropriated through legislation such as the second Morrill Act. A key component of the land-grant system is the agricultural experiment station program created by the Hatch Act of 1887. This Act authorizes direct payment of federal grant funds to each state. The amount of this appropriation varies and is determined by a formula based on the number of small farmers there. Each state must match a major portion of these federal funds. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers land-grant funds and the coordination of land-grant activities on the national level.
Many of these institutions are among the ranks of the most distinguished public research institutions, and all share the same tripartite mission of Teaching, Research, and Extension.
Each state has an extension service that provides the general public with state and county information regarding local agricultural regulations and resources, land and pasture management information, etc.
These resources may be referred to as a cooperative extension or county extension agency.
Depending on your area, you can usually find resources such as free factsheets for growing all sorts of plants and animals, hotlines for pest, disease and general gardening questions, locally produced television programs, and Master Gardener programs (typically organized by the extension service.)
I live in Pennsylvania, and the Land Grant University here is Penn State. The Penn State Master Gardener Program is administered at the county level where recruitment, training, and volunteer service occur. Master Gardener trainees are required to participate in a minimum of forty hours of basic training, score 80% on the final exam, and fulfill 50 hours of volunteer service.
You can learn more about the Pennsylvania Master Gardener at https://extension.psu.edu/programs/master-gardener.
M is for Master Gardener . . . wanna be one?