Three weeks ago, I started my Master Gardeners class. So far, I’ve learned about the history of the program, soils, and pruning. I have another nine classes to go and 40 hours of service to complete before getting certified as a Master Gardener.
I had a friend a few years ago who took the course in another county and loved it. When we moved to our farm, I really wanted to start growing out own food, so I took a few free classes with the Rutherford County Master Gardeners at the local library.
I was impressed by the quality of the information and resources they offered and loved that it was available for everyone. I decided then that I wanted to get involved. Unfortunately, the class they were offering at the time took place during work hours.
One of the first things I did when we moved to Putnam County was to reach out to the extension officer to get information on the county’s Master Gardener program and to find out when they would be holding their next class.
The $125 fee for the course is no-brainer if you’re serious about growing anything here in Tennessee. I would have paid $125 just for the huge handbook never mind the 40 hours of classroom instruction from local experts in topics ranging from pruning fruit trees to managing weeds and pests.
There are Master Gardener programs in all 50 states. According to the 2009 Extension Master Gardener Survey, there are nearly 95,000 active Extension Master Gardeners, who provide approximately 5,000,000 volunteer service hours of per year to their communities.
Here in Putnam County, Master Gardeners run programs for the schools, maintain a greenhouse at the extension office, and offer a yearly plant sale that raises money for their volunteer work and provides the community with high quality plants.
In Rutherford County, the Master Gardeners offer many of the same programs as well as offering free courses at the local library and lending a hand with programs that provide low-income areas with neighborhood gardens.