Who are the UC Master Gardeners?

Are you growing food this year? Do you have bugs in your garden? Do you want to learn more about growing roses? If you are a gardener with questions or an interest in learning, it helps to have a credible source of information. Maybe you need someone to answer your questions about pests or plant diseases. Perhaps you need good advice on selecting low water plant varieties, tips on growing California natives or figuring out what is wrong with your peach tree.  For many people in our county, the San Joaquin UC Master Gardener volunteers have come to the rescue answering questions very similar to these. There are also many people that have no idea what we are about, what we are doing or how we can help so I thought I would give a little insight to our program.

Master Gardeners have a love of gardening and a passion to share it with others. Our current program began in 2007 after a 15-20 year hiatus in the county. I was hired as the program coordinator and have been part of the program since the beginning. We are able to have this program thanks to the generous support of the San Joaquin County Public Works Solid Waste Department and the funding we receive from the cities and county through AB939. The Master Gardener Program is part of the University of California, Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources. We are administered under the local Cooperative Extension office along with our adult and youth nutrition programs, farm advisors, master food preservers and 4-H programs.

Master Gardeners are more than just a garden club – although don’t get me wrong, we can talk about plants and bugs all day! San Joaquin UC Master Gardeners go through an extensive 19 week training (95 hours) on a variety of gardening topics from composting and entomology to plant diseases and propagation complete with weekly quizzes and a final exam. Once training is complete, our volunteers give back a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service the first year they are active in the program. Every year after, they volunteer a minimum of 25 hours and attend 12 hours of continuing education classes to remain certified. Our volunteers get to pick the projects they want to get involved with and often come up with some really great and new projects and collaborations with local agencies and programs in our communities.

Our trained volunteers offer free science-based gardening information to people all over the county. We cover a wide array of gardening topics that make a difference in not only California’s landscape, but also the communities we serve.

Some major areas include:

  • Reduced green waste
  • Early detection of invasive pests, plants and diseases
  • Reduced spread of endemic pests
  • Improved water quality
  • Increased water conservation
  • Increased pollinator habitat
  • Improved nutrition (food gardening)
  • Improved emotional and physical health
  • Closer connection to community

Our Master Gardeners are involved in our community in many different ways. We educate the public about gardening at our free workshops, answer home horticulture questions in our helpline office, and are involved in school and community gardens. Master Gardeners can be found at many events throughout the county from festivals to farmers markets. We give presentations to garden clubs and other service organizations and invite the public out to our Learning Landscape at our Open Garden Day events. We share information via social and printed media. Our primary goal is to educate people about topics related to home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices. Since the inception of our program, our volunteers have contributed over 56,000 volunteer hours in the county and have earned over 15,000 hours of continuing education.

We are all about teaching and learning, but we like to have fun also! Our Master Gardeners have started internal clubs on specific topics like herbs and garden related books. We have the opportunity to attend field trips and other special events that often aren’t open to the general public. One of the things I enjoy the most are the friendships that are made within the program. I always say that our Master Gardener volunteers are more like family.

If you have any gardening related questions or questions about our program, please give our helpline a call. If you have an idea for a potential collaboration, are looking for a garden related speaker or have any other questions, feel free to contact us. You can reach us at our helpline number at 209-953-6100 or by visiting our website at ucanr.edu/sjmg.

Happy Gardening!

 

Timeline of the Cooperative Extension and UC Master Gardener Program

1862 – Sponsored by Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill, the Morrill Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862.

1887 – The Hatch Act established Experiment Stations to develop “useful and practical information … and to promote scientific investigations and experiments.”

1914 – The Smith-Lever Act provided federal funds for cooperative administration of extension education by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the state land grant colleges.

1972 – Overwhelmed with calls from home gardeners, Dr. D. Gibby and Dr. A. Davison, Washington State University Cooperative Extension agents, established a group of trained volunteers and called them Master Gardeners.

1981 – The first UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Programs were established in Riverside and Sacramento counties.

2002 – The UC Master Gardener Program was officially recognized as a statewide program in California.

2007 – The San Joaquin UC Master Gardener Program begins and joins the other statewide programs located in 36 counties.

2016 – More than 5 million hours donated by UC Master Gardener volunteers since program inception, with a value of more than $137 million!

2019 – The San Joaquin UC Master Gardeners have contributed over 56,000 volunteer hours in the county and have earned over 15,000 hours of continuing education.

 

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