Master Gardener—Tree Stewards: Advanced Training to Enhance Community Volunteerism

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  • 1 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ., Horticulture Dept., 407 Saunders Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0327

Virginia Cooperative Extension's (VCE) Master Gardener!Tree Steward program (MGTS) provides advanced training in leadership development and arboriculture to Master Gardener (MG) volunteer educators so that they may expand the influence of extension through leadership in community forestry. According to a statewide survey, 70% of VCE MGs and agents with MG programs would like to be involved in community tree programming. Only 26% were currently involved. Typically, agents cite limited staff and volunteer resources as the primary factors in restricting program expansion. Furthermore, 90% of municipal foresters indicated they would like to work with trained volunteers. The MGTS program simultaneously answers the desire of MGs to expand their role in the community landscape and the need of VCE to expand its outreach with increasingly limited resources. MGTS training, guided by a 10-unit resource book, integrates technical and program management expertise to foster volunteer pride and self-sufficiency. This allows MGTSs to coordinate much of their own training and recruit and manage large numbers of non-MG volunteers to whom they can provide limited training for specific projects, thus, allowing program expansion without additional staff.

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