145 Survey of Virginia Master Gardener Volunteer Management

in HortScience
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  • 1 Department of Horticulture; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ., Blacksburg, VA 24060

Virginia Cooperative Extension's (VCE) Master Gardener volunteer program in available in 73 of 102 unit offices. The unit programs are managed by MG coordinators who currently include 10 locally funded agents, eight locally funded non-agents, and 26 volunteers. In 1998, the VCE Master Gardener Coordinator Manual was developed for use by coordinators in managing the local MG program. The 12-unit resource book was developed cooperatively with teams of MGs, coordinators, and agents to enhance coordinators' skills. The manual was the basis of four local MG coordinator training sessions conducted in 1998. Before MG coordinator training, local coordinators were asked to complete an eight-page survey about MG program management practices used locally. In addition to basic questions about coordinator status and length of time with VCE, the survey asked about techniques used in recruitment and training; motivation, retention, and recognition; individual and local MG program evaluation; and other topics. Two months after the last training, all coordinators were asked to evaluate the usefulness of the VCE Master Gardener Coordinator Manual, which was the base text for the training. Finally, 6 months following the final training session, MG coordinators were asked to again complete the eight-page survey about management practices used locally. The results of the survey information have indicated areas in which the management of MG programs are strong and can be strengthened in order to provide enthusiastic, qualified volunteer staff to assist VCE in implementing horticultural educational programs in local communities. The results of the survey are helpful in focusing the work of the state Master Gardener coordinator to provide adequate and appropriate training and other resources for local coordinators. The results of the evaluation survey have assisted the finalization of the VCE Master Gardener Coordinator Manual, a useful resource to any state's Master Gardener program management effort.

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