The EMG volunteer program originated in Washington state in 1972 when D. Gibby was overwhelmed by the volume of requests for gardening information (Meyer, 2007). Gibby developed and implemented a program whereby volunteers were trained by extension staff and faculty to provide research-based gardening information to the public. The EMG training program has spread to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four Canadian provinces (National Master Gardener Committee, 2013). Today, most EMG programs are affiliated with a land-grant university and its extension system. The university programs train and certify EMGs to disseminate research-based information to the public. The program has an educational emphasis, avoiding promotion of commercial products or entities. According to the last Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service agency report (2009), there were ≈94,865 active EMGs in the United States and Canada. EMGs annually contributed ≈5,197,573 h of volunteer work to their extension organizations on a variety of projects.
While the original intent of the EMG program was to use these volunteers to assist with horticulture phone calls (Meyer, 2007), the scope of their activity has expanded over the years. Projects now include “proactive and community based projects such as setting up exhibits, writing news articles, participating in community gardens, Yards and Neighborhood environmental programs, public demonstration gardens, community plantings and control of invasive plants” as noted in the EMG White Paper (National Master Gardener Committee, 2013). The list of activities and projects continues to expand as extension professionals use volunteers to help manage projects and programs, increasing outreach with limited staff and resources. Innovative projects continue to expand the role of EMG volunteers in extension and research activities.
BauskeE.M.KellyL.SmithK.BradleyL.DavisT.BennettP.J.2011Increasing effectiveness of cooperative extension’s Master Gardener volunteersHortTechnology21150154
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