Diane Relf and Sheri Dorn
Sheri Dorn and Paula Diane Relf
Management changes brought about by 1996 budgetary action shifted local Master Gardener (MG) program management from state-funded local agents to a structure of coordinators consisting of locally funded agents, locally funded nonagent coordinators, and volunteers willing to take on additional responsibilities. The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) MG volunteer program is currently available in 76 unit offices. The unit programs are managed by 46 MG coordinators, including 8 locally funded agents, 8 locally funded technicians, and 30 volunteers. Currently, there are 2747 MG volunteers (trainees, interns, and MGs). To provide consistent, state-level direction and leadership to this less experienced group of local coordinators and to prepare them for their jobs as MG program managers, current management materials were extensively revised and expanded and new resources were developed. These efforts to ensure that everyone understood the purpose and focus of the VCE MG program resulted in revision of MG program policies, development of new volunteer training materials, establishment of a state-level MG planning and work team, new management guidelines, in-service training for coordinators, an administrative website and electronic discussion listserv available only internally to agents and coordinators, and a state MG newsletter focused on the role of MGs as community leaders and educators.
Sheri Dorn and Paula Diane Relf
The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Master Gardener (MG) Coordinator Manual, a 14-chapter resource book, was developed cooperatively with teams of VCE MGs, coordinators, and agents to enhance coordinators' skills. It includes chapters on risk management, volunteer management, the educational process, current policies, and the volunteer section of the VCE Master Gardener's Handbook. The VCE MG Coordinator Manual was the basis of four local VCE MG coordinator-training sessions in 1998. This evaluation showed that coordinators are using the manual and adapting the suggestions and samples to fit their local programs, despite the fact that more planning time is often required. Those using the manual increased their understanding of VCE goals and the role of the VCE MG and slightly increased their leadership skills. Reading the manual showed a need for information on training VCE MGs to work with agents to design and implement strong horticulture education programs for Virginia communities. Areas for improvement were identified before final publication.
Diane Relf, Sheri Dorn, Laurie DeMarco, Kate Dobbs, and Marcy Schnitzer
Through a CyberServe Grant, a WWW Home Page and student/community listserve were established as core communication tools for a special study taught Spring 1997, Hort 4984, Horticulture and the Community: Professional Growth through Volunteering. It incorporated the Blacksburg Electronic Village to easily put student volunteers and the community programs they worked with in direct contact with each other, allowing an exchange of ideas that made them equal partners in their endeavors. It provided direct access to valuable information to understand the principles and philosophy behind programming efforts for both students and community sites where they volunteered. It also was a recruiting tool to involve other students and the Horticulture Club in service-learning projects because students in the class could post “help” notices to entice classmates to participate in defined projects. It provided students with knowledge and experience in the role of the Internet in enhancing the quality of life in their communities. Information installed on the site included reading materials on Horticultural Therapy, children's gardening, community gardening, science education through gardening, and volunteering in these areas; community site descriptions and slides, program activities, goals of program participants, and materials from the program (i.e., selected first-grade drawings of their garden); students participating in the class and information about them; goals, objectives, and management information on the course; and links to relevant information from around the world to put the activities of the students in an international framework.
Sheri T. Dorn, Marc T. Aveni, and Paula Diane Relf
Virginia Cooperative Extension's (VCE) Master Gardener–Water Steward program (MGWS) provides advanced training in leadership development and water quality management to Master Gardener (MG) volunteer educators so that they may expand the influence of Extension through leadership in community water quality management. Typically, agents cite limited staff and volunteer resources as the primary factor in restricting program expansion. The MGWS 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. MGWS training, guided by a 10-unit resource book, integrates technical and program management expertise to foster volunteer pride and self-sufficiency. This allows MGWS 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. The Advanced Master Gardener–Water Steward Handbook allows for appropriate training of Master Gardeners so that Extension education is able to reach a larger audience than just that reachable by an agent alone. Eight slide sets on water-quality related topics are available as part of this program. They come complete with legible, easy-to-read scripts. Updated slide sets include Calibrating Your Lawn Spreader (40 slides), Minimum Chemical Vegetable Gardening (62 slides), Backyard Composting (56 slides), Reading and Understanding the Pesticide Label for Lawn and Garden (41 slides), Landscape Tree and Shrub Fertilization (43 slides), Applying Pesticides Safely for the Environment (47 slides), Water Quality and Landscaping Slide Set (48 slides), and Proper Management of Fertilizers on Home Lawns (40 slides).
Sheri Dorn, Diane Relf, Alan McDaniel, and Michele James-Deramo
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.
Sheri Dorn, Milton G. Newberry III, Ellen M. Bauske, and Svoboda V. Pennisi
Extension provides outreach to the general public and works to disseminate the latest information and research generated by land grant university (LGU) scientists. The Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteer program is one of the most widely recognized programs of extension, created to educate people about research-based consumer horticulture (CH) and gardening practices through a network of trained volunteers. Ideally, EMG program initiatives should address local issues and needs and align with the priorities of extension’s federal stakeholder, U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA). Before 2015, there were no national standards for EMG volunteer programs, and at this time, there is no official work plan or prioritization of educational programming. A quantitative national study of EMG state and local coordinators and volunteers was conducted in Fall 2016 to assess the importance of six educational-response themes (ERTs) (i.e., the strategy for EMG volunteer outreach) for program management (state and local coordinators) and program participants (EMG volunteers). The study compared theme importance between program management and participants, and, in turn, allowed a comparison with previously published historical data. Response to individual inquiry is consistently the most important ERT for EMG programs, regardless of the responder position within the program (management or volunteer). Results revealed that state and local coordinators (program management) score ERTs similarly. EMG volunteers score the importance of ERTs similarly to each other, as well, although some differences are apparent between urban, suburban, and rural programs. Although there are slight differences in the importance of response themes between program management and EMG volunteers, it appears that the EMG volunteer program has an effective organizational structure with an upper and middle management generally aligned at every level. It is plausible that the variability in importance of response themes could be attributed to nuances in local issues and needs. Historical comparison indicates that the importance of ERTs has changed over time, suggesting that themes cycle and change. Although the EMG program does not have a national plan for programming, this assessment of EMG volunteer program ERTs provides a perspective on program direction and a useful starting point for discussion. It is a timely conversation, as EMG programs are increasingly expected to be more accountable and show community impact, and these assessments serve as an important baseline for a national program poised for growth and development.
Susan D. Day, Sheri T. Dorn, Diane Relf, and J. Roger Harris
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.
Sheri T. Dorn, Milton G. Newberry III, Ellen M. Bauske, and Svoboda V. Pennisi
This present quantitative study documented the demographic base of 21st century Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers in the United States. As the EMG program approaches its fifth decade and momentum builds for national leadership, collaborative programming, and innovative impact reporting, it is important to understand the characteristics of the current volunteers and their coordinators. A national study of EMG coordinators and volunteers was conducted in Fall 2016. Response was strong, representing 71.4% of state programs and 7498 volunteers. Responding state coordinators are primarily white females, have a mean age of 51.2 years, and have served in their position an average of 7.2 years. Most state coordinators (94.1%) have a graduate degree (master’s or higher). Responding local coordinators are primarily white females, have a mean age of 51.9 years, and have served in their position 7.5 years. Some local coordinators (57.4%) have a graduate degree (master’s or higher). EMG volunteers responding were primarily female, white, educated, retired, and of economic means; have a mean age of 64.8 years; and have served an average of 7.7 years. Four generations [Traditionalist (born 1925–42), Baby Boomer (born 1943–60), GenX (born 1961–81), and GenY (born 1982–2000)] were represented in survey responses. EMG volunteers were 14.5% Traditionalists, 73.2% Baby Boomers, 11.5% GenX, and 0.9% GenY. There were significant differences in the age, age at initial training, years of active service, and service hours reported in 2015 (the prior complete program cycle) among four generations of EMG volunteers. Responses from EMG volunteers and their coordinators represented all six extension programmatic regions established by the EMG National Committee. Significant differences in age, years of service, and number of volunteer service hours reported in 2015 exist among EMG volunteers across extension programmatic regions. The majority of EMG volunteers responding to the survey indicated they volunteered in an urban county (80.5%), whereas 17.2% of respondents served in a suburban county and 2.1% were connected with rural counties. There were no significant differences in the average age, years of service, and number of volunteer service hours reported in 2015 for EMG volunteers in urban, suburban, and rural programs. Historical data and the present study share similar trends within demographics, including age, income, gender, education, and race/ethnicity, yet offer important considerations for future program growth and development.
Susan D. Day, Sheri T. Dorn, Diane Relf, and J. Roger Harris
The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Advanced Master Gardener-Tree Steward (AMGTS) program provides advanced training in leadership development and arboriculture to MG volunteer educators so they may expand the influence of extension through leadership in community forestry. A statewide survey of agents, MGs, and foresters served as the basis for developing the training package, which was funded in part by the Virginia Department of Forestry. According to a statewide survey, 70% of VCE MGs and extension agents with MG programs would like to be involved in community tree programming, while only 26% was currently involved. Typically, agents cited 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 AMGTS 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. AMGTS training, guided by a 10-unit resource book, integrates technical and program management expertise to foster volunteer pride and self-sufficiency. This allows MG tree stewards to coordinate much of their own training and recruit and manage non-MG volunteers to whom they can provide limited training for specific projects, thus allowing program expansion without additional staff. The training is designed for delivery by knowledgeable professionals in the local community, such as arborists, horticulturists, college professors, extension specialists, MGs, and others who can provide quality training following the program guidelines.