August 2, 2007
In the early 1970’s, a re-generated interest in home gardening spread throughout the United States at an unprecedented pace. Today, gardening is America’s number one hobby. Extension offices were overwhelmed with requests for horticultural information and education. In Washington State, Dr. David Gibby (WSU Cooperative Extension Agent) and Dr. Arlen Davison (WSU Plant Pathologist) realized the need to expand their informational outreach, and came up with the idea of equipping volunteers for this task. The plan was that Extension would provide applicants with extensive horticultural training and in return, the Master volunteers would assist Extension in their outreach, providing the general public with information and education. Thus, the Master Gardener program originated in Washington State, enabling the Washington State University (WSU) Cooperative Extension to better serve the public. The first Master Gardener class was trained in 1973.
The Texas Master Gardener program had its beginnings in 1978 during Extension horticulture training at Texas A & M University when Dr. Sam Cotner (Extension vegetable specialist) described the success of the movement in Washington. The first Master Gardener class in Texas was held in 1979 in Montgomery County and drew about 25 applicants. In 1989, the first training class was held in Bexar County. Since that first training program, the Bexar County group has not looked back. Forty-five classes have been held since that time. Due to the popularity of the program, three classes were held last year. This included spring and fall classes for the general public and a summer class for teachers to implement Junior Master Gardener training at their schools.
From the beginning, the program has been richly diversified, reflecting the skills and individuality of each volunteer. Volunteers bring a vast array of skills and talents to the program. Master Gardeners contribute toward a myriad of programs for our community. Answering the homeowner’s questions is at the heart of the program. In Bexar County, it is manifested through the Master Gardener Homeowner’s Hotline. Classroom Gardens is another popular project. Over 250 schools participate in the program. Master Gardeners teach children to garden, emphasizing environmental stewardship and human nutrition. Teachers are also able to teach students math, science and other courses in a non-traditional manner. Junior Master Gardeners (JMG) is another popular program. It offers horticulture and environmental science education through fun and creative activities. JMG introduces young gardeners to the art and science of gardening, and helps them develop life skills, leadership and responsibility to become good citizens within their communities, schools and families.
Master Gardeners also address worthwhile social and environmental issues in Bexar County through their involvement in the Seasonal Irrigation Program (SIP), various Xeriscape programs, educational events, and demonstration gardens. Other Master Gardener projects include group presentations to garden clubs, civic groups and other organizations, information and educational boots at local events, and major public events such as the Texas Experience at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, Habitat for Humanity, Fall Garden Fair and Children’s Day in the Garden.
As you can see, the Master Gardener program is much more than a horticulture class or a garden club. It is an educational/volunteer program conducted by Texas Cooperative Extension that enables participants to serve their communities. The program is designed to increase the availability of information and extend projects throughout the community. Master Gardeners provide valuable information that improves the quality of life for residents of Bexar County.
To obtain more information, contact Angel Torres at 210.631.0400, or go the Bexar County Extension website at https://bexar-tx.tamu.edu, click under Horticulture & Gardening, then go to the Master Gardener site.
LOOK AT THIS!
Bexar County Master Gardener Class #60:
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is conducting its spring Master Gardener classes for people interested in gardening and learning about horticulture in which they return their knowledge and time back into the community. Deadline to register is February 17 and classes run every Wednesday from 12 noon-4 pm, Feb 24-May 25 at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Suite 208, 3355 Cherry Ridge. (210) 631-0400 or www.bexarmg.org/
Remember, Learn and Have Fun!
David Rodriguez is the County Extension Agent-Horticulture for Bexar County. He represents Texas Cooperative Extension with the Texas A&M University System. For any landscape or gardening information, call the Bexar County Master Gardeners Hotline@ at (210) 631-0400, email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our County Extension website at http:bexar-tx.tamu.edu/
Special Note: Listen “Live” with David Rodriguez every Saturday morning between 8:00-11:00 a.m. on WOAI 1200 AM, Gardening Show. Feel free to call in at 737-1200 or 1-800-383-9624.