Master Gardener Associations all over the state do many great things. Here is a highlight from the 2013 Annual Report:
Outagamie Co. did not hold a Level I training class in 2012, taking the year off to completely redesign our program and focus on recruiting active committed members who would make a difference.
After reviewing the new on-line offerings and other counties’ formats, we decided that our classes should build upon the MG manual rather than repeat it. Students would be expected to do the required readings on their own. We moved the start date to mid-March and expanded to a 20-week format, with a couple of breaks included. We held interviews so that registrants understood their volunteer commitment and our expectations. This weeded out those who really just wanted to join a social garden club, or the more serious student looking for in-depth horticultural training. It also allowed us to decline anyone who did not fit our volunteer profile.
One of our main goals was to give the program more hands-on opportunities, rather than the class-room format we had previously used. Students ended up potting, and learning about, plants for our annual sale; heading to a member’s orchard for pruning lessons; touring a beautiful native prairie, with a man-made pond; hands-on lawn care and water conservation; learning all about container gardening in another member’s yard.
A secondary, but no less important, goal was for these new members to feel welcomed. Previously they had to wait until graduation before they could attend meetings or join events. Our facilitators and presenters made a point of getting to know them from the start. We invited them to the general monthly meetings and solicited help with projects right away. Consequently, by the time we held the Graduation Party, they were already part of the organization.