The Big Picture of the MG Program

Our Master Gardener organization extends from grass roots in the communities to the international level.  Trying to understand where you are at in the family tree can be confusing at times.

The implementation of the mandatory reporter training hasn’t made it any easier.  In fact, in some counties it has evolved into a MG identity crisis!

I’m going to define things from the program office point of view.  When you get into the details of each county program, you’ll experience nuances, such as size of the program and not-for-profit status, which may make your group different from everybody else in the state.

Wisconsin Master Gardener Association (WIMGA)

  • To be a member, you pay annual dues ($5).
  • There is elected leadership, including county/association representatives.
  • WIMGA supports the statewide newsletter, delegates the annual conference, and administers educational grants.
  • They host several statewide meetings each year to address issues related to county associations and groups.
Previously, this logo has been used for all thing Master Gardener in Wisconsin. Starting in 2013, this logo now represents WIMGA

Previously, this logo has been used for all thing Master Gardener in Wisconsin. Starting in 2013, this logo now represents WIMGA

UWEX Master Gardener Program

  • Membership is limited to Certified Master Gardeners.
  • Certification is achieved by enrolling in level 1 training and annually reporting volunteer and continuing education hours.  Additional requirements include mandatory reporter training and signing a volunteer agreement.
  • Supports county UWEX offices facilitating local training; updates and develops educational materials; administers criminal background checks, annual reporting information, volunteer management policy and procedure; communicates impacts of program to stakeholders and partners.
  • Additionally responsible for statewide continuing education programs.
  • Staffing consists of director and coordinator.
Program office logo

The new logo for the program office was issued in 2013 and incorporates UW-Extension to better emphasize the connection

Local Associations

  • Not all counties have formed a local association.
  • Some associations consist of multiple counties.
  • Membership terms and dues are variable.  Most members are certified Master Gardener Volunteers, some counties allow Friends-status or similar.
  • Typically there is elected leadership, including a representative liaison to WIMGA.
  • Local associations may do many things.  Typically they are formed to assist the county UWEX office and educator with the volunteer management aspects of the program.  This may expand to additional duties, such as coordinating continuing education.
Multiple county logos

County associations may use the WIMGA logo or develop their own.

County Extension Offices

  • In Wisconsin, all training begins at the county Extension office.
  • Not all counties offer the program.
  • All participating counties should have UWEX staff act as advisor to the local association.  Some counties have high involvement from UWEX educator or the educator may delegate as appropriate to MGVs.
  • This is variable, but county educators may offer a range of continuing education opportunities for their MGVs.

Additional groups adding to the confusion

By geography we are lumped into several more categories.

  • The North Central Cooperative Extension Association is twelve midwestern states’ Extension services.  Because of similar growing conditions, many resources and programs may be shared across borders, as many of you realized with the recent Growing Raspberries and Blackberries with IPM webinar.

  • You may also hear of the Upper Midwest Master Gardener Conference— like collegiate sports conferences this has morphed over the years.  It used to be the Tri-State region (WI, IL, IA… or was it WI, IA, MN?… doesn’t matter now) and has expanded to 5 states: Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Missouri.

  • Then, there’s the National Extension Master Gardener group.  You may encounter them if you participate in the International Master Gardener Conference.

  • Oh, and how can I forget South Korea?!


  1. It seems that our North Country Master Gardener Volunteer group includes members who fall under the WIMGA requirements and also the UW-Extension Master Gardener Program through our local extension agent. Which are we?

    When will the mandatory reporting program begin? Is our local extension agent responsible for implementing that program? Who pays for criminal background checks?

    Lots of questions.

    • Like many associations you have some members who are only associations members (those not submitting hours annually), those not association members (the ones who report hours but don’t pay dues and never show up for anything), and the majority who are both.

      Mandatory reporter training is now ongoing. Online training is available and completion needs to be reported to your county educator. As for CBC’s, those are currently part of an individual’s application fee.

      Yes, there are lots of questions. It frustrates me how difficult getting an answer can be.

  2. Good luck running the office while Susan is on vacation. We discussed the mandated reporter training at our last meeting; Florence Co. Glacial gardeners. Thanks for keeping us updated on new info.

    • Thanks, Sharon.

      We are becoming a well oiled machine here. Secret is knowing how to log onto the other’s computer in case of emergency. The other secret is to have no emergencies. Hehehe

  3. Mike,

    This is the first I’ve heard about the mandatory reporter training. What is it?

    Also, the MG program requires annual re- certification. Currently, the bylaw of SEWMG county allow people to continue their MG membership even if they don’t continue their annual certification.

    I believe the bylaws were patterned after the state when they were last reviewed. ( Probably 2009 or 2010. ) How does the definition correlate to the bylaws?

    Also, thanks for opening communication between master gardener volunteers and the state.


    • Janet,

      Here’s a previous post on mandated reporter training. I hope this conversation is also being had by county educators with MGVs, too.

      A thing to note, certification is not the same as association membership. One can be a certified Master Gardener Volunteer and not a member of an association; being an association members does not automatically make one a certified Master Gardener Volunteers, either.

      From my experience, most associations pattern bylaws off another. As I don’t know the details of everybody’s bylaws I’m currently not 100% how things correlate- this gets as muddy to me as it does for anybody else out there. I’m trying to make the waters less murky.

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