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.
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.
- 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.
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?!