At the end of 2019, 390 Master Gardener Volunteers reported 17,621 hours of volunteer service for an estimated value of $422,908 (Independent Sector). They also reported 4,831 hours of continuing education and reached an estimated 55,174 individuals with various outreach projects.
Remove Invasive Plants and Restore Native Plants in Historical Park
The North Point Lighthouse Gardens unite Master Gardener Volunteers, neighbors, Lighthouse and Parks volunteers, and Parks staff as they blend historic and current horticultural practices at Milwaukee’s Lake Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Over 15,000 people, including cruise ship tourists, garden tour visitors, event participants, and even Harley riders who garden in Texas, visited the gardens. This year, 14 MGVs spent 430 hours enhancing the public area around the Lighthouse with a historic kitchen garden, decorative border plantings, and rain gardens with native pollinator plantings. The Lighthouse grounds, proudly staffed by MGVs, are the headquarters for the annual East Side Garden Tour and graced the cover of Wisconsin Natural Resources, the DNR magazine distributed statewide. Parks staff and MGVs coordinated two sessions with 40 volunteers to remove invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle as part of ecological restoration efforts. “Nothing beats the joy of keeping the son of a bucs [buckthorn] at bay! We are the warriors who defend the understory of our beautiful parks and places!” exclaimed one of the participants. Pollinator-friendly native trees and shrubs replace the invasive species and also provide a haven and food source for migrating birds in this eBird hotspot and designated IBA (Important Bird Area).
Grow Foods of Diverse Cultures & Teach Veggie Gardening to Families
The Heritage Vegetable Garden teaches cultural awareness through foods grown and harvested by African-Americans, Latin-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native Americans and Europeans. Located next to the Dairy Barn in the Family Farm area at the Milwaukee County Zoo, the garden helped 34 MGVs working 418 volunteer hours educate hundreds of visitors about growing and harvesting vegetables during Zoo a la Carte, Senior Day, Family Farm weekend and other Zoo event days. Visitors can learn even without MGVs thanks to eye-catching new educational signs done with the Zoo’s assistance and a 12-page booklet describing the contents of the garden with specific plant information researched by MGVs.
Teaching Young Gardeners About Plants and Pollinators
MGVs reached out into the community to teach youth about plants and pollinators. During the free Enchanted Evening at Boerner Botanical Gardens, more than 700 people attended and saw three MGV groups explaining the life cycle of monarch butterflies with live examples of each stage as well as native bee behaviors and identification. About 700 children explored the State Fair MGV gardens with a scavenger hunt. At the Jackson Park Farmers Market, 47 family members learned about butterflies. At Wehr Nature Center Bug Day, 360 visitors learned about insects, including a native pollinator display done by MGVs. In addition, Youth Gardening Outreach increased its ability to grow young gardeners by creating digital archives. Now, when Extension has a youth education request, MGVs can easily choose age-appropriate curriculum and topic-specific activities. Its project group increased to 17 MGVs and they devoted 151 volunteer hours themselves to teaching youth.
Educate Visitors at State Fair
At State Fair Park, 29 MGVs from Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties spent over 500 volunteer hours reinvigorating the Master Gardener public education garden area for visitors coming to the Wisconsin State Fair. A new center garden bed created a colorful backdrop for over 100 MGVs who greeted 28,274 visitors during 704 volunteer hours spent on site. In addition to these interactions, visitors took home 8,281 brochures, including four newly translated into Spanish. Many conversations started as visitors cast 3,179 votes to pick a winner from 11 unique container plantings created by MGVs. The area also featured a vertical gardening display staffed by Lifelong Gardening Group members, a children’s play area, a dying tree decorated with images of likely insect inhabitants, a photo spot, and composting systems with educational signage. A youth scavenger hunt and visits from Extension Specialists and Horticulture Educators further increased public learning opportunities.