Master Gardener program

I'm not sure if this is nationwide or just in the Indiana area (sponsored by Perdue University) but has anyone ever taken the Master Gardener course? What was it like? Was it worth it? Opinions welcome.
Thx.
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The Master Gardener program was started in 1972 by an innovative Extension Office Agent in the Seattle, Washington, who reasoned that well-trained volunteers could respond to many of the everyday homeowner questions, freeing him and his colleagues for more technical and difficult problems. Volunteers such as Extension Homemakers and 4-H Leaders, had always been a part of the Extension Service but never in the area of homeowner horticulture. With this in mind, the Extension Agent selected, trained and certified volunteers as Master Gardeners. They soon succeeded in meeting his desired objectives -in fact they exceeded his expectations. And so it was, the Master Gardener Program began. Since that time, the Master Gardener Program has grown and is now active in 48 states in the United States and four Canadian provinces. Not every county in these states has the program.
The program differs from state to state and from county to county. It usually requires a certification process which the classes you refer to would be. Then it usually has a service-hours requirement, so many per year. Typically Master Gardeners answer questions via phone, speak at public events and participate in community gardening displays. In some counties it works closely with the county agent. In others it just does gardening chores for the county. It is what the state administrators and county agents want it to be. In some areas it is open to everyone who volunteers and in some areas it is limited to a certain number of people and becomes a very status conscious group. The training includes: plant taxonomy, plant pathology, entomology, taxonomy, cultural growing requirements, wildlife control, and integrated pest management.
Purdue has one of the best extension programs and should have a good Master Gardener Program. Check out their website at:
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/mg /
In Indiana, Master Gardeners must first achieve rank of Master Gardener Intern by completing required training and passing exam with 70% success. Then MG Interns are required to volunteer a minimum of 35 hours to be certified as a Purdue Master Gardener. Purdue University Extension county and state staff provide instruction free of charge. Materials and expenses for the series of classes range from $75 to $150.
I am not a Master Gardener but know many people who are. I chose to get my horticultural training through Longwood Gardens classes and do horticultural volunteer work through the American Rhododendron Society. Our local Master Gardener program has a great group of people but aren't looking to increase the size of the group. The Master Gardener program my be a good group for you or you may be interested in seeing opportunities at local public gardens or in local horticultural clubs.
The nearest chapter of the American Rhododendron Society near you is the Midwest Chapter and has a homepage at:
http://www.midwestars.org/index.html
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wrote:

Oh, THANK YOU for all that. I did check out the Perdue site previously but I wanted some personal opinions on the program. I had no idea for anything I had seen that it was a national program. Thanks again for taking the time to write that all up. I'll look into the ARS, too.
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Just one warning.
Purdue is a university in West Lafayette,Indiana.
Perdue is a poultry company based in Maryland.
Perhaps Perdue is a mascot for Purdue ;>
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Hey, I'm a New Yorker. If I get the majority of the letters right in the school's name, I'm doing okay. They still think Viagra is only one letter off from Niagara here. I figure we're even.
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Twelve years ago I bought my first house, which came with perennial beds and a vegetable garden. Being that I didn't know the first thing about gardening, I subscribed to Organic Gardening magazine and took the Master Gardeners course given locally. The MG course cost $75 and was given at the Extension office in my county once a week for four months or so. For that time and money, I received a basic grounding (no pun intended) in several subjects, including plant structure, identification, growing techniques, propagation, etc, etc. Upon graduation I was required to complete 40 hours of volunteer work to "give back" to the Extension.
I think the MG program is somewhat misnamed, as the title of Master leads one to expect some depth of knowledge and training. But what I got out of the course was not so much the actual knowledge that was imparted to me as it was the opportunity to explore a new subject without enrolling in college again. As it turned out, the experience piqued my interest enough to inspire me to take a few horticulture classes at a local community college. Of course the college courses were much more in-depth, but they were also more expensive and time-consuming. I would never have enrolled in those college courses if I did not have the MG training first as my background. Another aspect of the MG course was that I got to meet and network with a number of other similarly interested gardeners as well as experts local to my area.
To continue being a MG I believe you must keep up with yearly requirements for volunteer hours and continuing education, which I have not done. I'm sure there are many other ways of obtaining the same knowledge and experience. For me it was an inexpensive way to discover an interest in gardening that I will keep the rest of my life :-)
Dee
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Thanks for your experience with it, Dee. It so happens that my county extension office and all the lessons will be about 15 minutes away and Purdue (did I spell it right this time?) is about two and a half hours away so the MG program sounded pretty good at the cost/travel time. I don't mind the volunteer hours. In fact, there is a local all organic, herb garden within 10 minutes of here that I was also going to volunteer at this next year so maybe I can kill two birds with one stone. :)
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Several people in my club, Midfex Fruit Explorers with members mainly in the Chicago area have taken the course. I have never heard anything bad about it. By the way, as a Purdue graduate, I think your spelling needs a correction. There is no connection between the university and the chicken man.
Sherwin Dubren
Gemstone Rivers wrote:

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I completed the Master Gardner program in Illinois several years ago, and sorry to say, I didn't find it worthwhile.
The training was for beginners, for 6 wks. there were no reference books in the extension office where I served my 40 hrs service (I brought my own from home), and all the programs were on weekdays when I couldn't attend or not local.
The title is nice, but I didn't get anything out of the program. Now I attend the Master Gardener lectures in New Mexico where we moved, but will not repeat the program to get certified here. These lectures here are a bit better, at night and local and open to everyone, so occasionally I can take advantage of them.
I guess it depends on where you are how good the program is. If you have a horticulture background, you may not learn anything useful. If you enjoy working with the public, you will probably find it very fulfilling.
Just my 2 cents worth

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Thanks for the info, Anna. Supposedly the programs in Indiana are among some of the best although I've not specifically heard anything about our county. I'm curious about the paragraph above. What did you do for those 40 hrs of service? Answer phone problems? And they didn't give you any reference books? Eyikes.
I guess I'm a beginner since I've never taken an horticultural courses. I mostly just stumble my way through making plants grow. I guess it won't hurt to learn the basics of what I'm doing. ;)
Can I ask what sort of books you used as reference books?
Thanks for telling me your experiences with it.
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I'm in CA and have taken the Master Gardener program. IMO, it's worth the time and money. For a while, it was being held at the local community college..... but it's back at the Cooperative Ext's office. Nicole
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Thanks, Nicole! I've decided to try it. :)
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On Fri, 15 Dec 2006 12:04:56 +0000 (UTC), Gemstone Rivers

It all hinges on how intelligent or open minded your horticultural agent for the extension is. I went through three MG programs in three different states many years ago and they gave virtually NO good information outside their spray and kill notions. Things may be different now.
You also have to volunteer a lot of hours to get certified. I say start to go and make the decision when you see what it's all about.
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wrote:

I think you have to volunteer 35 hours here. That can be done at the county fair, I suspect, where I spend a fair amount of time anyway. :)
Anyway, I'm set to start on Feb. 13 so I can give you a report on how it works out here in the middle-of-nowhere Indiana if you'd like.
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