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    Become A Master Gardener | Spring 2006 Out Here Magazine

    Cultivate your green thumb, friendships, and volunteer spirit

    June Rose working on a gardening project
    June Rose's retirement was the start of a budding gardening career.
    Out Here

    By Renee Elder

    Photography by Lisa Kyle

    When June Rose retired from her career in banking in 1998, she simply had too much time on her hands.

    After investing those extra hours in training to become a master gardener, Rose's life - and her botanical skills - truly blossomed.

    "I wanted to do something a little different," Rose says. "I had always tried to have a nice yard and wanted to learn more about gardening."

    First, she joined a local garden club, where the meetings were fun but not terribly informative.

    "It wasn't enough for me," she says. "It didn't have enough depth and oomph," she says.

    Through the club, however, she learned about her local Master Gardener program, sponsored by the West Virginia University Extension Service. She applied and was accepted to enter the 10-week training.

    "We learned about plants and soil sciences, plant propagation, insects, diseases, and much more."

    Master gardening programs essentially help the local Extension Office reach a broader audience than is possible with the one or two agents who typically staff each office.

    By training volunteers, who then give back an equal number of hours by working on community projects or staffing "help lines," the Extension Office is able to assist more residents.

    "I had to give back 30 hours, and when you are a new master gardener, it seems overwhelming," Rose says. "So I just immersed myself and started doing projects. From there, I never looked back."

    INTERESTED IN BECOMING A MASTER GARDENER?

    Find a master gardener program near you through your county extension agent, college, or university.

    Expect to:

    • Commit to 40 to 60 hours of basic classroom training (about 10 to 12 weeks), plus mandatory, but flexible, volunteer requirements.
    • Pay a fee, ranging from about $50 up, depending on the program and whether books are included.
    • Learn about subjects such as botany, soil, insects, fertilizers, turf, fruit trees, and garden design, to name just a few.

    Besides coordinating the popular Master Gardener calendar, which is chock full of gardening advice and a big fund-raiser for the organization, Rose took additional training to teach elementary students about gardening. Now she goes into schools five weeks each year to teach a program called Meet the Plants.

    "The children are so enthralled with this program and learning about the plants," she says. "And it makes me feel so good to have opened them up to what is out there."

    Altogether, she has given more than 1,000 volunteer hours to the program during the last eight years. In recognition of her work, Rose was named 2005 West Virginia State Master Gardner of the Year.

    "It has become a life for me," she says of her gardening activities. "I feel I have a duty to mentor and inspire others through the Master Gardener program."

    But her duty, she says, is not without its own rewards.

    "It provides an endless supply of beauty, kindness, and friendship that will enrich my life forever."

    Renee Elder is a freelance writer in Raleigh, NC.

     

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