On Being a Master Gardener
I still have the local newspaper article that a friend gave me. It's dated May 2, 2002 and the headline is "Master Gardener Program Flourishes in the Tri-Valley." I had never heard about Master Gardeners until I read this interview with Gaetene Courchesne. Although the article was mostly about her and her interest in gardening, she encouraged "anyone with an interest in regional horticulture to become a Master Gardener." I called the listed phone number immediately. I was told that, because of a lack of funding, after the current class, there may not be another.
As it turned out, I had to wait until I retired from teaching 6th grade in Livermore before I could join the program. By then, the classes were again offered each week at the Alameda County Agricultural headquarters in Alameda. The classes ran for 16 weeks, once a week with experts from the University of California or other established programs presenting a series of lectures and handouts on all aspects of horticulture. At the end, I had to pass a final exam then complete a 60 hour volunteer internship over the next year to earn final Master Gardener credentials. After the internship, Master Gardeners must complete at least 25 hours of volunteer activity plus 12 hours of continuing education each year to maintain active status. Its easy to meet these requirements as there are a wide range of potential volunteer programs from plant doctor booths at farmer's markets or fairs to school gardens, to participation in various environmental projects. Each person chooses their activities according to interest.
What I enjoy most about being a Master Gardener is the opportunity to share my love and knowledge of gardening with other passionate gardeners. Its easy to do that when frustrated gardeners visit our plant doctor booths at the local farmer's markets or the Alameda County Fair. It's a pleasure to see someone's relief when they receive information from the University of California or are provided with important resources to solve their problems.
Sharing enthusiasm about plants and gardening methods is another reason I love being a Master Gardener. But perhaps the most satisfaction I have received from the Master Gardener Program is helping to take the Demonstration Garden at the Martinelli Center in Livermore from a frustrating huge ramble of weedy grasses to five types of beautifully organized and planted gardens. Sharing the vision of what the garden should be and the endless hours of work has created some great friendships.
Another great plus of participating in the Master Gardener Program has been the great friends I have made and the new information I have been able to gather through the many educational opportunities.
Alameda County Master Gardeners offers classes every even year with applications available in the Fall of odd years. Classes begin and will be held at the University of California Cooperative Extension in Alameda. If you are a passionate gardener and want to share your knowledge, find great gardening volunteer opportunities, make new gardening friends, plus learn more at workshops and seminars, fill out this form.
- Shari Wentz, Master Gardener