Polk County Master Gardener Program

Jeanine Baldwin, Polk County Extension Education Director, Central Area

The Problem

Consumer horticulture education is in high demand in Central Iowa and was identified by the Polk County Extension Council as a major program priority during Future Talk discussions.  Polk County already had a thriving Master Gardener Program with a substantial waiting list and responded to several thousand consumer horticulture and entomology requests from much of the Central Iowa area when the Master Gardener Coordinator resigned.  Discussions were held with the Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Director and several surrounding County Extension Councils about joint funding to replace this position, however none of those entities were able to provide funding at that time.  Polk was faced with the challenge of expanding an existing program with less funding. 

The Response

Two members of the County Staff have taken the Master Gardener Course and one stepped up in the interim to coordinate the classes and staff the Steering Committee.  We later hired a Master Gardener volunteer to coordinate the classes which we increased to twice a year.  In addition, we asked the coordinator to develop a Speakers Bureau and a Master Gardener Helpline to handle the increasing demands for consumer horticulture and entomology related questions.  Discussions continue with the surrounding counties about ways in which we can partner to deliver the education our constituents are demanding.

The Impact

One hundred-four Polk County residents enrolled in the Master Gardener course and worked toward fulfilling their volunteer hours from September 1, 2006-August 30, 2007 the largest amount to ever complete the program in one year.  The total number of volunteer hours provided to the citizens of Polk County by the Polk County Master Gardeners grew by more than 3,000 hours with one of the largest areas of growth occurring in the Teaching and Instructing category.  The existing programs at the Discovery Garden, Demonstration Garden, Enabling Garden, and the Farmers Market not only continued to provide research based information to the citizens of Polk County and neighboring counties, they educated people from all over the world.  In July, we received word that all three of our display gardens had been awarded the designation of "All American Selection Display Garden."  In addition, a new partnership was formed with the Des Moines Botanical and Environmental Center and we hope to add additional indoor and outdoor gardens and educational opportunities at those sites.

130 Horticulture:  Commercial and Consumer

Page last updated: September 28, 2007
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu