Master Gardener Training

Patrick O'Malley, commercial horticulture field specialist


There is a growing interest in Iowa towards horticulture. There is good information available through ISU Extension publications, web sites, and other sources. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to learn horticulture techniques just from reading resource material alone. When I talk to the public, the over riding theme is that they prefer live interactive teaching.


One of the ways ISU Extension has addressed this need is through the Master Gardener (M.G.) training program. Due to budget and time restraints the vast majority of these classes are taught by ICN. Commercial Horticulture Field Specialists with Iowa State University Extension such as myself have helped with the training of Master Gardeners throughout the state. In the eastern third of Iowa over the last ten years I have taught live on-site M.G. programs in 25 counties representing over 100 classes and 2000 individuals.


Evaluations by participants have been highly favorable. They especially liked the live in-person sessions taught by the Hort Specialists and the opportunity to ask questions to an on-site person. Some clients mentioned that if it were not for the M.G. program there was no other place where they could get quality training in horticulture. An unedited e-mail from a CEED may summarize this point. “Pat, just wanted to let you know that I calculated the scores for the master gardener programs. On a scale of1-10 you had the highest score of 8.58. I do think they would have liked to have had 2 sessions on vegetables. The ICN programs were all most consistent one score lower than the live presentations. Thanks again”

The participants consisted of a mixture and combination of young, middle aged, old, men, women, working people, retirees, and a few in commercial horticulture businesses. In fact the M.G. program has helped encourage some M.G.’s to get into commercial horticulture.

Assuming a very conservative estimate that each of the 2000 plus Master Gardeners volunteered 50 hours to community service that would translate to 100,000 hours. If the value of their volunteer hours were valued at a very conservative $5 per hour that would translate to $500,000.


Page last updated: July 8, 2006
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