Patrick OMalley, Field Specialist Commercial Horticulture, Southeast
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 people, 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. Commercial Horticulture Field Specialists with Iowa State University Extension have helped with the training of Master Gardeners throughout the state. In the eastern third of Iowa over the last several years I have taught over 70 M.G. programs in 26 counties. During the last year I taught 9 Master Gardener vegetable classes with approximately 200 participants.
Evaluations by participants were highly favorable. They especially liked the in-person sessions taught by Hort Field Specialists and the opportunity to ask questions. 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. 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. For many the M.G. program was their only contact with ISU Extension. In fact the M.G. program has helped encourage some M.G.s to get into commercial horticulture. The M.G.'s gained knowledge which they pass on to others, which is invaluable. They also get a personal benefit in improved vegetable gardening skills leading to better home vegetable production. An estimate would be that if half of the 200 Master Gardeners used techniques learned in the class to grow an additional 100 lbs of produce. At $1.00/lb this would equate to a production of $10,000.
146 Consumer Horticulture
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July 9, 2006
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