AMES, Iowa – The new leader of the Master Gardener Program with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach wants to make sure the program reaches all Iowans and all communities.
Alicia Herzog, who was named program coordinator in August, said she wants to increase the diversity of the program so that people of all ages and backgrounds are reached.
“My personal goal is increasing the diversity of those involved and making sure that the volunteers not only gain skills that help themselves but that also help their communities,” she said.
The Master Gardener Program at Iowa State trains volunteer gardeners with education that helps communities through community outreach and education, food production and community beautification. The program partners with SNAP-Ed in the Growing Together Iowa mini-grants throughout Iowa to reduce food insecurity by increasing access to fresh produce.
The program is administered at the county extension level and 70 of Iowa’s 99 counties are currently training new local Master Gardeners.
“Our big, overarching goal would be to have master gardeners in every county of the state,” said Herzog. “It really brings me enjoyment to go out to the different gardens and to talk to people and hear their stories about why they’re interested in gardening and how they enjoy giving back to their communities.”
Cindy Haynes, associate professor and extension specialist in horticulture at Iowa State University, said she looks forward to Alicia’s leadership.
“Alicia has already proven that she is a highly capable, organized and creative state coordinator for the Iowa Master Gardener Program,” said Haynes. “She jumped in with both feet during her first week of the online training of more than 350 Master Gardeners, and I am confident the program is in good hands with her at the helm.”
Herzog earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa in 2013 and her master’s in 2018 from California University of Pennsylvania.
In addition to producing food, she sees gardening as a way to improve conservation and the environment, increase pollinator habitat and mitigate climate change.
About the Master Gardener Program
Since 1979, more than 15,130 people have completed the Master Gardener volunteer training thanks to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Extension Master Gardeners is an internationally recognized volunteer program that exists in all fifty states.
The Iowa Master Gardener program was first piloted in Scott County in 1979. Each year Iowa Master Gardeners provide more than 100,000 hours of volunteer service back to their communities.
The first Master Gardener Program was initiated in King County, Washington, in 1972. In response to overwhelming requests for horticulture information, the local extension agent came up with the idea of trading specialized training in horticulture for a commitment to spend a specified number of hours doing volunteer outreach work for extension.
Shareable photo: Alicia Herzog, Iowa Master Gardener program coordinator.