AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Master Gardeners have cemented themselves as forces for positive change in their communities. Through volunteering in their communities, Master Gardeners are helping to grow healthier, happier and more equitable communities.
“This will be the 40th year of the Master Gardener program in Iowa and it has been exciting to see how the program has grown and successes that we are seeing around supporting pollinators and feeding our neighbors,” said Susan DeBlieck, Master Gardener coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach. “Master Gardeners are making a positive impact in their communities in all parts of the state.”
Nearly 2,000 Master Gardeners were active across Iowa in 2018, compiling 113,392 volunteer hours. That averages out to nearly 60 hours worked per volunteer, significantly more than the 20 hours Master Gardeners are required to volunteer. Those volunteer hours are valued at $2.7 million spent improving Iowa.
In the past year Master Gardeners spent their time:
- Growing produce to be donated to nearby food pantries. In 2018, an incredible 90,000 pounds of fresh produce was donated to food pantries across the state. The donation total equals 270,000 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables that went toward fighting food insecurity across Iowa.
- Protecting pollinators. Linn County Master Gardeners will be recognized for their ongoing project creating pollinator habitat at the International Master Gardener Conference this June in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
- Training others. There were 299 new Master Gardener trainees in 2018, trained at 24 locations across Iowa. Once people complete Master Gardener training they are certified as a Master Gardener and begin volunteering with other Master Gardeners in their community.
- Providing information. Master Gardeners in Pocahontas County earned the 2018 Search for Excellence award because of their work hosting their annual Garden Extravaganza. This event allows Master Gardeners to lead classes and workshops on gardening topics like beekeeping, native perennials, tree pruning and flower and vegetable gardening. An expo also allowed 30 venders to showcase plants, artwork, tools and supplies related to gardening.
“If you are interested in protecting pollinators or donation gardening, consider becoming a Master Gardener volunteer in 2019,” DeBlieck said. “As we reach this 40th anniversary milestone, it is a great time to join the Master Gardener program and help make a positive difference in Iowa communities.”