Master Gardeners Impact Iowa Communities

Gardeners donate equivalent of $2.6 million back to the state in 2016 through various projects

January 27, 2017, 10:12 am | Denny Schrock, Susan DeBlieck

AMES, Iowa – Throughout 2016, nearly 2,000 dedicated volunteers worked to help beautify and grow the state of Iowa. These volunteers come from the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Master Gardener program and combined to spend nearly 120,000 hours volunteering during the last year.

“A recent study on volunteerism showed that Iowa was one of the top ten states in terms of community members volunteering,” said Susan DeBlieck, Master Gardener assistant coordinator. “It’s a common practice in Iowa that we step up and help our neighbors as volunteers. The Master Gardener program has provided ISU Extension and Outreach with thousands of volunteers since 1979 to help expand the work of yard and garden extension staff. Their commitment is truly incredible.”

The totals for Master Gardeners in 2016 are staggering – 119,670 volunteer hours accumulated by 1,930 volunteers. That equals an impressive 62 hours worked per volunteer, significantly more than the 20 hours Master Gardener volunteers are required to complete each year. All told, that comes to a value of over $2.6 million in total time spent growing Iowa.

Master Gardener Impacts

As impressive as the raw numbers are, it’s what those hours were spent accomplishing that really matters:

  • Master Gardeners harvested plots at Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farms, donating 9,000 pounds of fresh produce to local food banks.
  • Master Gardeners in Black Hawk County planted 100 apple trees at the Cedar Valley Arboretum in Waterloo. Once the trees begin producing a full crop in 2022, the apples will be harvested and donated to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.
  • At the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Master Gardeners worked to install a new pathway in the Discovery Garden. While making the entire garden more accessible, the pathway is also made of stone and recycled bottles.
  • Partnered with two Ottumwa elementary schools to create school gardens. The gardens will allow students to grow and prepare their own vegetables.

“Master Gardener volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds and bring diverse skillsets to a variety of projects, from presenting about gardening best practices to working with youth,” DeBlieck said. “Master Gardener projects reflect what is going on in a county and what the needs and interests of the community are.”

Master Gardeners also educated Iowans, making 447,068 unique contacts across the state. The program’s state social media platform was able to reach 23,944 people as well.

If interested in becoming a Master Gardener, trainings are held in the fall across Iowa. Contact your local ISU Extension and Outreach county office for training dates near you or visit

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