RALEIGH, N.C. — All NC State Extension Master Gardener volunteers must take at least 10 continuing education hours annually to maintain their certification. The requirement helps ensure they are equipped with the best tools to fulfill the program’s objective of providing research-based information about gardening and environmental stewardship to individuals and communities across North Carolina.
Often, continuing education takes place at the county level. But this year some 130 volunteers from 24 counties will fulfill the requirements at a statewide conference. The Extension Master Gardener College is taking place Oct. 27-29 at the James B. Hunt Library on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh.
“It’s rare that we get to meet as a statewide group,” said Matt Jones, Extension Agent for Agriculture and Commercial Ornamental and Consumer Horticulture in Chatham County. “Most volunteer programs are coordinated at the county level. This statewide conference allows us to get together and we can provide the volunteers with more intensive continuing education training.”
It also solidifies the relationship between the volunteers and the source of the Extension Master Gardener program.
“Since we are holding it on campus, it reinforces their connection to the university and the land grant mission,” Jones said. “The instructors are mostly Extension specialists and professors, Extension agents, and other Extension staff, and so they get this direct connection to university faculty.”
This is the third Extension Master Gardener College. The inaugural one took place in 2017, and the second in 2019. There was one tentatively planned for 2021, but it was pushed back a year because of uncertainties about covid restrictions.
“It was inspired by an annual event in Virginia,” Jones said. “Normally we’ll look for something like every two or three years.”
As the chair of the EMG College planning committee, Jones helped come up with the theme of “Gardening in a Changing Climate: Learn, Grow and Share.”
“A lot of the sessions and tours and workshops will in some way reference the challenge of climate change,” Jones said. “This is an issue that volunteers have brought up, what does this mean for horticulture and gardening?”
The keynote speaker is Rebecca Ward from the NC State Climate Office, who will talk about what climate change is and what it means in North Carolina. Other sessions and workshops include sustainable landscape design, agroecology principles and practices for climate change resilience, protecting pollinators, the use of native and non-native plants in urban and suburban landscapes, fire-resistant landscaping and composting.
Attendees will also hear an Extension update from Dr. Rich Bonanno, NC State Extension director.
The Extension Master Gardener volunteers will take what they learn and apply it though Extension centers throughout the state, ensuring relevant research-based information from NC State gets to the people of North Carolina.
“Master Gardener volunteers are enthusiastic about continuing education so they are better equipped to educate the public,” said NC State Extension Master Gardener state coordinator Charlotte Glen. “They share what they learn to help others be successful and sustainable gardeners and help grow healthier communities.”
–Simon Gonzalez, N.C. State University