MADISON — Lorre Kolb: Master Gardener Volunteers, learning about plants and making a difference in their communities. We’re visiting today with Mike Maddox, Director of Wisconsin Master Gardener Program, University of Wisconsin-Extension, and I’m Lorre Kolb. Mike, what is the Master Gardener Volunteer Program?
Mike Maddox: The Master Gardener Program is a program in which we’re training community members, interested in gardening, some of the foundational topics that any horticulturist would need to know. But, in return for this learning, we’ve asked for them to go out into their communities and help us extend that knowledge to other community members.
Lorre Kolb: So, what is the connection between Master Gardeners and UW-Extension?
Mike Maddox: Well, the Master Gardener Program is a UW-Extension program. It has a 40-year history connected with Extension. It started with an Extension educator in Washington state, in which he trained individuals to help him answer questions, because the amount of new questions they had coming in from the developing suburbs at the time was more than what his role was able to do. It came into Wisconsin in the late 70s, early 80s, primarily to train individuals to help respond to the growing number of questions coming in from the public. But, it has evolved over that time to very active participation in the communities. They are using gardening to make some sort of difference in their communities.
Lorre Kolb: How do communities benefit from Master Gardener Volunteers?
Mike Maddox: To understand the role Master Gardeners are now playing in their communities, we also have to start with the role plants have in our communities. Research now shows there are economic, environmental, and health benefits of having plants in the places we live, work, and play. So, community gardens, urban forestry, downtown beautification projects – all this plays a role in making our communities healthy, happy places to live. Master Gardeners are now playing a lot of that role in providing that greening. They’re coming in and are the forces to do that school community garden or taking charge in making your city like a tree city USA and all the benefits that come with an urban forest. They also have that traditional role of helping respond to the questions that come in, helping people make informed, educated decisions – making the right plant for the right place kind of choices. So, hopefully reducing the number of invasive species we’re introducing to the environment. They’re having conversations with people on how many trees to put in, or where to plant them, or how to plant them correctly so you get the long term environmental benefits.
Lorre Kolb: If someone wants to become a Master Gardener Volunteer, what should they do?
Mike Maddox: You should start by visiting your local county UW-Extension office. Training consists of about 36 hours and as part of that you are expected to return a minimum of 24 hours of volunteer service in your community on select projects.
Lorre Kolb: We’ve been visiting today with Mike Maddox, Director of Wisconsin Master Gardener Program, University of Wisconsin-Extension, and I’m Lorre Kolb.
— Mike Maddox, Director of Wisconsin, Master Gardener Program and Lorre Kolb, UW-Extension
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