GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When the Florida Master Gardener Program started four decades ago, Manatee joined Brevard and Miami-Dade as the original three counties to participate, as trained volunteers answered the public’s gardening and landscaping questions.
The UF/IFAS Manatee County Master Gardener Volunteer Program is up to 96 members and still going strong. On May 15, Manatee County officials and friends of that county’s Master Gardener volunteer program will celebrate its 40th anniversary. Festivities get started at 11:30 a.m. at the UF/IFAS Extension Manatee County office 1301 17th St. West, Palmetto Florida.
Master Gardener volunteers work at plant clinics, create and maintain demonstration gardens, give time at exhibits, teach classes, write newsletters and newspaper articles and work in community and school gardens.
But many Master Gardener volunteers put even more into the job than that, said Crystal Snodgrass, director of UF/IFAS Extension Manatee County. They greet visitors with a smile and information, Snodgrass said.
“They provide research-based information, and they provide outreach to the community,” Snodgrass said. Some are so visible that they are very well-known in Manatee County, she said.
Brenda Rogers, district director for the UF/IFAS Extension Southwest District – which includes Manatee County – likened the Master Gardener volunteers to community ambassadors.
“Master Gardeners have hands-on experience,” Rogers said. “They’re passionate about their topic. They have a good reputation in the community to be able to answer residents’ questions.”
To become a Florida Master Gardener Volunteer in Manatee County, residents take 14 weeks of training – about six to seven hours in class, one day a week. Then they must pass a test and, finally, participate in community service, Snodgrass said.
More than 4,000 volunteers in 60 of Florida’s 67 counties participate as Master Gardener volunteers.
“Perhaps no program has contributed more to the success of residential landscapes in Florida,” said Wendy Wilber, statewide Master Gardener coordinator for UF/IFAS.
By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, email@example.com
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.