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Give back by volunteering

You have heard me talk about or refer to the Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV) program many times in this column. I want to share more details about how the program came about and how you can be a part of this exciting effort in your community.

The MGV program started in 1974 in the state of Washington. At the time, the interest in gardening was hitting a peak and calls to the Extension offices in Washington were overwhelming staff.

Dr. David Gibby created a program where volunteers would be trained by Extension specialists in the area of horticulture and gardening and in return, would give volunteer service back to the Extension office.

The volunteer service at that time was working the phones in the Extension office to answer gardening questions, as well as doing gardening demonstrations at county fairs and other events.

The Master Gardener Volunteer program expanded into all 50 states, Puerto Rico, three Canadian provinces and next year, South Korea.

All MGV programs in the U.S. are connected with a land grant university and we are, of course, connected to the Ohio State University.

The overall mission of the program it to take the research developed in the universities and teach the residents in our communities about good gardening practices. The content taught is based on science and research.

There is a value to learning science-based gardening practices. We aren’t trying to sell products. Our focus is to provide you with the educational resources and services to help you make good decisions in your landscape or garden.

Today, Ohio has an MGV program with more than 4,000 volunteers in 62 counties. These volunteers focus on teaching science-based gardening practices in their communities as well as improving the quality of life through a variety of projects.

The scope of the program nationwide has changed over the years. Volunteers give hours to projects including demonstration and community gardens, answering consumer questions on the horticulture helpline, teaching youth gardening programs, speaking to community service groups about a variety of gardening topics and much more.

In addition, volunteers involved in the program are continually learning about horticulture. My responsibility as MGV program coordinator is to make sure volunteers keep learning and giving back to the county.

Several counties in Southwest Ohio have MGV programs and some are actively recruiting new members for training in 2014.

For instance, Clark, Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties are in the midst of looking for new volunteers to take the training program. It requires 50 hours of educational session (February to April) at the local Extension offices in return for 50 hours of service to the various county projects.

All of the counties have different times for training as well as different projects. While the program has a nationwide reach, the projects and training are very county-focused. It’s based on the needs of the counties.

For more details and to sign up for one of the county programs, visit your county’s OSU Extension web site.

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