Our group is comprised of 157 active members, who complete a minimum of 25 hours of volunteer service. Members reported 9,058.2 volunteer hours for the year 2009.
The first training program in Carroll County was held in 1994. Of the 30 students, nine were from Carroll County. No classes were held in 1995, but they resumed in 1996, and have continued every year since. The 12 weeks of classes include a study of plants, wildlife, soil and garden pests. Classes are conducted by County Extension agents, university personnel, and local industry staff. Ginny McGee, a member of the first MG class, is instrumental in planning our classes.
Upon completion of the class, new Master Gardeners must do 50 hours of community service in order to be certified. Interns, as the new Master Gardeners are called, always worry about how they will earn their hours. We have found that most of them finish their 50 hours within a matter of weeks.
Master Gardeners can earn hours through activities as varied as the members themselves. Some man the phones at the Ag Center, taking messages and answering questions. Others work on landscaping at municipal buildings and historic homes. The public is invited to visit the demonstration gardens behind the Ag center, which were planted and are maintained by groups of Master Gardeners.
In 2005, the Jr. Master Gardener program began. Activities include planting a garden, making stepping stones, identifying insects, learning about the importance of bees in pollinating crops, environmental studies, wildlife and habitat conservation, crafts, music and making pickles. Monthly meetings are held throughout the school year. To find out if your child qualifies for Camp Dirty Knees, which is held in June each year, contact the Ag Center.
The organization has two major fund raisers each year. In November, the Master Gardeners make fresh wreaths, swags and potpourri bags for Christmas. It is very labor intensive work, but the camaraderie and the delicious lunches provided by members make it a fun experience.
Our second major fund raiser is the annual Mother’s Day Plant sale. This year’s sale will be on May 8 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be thousands of plants for sale. The funds raised are used to provide classes for the public, beautification grants to area schools, and scholarships for Carroll County students enrolled in horticulture classes at the University of Georgia.
It’s hard to imagine the scope of influence the group has in our community. Proceeds from a Master Gardener cookbook were used for landscaping the Veteran’s Memorial Park. Free workshops, such as vegetable gardening, canning, preserving your produce and growing herbs, are offered to the public.
Ag Heritage Days are sponsored and manned by Master Gardeners each fall. Hundreds of area fourth graders walk the Buffalo Creek Nature Trail, listening to speakers tell about the agrarian history of our county. Master Gardener grant money is being used to restore the trail following a devastating storm. Master Gardeners are also available as public speakers at garden clubs and schools.
Meetings are on the second Thursday of each month and are often open to the public. Popular programs have concentrated on specific groups of plants, including hydrangeas, hostas and dahlias. We have also had programs on tool selection and sharpening, repairing and preparing the lawn mower, propagation, bee keeping, landscape design, hypertufa classes by W.H. Smith, and leaf casting workshops by Carol Hight, among many others..
Watch the local paper for announcements about upcoming events. Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a Master Gardener should contact the Ag Center for information.
As my daddy used to say to company, “Hang around. We’ll treat you in so many different ways, you’re bound to like one of them.” At Master Gardeners, we’ll provide you with so many opportunities that you’re bound to find at least one you’ll like!
(Hight is a Carroll County Master Gardener.)