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University of Minnesota Extension

About the Master Gardener volunteer program

We are your neighbors

The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener volunteer program started in 1977 with its first class of 25 people. Since then it has grown to include more than 2,300 active master gardeners who share U of M horticultural expertise in almost every county of the state of Minnesota.

The mission of the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program is to use research-based horticultural knowledge and practices to deliver educational outreach and project-based efforts that inspire change and promote healthy people, healthy communities and a healthy planet.

What guides our work

We are connected to the University of Minnesota, and use evidence-based research and best practices to inform our community engagement efforts, educational outreach, and horticultural expertise. We strive to make scientific knowledge understandable and accessible to all and inspire and encourage lifelong learning through continued scientific exploration and discovery.

We are connected to people, and committed to learning, becoming leaders in our communities, and contributing to improving lives. We collaborate and work across geographical and organizational boundaries to create viable and vibrant results.

We are connected to our communities, and their needs drive the work of our program. We are empowered to create change in our communities through educational engagement in alignment with our program priorities.

We are connected to our earth, and strive for stewardship and sustainability through horticultural best practices and a conscientious approach to volunteer work in alignment with our program priorities. We aim to improve not only the lives of the people within our communities, but also the land which sustains us.

Through all, we strive to be accessible and welcoming to all, regardless of what separates us.

Our priorities inform our work

graphic chart listing the seven priorities of the master gardener program that are described in the following text inside the drawer titled "Program priorities"

Horticulture skills

  • The Master Gardener Volunteer Program teaches research-based horticulture principles and practices so that everyone can grow plants successfully.

  • By learning from Master Gardener volunteers, you can build greater confidence when growing and working with plants.


  • The Master Gardener Volunteer Program teaches ways to help native bees and other pollinators thrive in home and community landscapes.

  • Pollinator health is critical to our food system and environment.

  • Each of us can contribute to pollinator-friendly habitats.

Plant biodiversity

  • The Master Gardener Volunteer Program promotes invasive species management, native species conservation and restoration in landscapes.

  • Support a diverse ecosystem of plants and animals through establishing and maintaining biologically diverse landscapes.

Nearby nature

  • The Master Gardener Volunteer Program partners with local community groups to create access to plants and green space.

  • Equal access to public landscape spaces benefits the health and well being of all members of our communities.

Clean water

  • The Master Gardener Volunteer Program promotes water-wise gardening and landscaping practices to conserve water and minimize polluted runoff.

  • We need clean and clear rivers and lakes, as well as safe drinking water for current and future generations.

Climate change

  • The Master Gardener Volunteer Program teaches was to create resilient landscapes that are adapted to our changing climate.

  • You can build and maintain planted areas that will thrive successfully in future growing conditions.

Local food

  • The Master Gardener Volunteer Program promotes the use of sustainable techniques for growing local food on multiple scales and at various locations.

  • Learn ways you can grow your own food no matter where you live.

  • Improve your health, your family’s health and your community’s health by participating in the local food system.

Meet some of our volunteers

Master Gardener volunteers engage and educate people across the state to help them improve their lives and the environment.

From demonstrating to school children how to plant a vegetable garden, to sharing research-based information with new homeowners about which plants will grow well in their yards, Master Gardeners are bringing about positive change in their communities.

Check out this video to hear from our passionate volunteers about how rewarding it is to be a Master Gardener.

Support Master Gardeners

The Master Gardener Education Access fund provides financial support for people experiencing financial hardship to take the core course and other training.

The Pamela M. Hartley Extension Master Gardener Educational fund supports continuing education and advanced training for active Master Gardeners.

The Master Gardener Program fund supports outreach that engages Minnesotans in gardening and healthy living.

Give to the Master Gardener Program Fund
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