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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 2,700 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 shares research-based horticultural knowledge and practices, cultivates diverse collaborations, supports project-based volunteer activities and inspires change to promote healthy people, healthy communities and a healthy planet.

Our guiding principles

Volunteerism sustains the program - In alignment with the program priorities, Master Gardener volunteers fulfill the organizational mission in their communities, through collaboration and co-creation across physical, organizational and social boundaries.

Science anchors the program - As a University of Minnesota Extension program, research-based knowledge and best practices guide our educational outreach, community engagement efforts and horticultural knowledge.

Education connects Minnesotans to the program - To support Minnesota learners interested in horticulture and gardening during this information-rich era, the Master Gardener volunteer program will continue to develop innovative classroom, walk-by learning, community engagement and virtual learning experiences, while also exploring emerging programming strategies and methods.

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.

People and communities nourish the program - Master Gardener volunteers leverage the unique strengths, skills and wisdom within communities to co-create accessible, plant-based projects and achieve sustainable and inspirational results in Minnesota communities.

Environmental stewardship guides the program - The Earth is our home; the health of local ecosystems and natural resources must be protected for future generations through educational outreach, demonstration and community engagement.

Connection and access grow the program - The Master Gardener volunteer program provides benefits throughout Minnesota, with goals to eliminate barriers to participation, make scientific concepts understandable and available to all, and inspire lifelong horticultural learning.

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

Our priorities inform our work

Horticulture skills

  • The Master Gardener volunteer program shares 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.

Pollinator health

  • The Master Gardener volunteer program promotes ways to help native bees and other pollinators thrive through more intentional landscape practices.

  • 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 encourages access to plants and green space while working with community groups.

  • 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 responsiveness

  • The Master Gardener volunteer program teaches ways 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 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, 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.

Invest in the statewide Master Gardener Volunteer Program

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