About the Master Gardener volunteer program
Master Gardeners are your neighbors who share University research-based horticulture information
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.
Active in your community
University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener activities benefit schools, community gardens, youth programs, environmental education programs, farmers markets and much more.
A Master Gardener is required to volunteer 50 hours during their first year as an intern and 25 hours annually thereafter as a certified active Master Gardener. Active volunteers also participate in 5 to 12 hours of continuing education per year.
- teach classes and workshops to youth and adults
- answer home gardening questions by phone
- assist with county Horticulture Days
- demonstrate horticulture techniques in community and school gardens
- judge youth horticulture projects
- give media interviews and write articles on horticulture topics
- speak to schools and youth groups on gardening topics
- hold plant clinics at garden centers and farmers markets
- represent the program at county and state fair exhibits
- teach horticulture in hospitals, nursing homes and retirement centers
Minnesota Master Gardeners by the numbers – 2017
- 2,342 active volunteers
- 145,134 hours volunteered
- $3.5 million annual value (volunteer hours x $24.14 — the 2017 federal rate for volunteer hours)
- 27,207 continuing education hours completed by volunteers to remain up-to-date on current horticulture topics and techniques
Master Gardener volunteers make a difference
It’s an exciting time for the Master Gardener Volunteer Program. Thanks to the partnership between University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Master Gardeners have access to even more research-based continuing education opportunities on a variety of topics affecting the lives of Minnesotans, including local food, clean water, climate change, protecting pollinators and more.
Teach horticulture skills
Master Gardener volunteers teach current research-based horticulture principles and practices. We believe that everyone can grow plants successfully using proven methods that are not harmful to the environment.
Promote plant biodiversity
Invasive species threaten the health of agricultural and natural lands. Master Gardeners support understanding of how non-native and other invasive species cause negative changes to biodiversity and ecosystems. We promote invasive species management and native species conservation and restoration in landscapes.
Help save pollinators
Pollinator health is critical to our food system and the diversity of life across the world. Master Gardener teach how to help native bees and other pollinators thrive in home and community landscapes. We show how everyone can contribute to pollinator-friendly environments by planting flowers with pollen and nectar, creating habitat and nesting sites, and eliminating the use of pesticides that are dangerous to pollinators.
Use water wisely
Master Gardener promote water-wise gardening and landscaping practices to conserve water and minimize runoff. When homeowners and gardeners water plants and lawns wisely, they benefit the environment and save water. By practicing water-wisely methods, farmers can reduce runoff of irrigation water that carries top soil, fertilizer and pesticides into lakes, rivers and streams.
Grow and eat local food
Master Gardeners promote the use of sustainable techniques for growing local food on a variety of scales and at diverse locations. We teach families how to grow their own food regardless of where they live or the resources they have. By using and maintaining local and regional food systems, everyone can support local, sustainably run farms, protect individual and community health, and stimulate local economies.
Adapt to climate change
Master Gardeners teach how to create resilient landscapes that are adapted to our changing climate. All communities face hazards such as drought and flooding – risks exacerbated by climate change. More resilient landscaping practices can absorb larger shocks without changing in fundamental ways and are less vulnerable to harmful impacts.
Create access to nearby nature
Master Gardeners partner with local community groups to create access to plants and green space for health and well-being. Research shows that people who regularly spend time in nature have better perceived general health, reduced stress levels and reduced depression.
Providing access for all to beautiful and peaceful public places promotes cultural awareness as well as resource conservation, recycling, soil health and preservation and efficient use of land. Access also builds personal responsibility for the environment.