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Ontario Master Gardeners I


Story by Sean James, photos by Pam Sherldon


t’s entirely possible that there’s an itsy-bitsy perception that master gardeners are stuffy plant folks.


Gardening should be FUN! People need to remember that fact when getting stressed about this plant dying or that neighbour’s garden looking better than “ours”. The wonderful thing about gardening (and what makes it fun for master gardeners) is that one should, and will, always be learning. What are master gardeners and how


did they come about? Also, how does one become one? In


the Appropriately armed and ready to help make the world green. beginning…agricultural


extension — government and univer- sities working together to “extend” information from research — it was all about getting the word out about better farming practices. Attempting to get traditional farmers to embrace new techniques required roving government representatives to show how research could benefit the farmer’s bottom line. It was an effective method. Eventu-


ally the government thought it was a good idea to get help and information out to more than just farmers and by extension expanded to include home- owners. Washington State University set up an extension co-operative to help homeowners with gardening advice. Volunteers were heavily drawn upon and in 1972 the first master gardener program in North America was estab- lished to help accomplish this goal. In less than a decade the teaching effort had spread across the nation and there were almost 100,000 master garden- ers in the United States, contributing millions of volunteer hours each year. Across the border in Canada (which


is just plain cooler), in 1985, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs sponsored the first master gardener program in Ontario. OMAFRA provided guidance outreach representatives, as well as meeting loca- tions, library materials, fact sheets and more. Eventually, Master Gardeners of Ontario reached 900 members and in 2015 contributed 37,178 hours of volunteer labour to the cause of horti- culture and gardening education! Master Gardeners of Ontario contin-


Master gardeners are not stuffy people. 64 • Fall 2016


ued to evolve through OMAFRA until the government cut funding in the mid-nineties as part of its “common


localgardener.net


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