Submitted by Krista Harding
You may or may not be aware of a group of volunteers in your community providing horticulture information to the public. I am speaking of the Extension Master Gardeners. Extension Master Gardeners come from all walks of life, but they have two things in common and that is their love of gardening and the joy of sharing with their communities.
Currently there are 21 certified Extension Master Gardeners in the Southwind District. These individuals were trained by state specialists from Kansas State University and have been through forty to fifty hours of instruction in all aspects of horticulture. After training, the Master Gardeners volunteer an equivalent number of hours back to their communities as was received in their training.
In the Southwind Extension District, many of the gardeners received their training in 2008, 2010, 2013 or 2015 so they have several years of experience as Master Gardeners under their belt.
There are a number of Master Gardener volunteer service projects currently happening in Southwind Extension District communities. This year, 684 hours of volunteer service was completed. According to most recent data from the Independent Sector (a coalition of charities, foundations, corporations, and individuals that publishes research important to the nonprofit sector), the estimated value of volunteer time is $24.14 per hour. That calculates to $16,500 worth of service to our local communities!
Here are some of the projects that the Master Gardeners have worked on this year:
Pepper and Tomato Variety Trials – A K-State research trial on peppers and tomatoes was conducted at the Elm Creek Community Garden in Iola and the community garden in Fort Scott with many different varieties. Various individuals in the community were able to sample and evaluate the produce at Farmers Markets.
Flower Trial – An annual flower research trial was conducted at the courthouse in Iola. The trial showed that not all flowers can withstand the brutal climate in Kansas. All plants were labeled so people could see which varieties did well and which ones did not. It is hoped that the general public noted which plants performed well and which plants did not and will make future plant purchases accordingly.
Programs and Presentations – the Master Gardeners gave many public presentations this year including how to grow herbs, container gardening, vegetable and berry production, attracting hummingbirds, and establishing native prairie plants. In addition, there were Master Gardeners writing blogs, newspaper columns and helping youth with various horticulture projects. This is a very brief listing and does not include every public presentation that was given nor the countless contacts made with the general public, friends and neighbors!
Community Work – various volunteer projects were completed in Humboldt, Chanute, Moran, Iola, Uniontown and Fort Scott. Most of these projects centered around community beautification efforts.
As an Extension agent, I called upon the Master Gardeners many times this year to assist me with programs. They were always eager to help and share their expertise. The Master Gardeners are very knowledgeable individuals that love their communities and want to give back to them. If you would like to know who the Master Gardeners are in your community, please give me a call and I would be happy to visit with you.
A Master Gardener training class will be offered in the fall of 2018. If you are interested in taking the class, please contact me and your name will be put on a mailing list.
Krista Harding is a K-State Research and Extension Agricultural agent assigned to Southwind District. She may be reached at [email protected] or 620-244- 3826.