The Master Gardener program is one of the many good programs that the University of Missouri provides. This is a program that began approximately 25 to 30 years ago and has developed into a major program. I remember when Harry Veith was establishing it in the Jackson County area. He was one of the early leaders of this program for the state of Missouri.
Among the 12 or 14 master gardeners in Vernon County is Rudy Spann. He enjoys his involvement and describes it as a super program. He said that it depends on the individual's interest for their involvement. Some are involved in vegetable gardening and others are involved in shrubs and landscaping or in some other capacity.
According to Rudy, the participants can provide assistance to individuals or to a group. There are opportunities to get as deep into the program as they want and he emphasizes that a person learns a lot.
Rudy's interest began as a young person with an interest in the outdoors. He said that some in the group in Vernon County are advanced master gardeners. Some have been involved for a long period of time and many have been or are in a garden club, he said naming some of the more knowledgeable.
When the program was started the idea was that there are a great number of people interested in the different aspects of horticulture with the desire for information. There were only a limited number of horticulturists to provide the information and other specialist had other demands. The Master Gardener program was developed to help carry out the education programs. These master gardeners are helping to educate gardeners.
There seems to be a growing interest in vegetable gardening and it appears that more people are going to have vegetable gardens this year, some who have not had a garden in recent years. Many are doing it because of the economy as a way of saving money by not spending as much for groceries. Another reason is that more people are developing a concern with having better nutrition. Having their own gardens is one way of improving their nutrition.
It is also a good leisure time activity for many. Not only are more people getting involved in vegetable gardening, they are also taking a greater interest in growing flowers and shrubs.
One of the things I noticed in my trip to Italy was that we saw a lot of gardens. They usually harvest about three crops a year from of their gardens. Large lawns that needed mowing were seldom observed.
It is my prediction that with the increased cost of energy for transportation and for other reasons, there will be a time that there will be more gardens instead of yards with grass.
There are gardeners in our area who sell their products. This Saturday at 8 a.m., the Farmers Market will open up on the courthouse lawn demonstrating that there are people in this area who are involved in gardening in a major way. There is a great need for the education programs in gardening. Master Gardening program is "helping others to grow."
"The mission of the University of Missouri Extension Master Gardener volunteer program is to provide horticultural information and training to the gardening public based on proven research specific to the local climate, soils, and plants"
The state master gardening coordinator is Mary K. Kroening. In Vernon County, Pat Miller, extension agronomist, provides the leadership for the program. Four Seasons Master Gardeners is the name for the multi-county group in this area. They have officers and hold meetings as well as carry on education programs and service activities.
To become trained as a Master Gardener, an individual must attend a 30-hour classroom program providing the core training. Then the Master Gardener trainee is required to give 30 hours of volunteer service back to their community in approved University of Missouri activities. There is also a fee to become a part of the program and for training.
Pat Miller said that some are involved in group projects for community service and some have private projects. Included in the projects is the historic herb garden at the Bushwhacker Jail. The group has done the landscaping for three new Habitat for Humanity houses. One individual has done landscaping at the YMCA. And beautification of the area near Veterans Memorial on the courthouse lawn has been one of their projects.
Each participant is involved in six hours of education each year either as a class, workshop or tour.
For additional information on the Master Gardening program, contact Pat Miller at the University of Missouri Extension center located on the ground floor at the courthouse of by calling (417) 448-2560. Information may also be obtained at http://mg.misssouri.edu.