UT Extension Agent Chris Cooper has a lot of ground to cover in Shelby County. That’s why he counts on some 450 volunteers who are Tennessee Extension Master Gardeners. “Our master gardeners are trained volunteers who provide information to educate the public about home horticulture,” says Cooper. “They are an extension of who I am.”
If learning about plants, soil and pests and volunteering to spread that information sounds like fun, you, too, can be certified to be a master gardener. The program is offered in most Tennessee counties through UT Extension and across the nation through other extension organizations.
To become a Tennessee master gardener, you must complete 40 hours of training, volunteer service and continuing education hours that vary from county to county. Volunteer opportunities include “Ask a Master Gardener” tables set up at hardware stores, farmers markets, libraries and other community places.
Many master gardeners are retired and have gardens, but newcomers can be any age and skill level. “You marry the love of plants with the willingness to share that information, which is volunteering, and you have the master gardener program,” Cooper says.