University of Vermont

Cultivating Healthy Communities

Extension Master Gardener         

We are volunteer educators

UVM Extension Master Gardener (EMG) supports the University of Vermont by recruiting, training, and overseeing volunteer Extension Master Gardeners whose goal is to promote successful, safe, and environmentally prudent home horticulture practices through education and community activities.

IPM 4 Programming Focus Areas - 2010-2014

  • Water Quality

  • Sustainable Landscapes

  • Local Foods

  • Invasive Plants and Pests

Extension Master Gardener projects must address at least one of these focus areas, but in most cases projects address multiple areas. UVM Extension Master Gardener's guiding principle is IPM, Integrated Pest Management. All training and advice is geared towards an ecological approach to home gardening with the main goal of significantly reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides. The reduction of pesticide use contributes to improved Water Quality and more Sustainable Landscapes, thus any project involving IPM education is addressing both focus areas. All EMG students are required to complete the First Detector training modules through the National Plant Diagnostic Network.  These modules provide EMG's with the ability to monitor for high risk pests and diagnose plant problems, which prepares them to educate their communities about invasive plants and pests. Ideally, EMG projects include informing community partners and participants about aspects of at least three of the four focus areas (Water quality, sustainable landscapes, invasive plants and pests).

Recently, there has been an emerging statewide interest in local food production, which EMG has adopted as the fourth focus area. EMG's are involved in projects across the state which are focused on teaching vegetable and fruit gardening skills for local food production. These projects take place at schools, community gardens, community centers and corrections facilities through workshops, lectures and hands-on gardening assistance.

The Vermont Extension Master Gardener (EMG) program has three basic functions: member education by training new students and providing continuing education to members, operating the Garden Information Helpline, and placing EMG volunteer educators in outreach projects throughout Vermont. The goal of the EMG Course is to provide instruction in the basics of plant and soil science as they apply to home, community, and school gardening. This course is the first step in a two-part process that leads to certification. The second step is an Internship following the successful completion of the course. Internships can be completed in a wide variety of ways, such as sharing what is learned in the class with the public, providing hands-on help at project sites, or providing support to a local EMG chapter.

EMG education outreach projects emphasize IPM principles to promote sustainable gardening practices in the areas of food production, invasive pest and plant control, healthy lawns, plant selection, and water quality at homes, schools, community gardens, historic sites, and public buildings.

Impacts & Statistics

  • Over 3,000 Vermonters have taken the EMG course since the program's inception in 1991.
  • Currently over 900 Active EMG's
  • Since 1991, over 42,000 Vermonters have called the EMG Helpline to receive help with their home horticulture questions.
  • Beginning in 2010, all students are now required to complete 6 on-line E-Learning Modules through the National Plant Diagnostic Network First Detector program . Currently, 569 students have completed all 6 modules.
  • Volunteers contributed 14,280 hours in 2012, sharing their knowledge across Vermont through education and community projects.
  • Over 6,500 hits on a newly created EMG blog discussing pest and disease problems, IPM management and other topics of interest.
  • The EMG Course has 45 hours of basic plant and soil science coursework that integrates IPM principles. The course includes 39 lecture hours plus 6 hours of on-line training through the National Plant Diagnostic Network. The NPDN training results in a network of "First Detector" volunteers prepared to report unusual disease and pest observations and to submit suspect samples to Vermont's NPDN diagnostic lab. Following the course, EMG graduates participate in a 40 hour Internship of experiential learning within approved education projects under the direction of Certified Extension Master Gardeners. The 2013 course has 158 students from 12 counties currently enrolled.
  • In 2012 the UVM EMG Helpline (managed by 24 trained volunteers (15 hours/week during the growing season), answered over 1100 calls and 430 emails on using IPM practices in home gardens and landscapes to manage pests and diseases.
  • Over 100 plant samples were diagnosed by the EMG Helpline volunteers. Management recommendations are based on IPM practices.
  • EMG information tables were present at 10 different farmer's markets and 8 agricultural fairs around the state to address consumer's questions about pest and disease management in the home garden and landscape.
  • Over 100 ongoing approved EMG projects in schools, community gardens, prisons, etc. around the state for education of consumers on horticulture and pest and disease management based on IPM principles.
  • In 2011, with funding secured by Senator Bernie Sanders through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture program, EMG volunteers offered IPM education and hands-on gardening support to 33 school gardens that were recipients of a "Vermont Food Production Education" grant. Extension Master Gardeners contributed 493 volunteer hours at these garden sites. The EMG's assisted the grant project leaders in a variety of tasks that were determined by the needs of each school and the project leader's level of gardening experience. Each site had unique needs and the EMG's role was to help identify what gardening expertise they could provide to help insure a productive, and sustainable, edible garden.
  • Extension Master Gardener became a vocational horticulture program with the Vermont Department of Corrections. Six facilities provide the opportunity for EMG Certification as well as the option to apply these studies towards a High School diploma in areas of science, mathematics and writing. The field practicum will be fulfilled through on-site food production activities.

Read about EMG's proactive role in Helping Vegetable Growers Fight Late Blight


Last modified October 22 2013 10:27 AM

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