Celebrating its 40th year in Iowa, the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Master Gardener program will hold its core training sessions this fall for individuals interested in becoming Master Gardener volunteers.

The Master Gardener program in Marion County is looking for people who are passionate about volunteering and gardening. No previous garden knowledge is required. The program equips participants to grow in knowledge about gardening best practices.

After the training, Master Gardeners volunteer in their community, making significant contributions such as giving vegetables to food pantries and maintaining demonstration gardens at Iowa’s county fairgrounds. “Master Gardeners provide volunteer service across Iowa,” said Susan DeBlieck, ISU Extension and Outreach Master Gardener coordinator. “They are excellent community resources who create partnerships in their community to enhance school gardens, provide educational opportunities, and host plant sales.”

The ISU Extension and Outreach Marion County office will hold training sessions starting on August 22nd at the Marion County Extension Office. The Class on Campus training session will be held in Ames on October 19, bringing all Master Gardener trainees together for hands-on workshops with ISU Extension and Outreach instructors.

The expanded flipped classroom model that was implemented in 2018 will continue this year. Lectures that were previously given during classroom sessions are now available to be watched at home, freeing up class time for hands-on activities and tours of local gardens.

After completing the course, Master Gardener trainees volunteer within the community, volunteering 40 hours. To maintain Master Gardener volunteer status, they volunteer 20 hours per year and build their gardening know-how by participating in ten hours of continuing education. Individuals not interested in becoming a Master Gardener volunteer can still receive training. The ProHort program allows individuals to gain knowledge while earning a certificate of completion.

Nearly 2,000 Master Gardeners were active across Iowa in 2018, compiling over 113,000 volunteer hours. Master Gardeners volunteered nearly 60 hours each, significantly more than the 20 hours required.