Janet Carson: Advanced Master Gardener Training
County 76 has much to be proud of in strengthening and supporting the Master Gardener program statewide, but one program has continued to be the shining star: the Advanced MG program.
Many years ago as we were looking at issues in the MG program—and researching volunteering in general—we discovered that many volunteers begin to lose interest after three years in any volunteer program. We wanted a way that would keep our volunteers engaged. The Advanced MG program was begun. The first training was in Mountain Home in the summer of 2002, and it was on herbs. It was a roaring success. We found over the first several trainings that to be advanced, the topic needed to be somewhat specific, not too general, or it became too similar to basic training.
To participate in advanced level classes, volunteers must have been active in their local county program for a minimum of three years. We stick with those guidelines since the entire reason for starting the program was to have something special for volunteers three years and older. This allows volunteers to get new training on topics they are interested in and reenergizes them in their volunteer role.
Since 2002 we have had 45 classes on a diverse range of topics from vegetables to butterflies, roses to blackberries, and all topics in between. Over 838 Arkansas Master Gardeners have taken at least one class, and we now have 159 Master Gardeners who have achieved their Level One advanced status, which requires participation in five advanced classes. There are 39 Master Gardeners who have attained Level Two by participating in an additional eight classes. Seven Master Gardeners achieved Level Three status by participating in a total of 23 classes. Two superstars have already achieved Level Four status by participating in a total of 33 advanced training classes. Both Level Three and Level Four require additional commitments: Level Three aspirants must write an article for a newsletter or make a formal presentation on a gardening-related topic. Level Four requires a PowerPoint© presentation or fact sheet.
Large or small counties can easily host a day-long Advanced Level Training class for 50 or more participants. Hosting a state conference is now more limited to bigger counties who can house and feed upwards of 500 people. Whether your county is considering hosting or you want to attend a class, the advanced Master Gardener program is a win/win for our state. Find information on the Master Gardener Website.