Virginia Cooperative Extension Volunteers
8 December 2008
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Charlottesville/Albemarle County Office
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
phone: 434.872.4580 fax: 434.872.4578
Some of the greatest resources I have as an Extension Agent are the volunteers we call Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, and Tree Stewards. These folks bring years of experience in gardening, natural history, tree biology, and other disciplines to bear on the many projects we undertake at Virginia Cooperative Extension. Some of them came to us with little or no training and some brought a large amount of expertise. All of them have been through our training programs and some have gone on to help teach them later. The most rewarding part for me is their spirit of giving and helping others learn how to solve their own problems. We could not do all the work we do and reach all the people we do without the good work of our volunteers.
Who are the Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, and Tree Stewards?
They are members of the local community who take an active interest in their surroundings and the quality of life affected by our landscapes, local parks and trails, water quality, and more. They are concerned with issues like sustainable landscape management, biodiversity, land use, and invasive plants. They are enthusiastic, willing to learn and to help others, and able to communicate with diverse groups of people.
What sets these volunteers apart from others in the community is their special training in the volunteer work that they do. In exchange for their training, persons who become volunteers contribute time working through their Cooperative Extension office to provide information and services to their communities.
Are these programs for you?
To help you decide if you should apply to be a Master Gardener, Master Naturalist or Tree Steward, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I want to learn more about growing plants, Virginia natural history, or trees?
- Am I eager to participate in a practical and intense training program?
- Do I look forward to sharing my knowledge with people in my community?
- Do I have enough time to attend training and to complete the volunteer service?
If you answered yes to these questions, the Master Gardener, Master Naturalist, or Tree Steward programs could be for you. Contact your local Extension Office to ask about these programs in your county. From there you can obtain an application or more information from the local Extension Agent at the office.
If accepted into one of these volunteer programs in your county, you will attend a training course. Classes are taught by Virginia Cooperative Extension agents, specialists, and local experts.
These programs offer approximately 50 hours of instruction that cover a wide variety of topics. The trainings are offered at various times during the year at various locations across the state. Check with your County Extension office for specific locations, dates, and times.
In exchange for training, participants are required to volunteer time to their County Extension program. The requirements vary with the program but it is approximately 40 to 50 hours of volunteer service within one year following the training to earn the title of certified Master Gardener, Master Naturalist, or Tree Steward.
The type of service varies according to community needs and the abilities and interests of the volunteers. Some answer requests for information while others staff help desks or displays at farmers markets or community events. Some may speak to local groups and conduct workshops, lead interpretive hikes, or help monitor stream health. They may help establish community garden projects, work with 4-H youth, coordinate and teach tree planting workshops, or assist their agent with news or radio releases related to upcoming workshops or lectures.
Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, and Tree Stewards are representatives of Virginia Cooperative Extension. In all volunteer work related to these programs, volunteers follow the research-based recommendations of Virginia Cooperative Extension and other state agencies.
Participants become certified Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, and Tree Stewards after they have completed the training course and fulfilled their volunteer commitment.
For More Information
Application forms and additional information are available from your local county Extension office.
For more information about this and other landscape topics contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. The local Virginia Cooperative Extension office numbers are Albemarle 872-4580, Fluvanna 591-1950, Greene 985-5236, Louisa 540-967-3422, and Nelson 263-4035.