The Oregon State University Master Gardener Program has gained popularity since it was launched in 1976 and is unique in that it offers gardeners research-based gardening training each year. Portland metro area Master Gardeners volunteer over 40,000 hours annually and provide over 25,000 home gardeners with research-based answers to gardening questions through a variety of community-service activities.
Master Gardeners enter the yearly wintertime course with the understanding that they are being trained as volunteers for OSU. After 66 hours of classroom training covering 22 different subjects, Master Gardeners begin the volunteer component of the program. First year Master Gardeners are required to volunteer for 66 hours as garden educators or in roles supporting those involved in garden education or working in demonstration gardens.
During Master Gardener training, interns have opportunities to volunteer for activities that are compatible with their schedules, interests, or location. The primary mission of the Master Gardener Program is train volunteers to educate and serve the general public through outreach activities. The major outreach activities for the program are phone bank and clinic staffing. Phone banks are located in each Metro county and are staffed every weekday throughout the year by Master Gardeners who provide research-based information to the general public.
Master Gardener Clinics are located at Metro area Farmers' Markets, nurseries, and special events and provide an opportunity for direct interaction between Master Gardeners and the gardening public. The Master Gardener Program is focused on serving the local gardening community and, as the community grows and changes, the Program adapts to best fill new educational roles. An example of this is the huge growth in popularity of community gardens in the Metro area. Master Gardeners are working to establish new gardens and provide support and service to existing gardens and gardeners. In addition a number of demonstration gardens in the area are managed and cared for by Master Gardener volunteers. These demonstration gardens provide an educational space for classes and clinics as well as food for local shelters and food programs.
Currently, OSU metro Master Gardeners are engaged in volunteer activities throughout the Metro area: staffing phone banks in three counties, staffing clinics at many local Farmers’ Markets and other venues such as the Zoo, Rose Test Garden, and county fairs; speaking to groups through the Speakers Bureau; working with school and community gardens; assisting at many Portland Parks and Oregon State Parks such as Pittock Mansion, Tryon Creek, and Champoeg; and generally providing garden assistance to the general public wherever and whenever possible.
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