Seems like most news about Extension Services and their Master Gardener programs is about budgets being slashed and programs being shut down altogether. But in other news, Master Gardener programs are going online, going digital, and maybe doing more with less. Please weigh in with more examples that you know of, and discuss the implications (like you always do).
From Fresh Dirt, we learn that online training is the new big thing, and Oregon‘s is “hugely popular”. No surprise – it seems like a great answer to the problem of daytime training limiting Master Gardener programs to retirees only. Washington alternates traditional local training in each county with online study, with the online sessions being taught by “the best faculty in the business,” according to Fresh Dirt. That implies that online training may solve another often-reported problem with Master Gardener – low-quality teaching. More examples of online training are in Illinois, Texas and one county in Virginia.
Again, Washington State has stepped up to offer trainees the chance to save money by purchasing a CD of the textbook for $25, a big savings over the print version – $125! (Ridiculous, but aren’t all textbooks priced ridiculously?)
The No-Volunteer Option
Oregon now offers trainees the option to pay $100 more for the training (for a total of $490) and become a certified Master Gardener without ever having to do time as a volunteer. In my casual review of state programs this option appeared surprisingly often.
Blogs and websites
There’s a national Master Gardener blog – anybody reading it? Its blogroll of state Master Gardener blogs reveals just six but there may be many more because Maryland’s wonderful blog isn’t there. It’s called Grow It Eat It because it’s all about growing food.
Master Gardeners and the National Arboretum
More news may be in the works, if gossip about the National Arboretum’s new director proves to be correct. Director Colien Hefferan formerly administered Cooperative Extension Services nationally at the USDA, and I’m hearing that she may create a national center or resource at the Arb for Master Gardeners everywhere.
Meanwhile, in the Nation’s Capital
Long-time readers may remember that back in 2007 I supposedly blew the whistle on the DC Master Gardener program, so it’s time for an update. Community service credits are still being given for volunteering in private gardens, but now only half the required credits can be gotten that way – and that’s the single improvement I’ve heard about in this sorry excuse for a Master Gardener program. DC’s Master Gardeners still aren’t allowed to organize and create projects, and it’s the only website-free program in the U.S. (Here’s the full list by state.) The same people are in the same jobs. And there’s so much need for their services! It’s really sad.