Become A Master Gardener
Master Gardeners are volunteers who support Penn State Cooperative Extension's educational programs in consumer horticulture. They develop their horticultural expertise through participation in educational programs conducted by Penn State University faculty and cooperative extension staff. Faculty and extension educators will also provide diagnostic support for horticultural issues and questions to those Master Gardener volunteers participating actively in the program. Extension publications, teaching materials, and/or other program support materials are provided as deemed appropriate by faculty and county extension staff responsible for leading and supervising the Master Gardener program. Information presented by Master Gardeners must be consistent with Penn State Cooperative Extension recommendations concerning various aspects of consumer horticulture.
- Strong interest and knowledge in horticulture as evidenced by scoring a minimum of 80% on a final exam administered by Penn State Cooperative Extension.
- Willingness and availability to undertake extensive training in consumer horticulture practices. Trainees may not miss more than one training session of the 20 core and 10 additional hours of training. Attendance at additional classes offered beyond the 30 required will be determined at the County level.
- Dedication and willingness to provide a minimum of fifty (50) hours of volunteer service for Penn State Cooperative Extension. Master Gardeners will have one (1) year from the end of training to complete the volunteer requirement.
- Ability to communicate effectively and diplomatically with others either by telephone, personal contact, group contact, and/or in writing.
- Willingness to support Penn State Cooperative Extension staff in providing extension audiences with unbiased, research-based consumer horticulture information.
- Attend required training sessions.
- Perform the required number of volunteer hours for Penn State Cooperative Extension.
- Maintain an activity log and submit it to the county extension office on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis as required by county operating procedures.
- Attend meetings as scheduled to update information, discuss gardening problems and coordinate Master Gardener activities.
- Participate in cooperative extension activities as needs arise. Cooperate well with other volunteers and extension staff involved in the program.
- Accountability to the County Master Gardener Coordinator, Supervising Extension Educator, and County Extension Director.
- Accept volunteer assignments and changes made by Master Gardener Coordinator or Supervising Extension Educator.
- Provide own transportation.
- Maintain a flexible schedule which permits day and/or evening and/or weekend activities.
County Master Gardener Programs will offer a minimum of thirty (30) hours of training.
Core Classes (topics required in all counties): 20 hours
- Orientation to MG Program
- Plant Propagation
- Communication Skills
- Plant Science
- Plant Pathology
- Soil Science
- IPM & Pesticide Safety
Additional Classes (topics required that vary by county): 10 hours minimum
- Turfgrass Culture
- Indoor Plant Culture
- Herbaceous Ornamental Plant Culture
- Vegetable Culture
- Woody Ornamental Plant Culture
- Diagnosing Plant Problems
- Pruning Horticulture
- Tree & Small Fruit
- Culture Office Orientation
- Weed Management
- Native Plants
A Penn State Master Gardener must attend the prescribed hours of instruction, pass the final examination with a minimum score of 80%, complete any county required activity, and fulfill the 50-hour volunteer commitment before becoming a certified Master Gardener. Upon completion he/she will be awarded a Penn State Master Gardener certificate. Master Gardener certification is restrictive in nature in that it is valid only while the individual is participating in the Penn State Master Gardener Program. Certification in subsequent years will be issued only to those individuals who make a commitment for participation in the program for the coming year as outlined below. When individuals cease active participation, then their designation as Penn State Master Gardener becomes void. Those not continuing in the program should be aware that if they represent themselves as Penn State Master Gardeners, they are violating their original commitment to Penn State Cooperative Extension.
Certification in Subsequent Years:
A Master Gardener may maintain certification for participation in the program in subsequent years by:
- Committing to a minimum of twenty (20) hours of volunteer work to be completed each year.
- Completing or having completed eight (8) additional hours of horticulture training each year. Examples of additional training are: New Master Gardener training, Master Gardener Advanced Training, State/Regional/National MG conferences, University or Community College courses, Arboretum and Botanical Garden seminars, annual horticulture conferences, and Pennsylvania Federation of Garden Club courses. The training must be approved as acceptable by the county extension educator responsible for supervising the Master Gardener program.
An inactive Master Gardener is one who is unable to commit to an additional 20 hours service plus 8 hours training at present, but would like the opportunity to recertify themselves in the future. The following policies apply:
- An inactive Master Gardener is one who is in good standing, having completed the original commitment of training, exam, and volunteer service and having maintained certification in subsequent years up to the time of requesting inactive status.
- The inactive Master Gardener must attend or have attended eight (8) hours of acceptable horticulture training for each year of inactive status. (See Certification in Subsequent Years #2 for examples of training).
- An inactive Master Gardener may recertify within three (3) years as long as the above criteria are met. Individuals on inactive status for more than three years are required to retake the New Master Gardener training. A fee for tuition will be assessed to cover affiliated training costs.
Master Gardeners who are certified in another state may be admitted to a Penn State Master Gardener program by meeting the following criteria:
- Acquire or be provided with a current Penn State Master Gardener training manual. A fee for program materials will be assessed.
- Acquire or be provided with a Penn State Master Gardener name badge. A fee for materials will be assessed.
- Score a minimum of 80% on a final exam administered by Penn State Cooperative Extension.
- Meet the Recertification requirements listed above.
To cover the cost of training manuals and supplies, a non-refundable standardized fee determined by the State Coordinator will be charged. Individual counties may have additional charges to cover meeting room rental, travel expenses for instructors, or other costs. These additional charges will be itemized and kept to a minimum. Upon an individual's acceptance into the program, this fee will be paid at the county level to the local county extension office or the Master Gardener program as per county policy.
Master Gardener Volunteers are insured under the P.W. Woods & Son, Inc. general liability insurance program. Coverage applies only to individual volunteers while they are performing their volunteer activities for Penn State Cooperative Extension. The coverage does not extend to other organizations or groups that volunteers are working with. Volunteers may not sign contracts or leases assuming liability responsibility on behalf of other organizations or groups. All contracts or "facilities use" agreements that require volunteer signature must be reviewed by the Wood office prior to signing. Contract submission must follow approved protocols and appropriate paperwork as identified by Penn State Cooperative Extension policy. County offices are asked each year to identify the number of volunteers to be covered and the appropriate premium charge is applied. If volunteers are not reported, there is no liability coverage.
The title "Penn State Master Gardener" is to be used only and exclusively by individuals trained and certified to assist Penn State Cooperative Extension, and the title is valid only when the volunteer is participating in the Penn State Master Gardener Program. The title Master Gardener is to be used only when doing unpaid, volunteer work in a program activity approved by the supervising extension educator.
Master Gardeners are not to advertise their name or their place of business nor be listed on the advertisements of business places as Penn State Master Gardeners. Because the Master Gardener Program is a Penn State Cooperative Extension public service program providing unbiased research-based information, appearing as a commercial activity, having association with commercial products, or implying Penn State Cooperative Extension endorsement of any product or place of business is improper and grounds for dismissal from the program.
The training and experience gained by participating in the Penn State Master Gardener Program are valuable, and may rightfully be listed as qualifications when seeking employment. Once employed and while serving as a paid employee, or if self-employed, Master Gardeners should not display credentials or give the appearance of being a Master Gardener at the place of business or in any literature, brochures, marketing materials, etc. associated with that business, unless the place of business is specifically designated by the supervising extension educator as an approved Master Gardener location.
When Master Gardeners speak before groups on horticulture topics it is permissible for them to accept reimbursements for expenses and/or gift donations for the County Master Gardener fund. However, it is inappropriate for Master Gardeners to seek personal paid speaking engagements while participating in an authorized extension function and while using the Master Gardener title and is grounds for dismissal from the program. In all cases the local county extension office policy on speaking engagement fees should be honored, provided they comply with the guidelines described above. When a Master Gardener travels out of their home base county for a speaking engagement, it is appropriate to request reimbursement for travel expenses from the county cooperative extension office requesting the Master Gardener's services.
All reimbursements and gifts must be receipted directly into their home base county Penn State Cooperative Extension (PSCE) Program Account. Checks shall be made payable to PSCE- "_________ County", PSCE Program Fund or other appropriate PSCE account. Checks shall be turned over to the office bookkeeper in a timely fashion for deposit into the office program account.
When making recommendations, which include the use of fertilizers and pesticides, Master Gardeners must follow current cooperative extension recommendations. Horticultural problems which are not specifically covered by extension recommendations should be referred to an extension educator or faculty member. Questions concerning commercial production of crops and pest control on such crops should be referred to an extension educator or faculty member.
I have read and understand the Penn State Master Gardener Program Policy Statement and agree to comply with the guidelines and fulfill the commitments required. I also understand that failure to comply with the above guidelines and policies may result in dismissal from the Penn State Master Gardener Program at the discretion of the supervising extension educator and or County Extension Director.
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Name (signature) Date/County
Revised: 5/06 -
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