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Master Gardener programs (also known as Extension Master Gardener Programs) are volunteer programs to advise and educate the public on gardening and horticulture. In the US, groups are affiliated with a land-grant university and one of its cooperative extension service offices. Canadian Master Gardener groups have different organizational structures, including incorporation as a charitable non-profit (Ontario) and universities (Saskatchewan.) Typically, Master Gardeners receive extensive training and then provide information to the public via phone or email helplines, speaking at public events, writing articles for publications and the internet, and partnering with other community programs, gardens, and educational facilities.
Master Gardeners are active in all 50 states in the United States and four Canadian provinces. [site needs updating.] According to the 2009 Extension Master Gardener Survey, there are nearly 95,000 active Extension Master Gardeners, who provide approximately 5,000,000 volunteer service hours of per year to their communities. Once volunteers are accepted into a Master Gardener program, they are trained by cooperative extension, university, and local industry specialists in subjects such as taxonomy, plant pathology, soil health, entomology, cultural growing requirements, sustainable gardening, nuisance wildlife management, and integrated pest management.
The first Master Gardener program was founded by Washington State University Cooperative Extension in the greater Seattle area to meet a high demand for urban horticulture and gardening advice. The first trial clinic was held at the Tacoma Mall in 1972. When that was successful, the Master Gardeners Program was officially established, a curriculum created, and training began in King County and Pierce County in 1973. The concept then spread to other U.S. states and Canadian provinces.
The National Extension Master Gardener website is located at http://www.extension.org/mastergardener. There is also a National Extension Master Gardener Blog at http://blogs.extension.org/mastergardener. While the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the eXtension Consumer Horticulture National Committee provide a limited amount of national leadership, the program is mainly county based with statewide coordination. In Canada, the programs are organized provincially with member groups and individual Master Gardeners providing services in local areas.