Master Gardener volunteers make an impact in communities

If you are a regular reader of my column, you are likely familiar with the Ohio State University Extension (OSUE) Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV) program. I have shouted the virtues of this program for many years.

I am pleased to announce that the OSUE MGV program is still thriving in Ohio and is in fact, despite the pandemic, growing.

Ohio has 64 out of 88 counties with an active MGV program. We have over 3,500 active MGVs and many counties are in the process of training new interns.

The MGV program was started by Dr. David Gibby, an Extension Agent in Washington state in 1973. He was overwhelmed with home gardening questions; in the ‘70s gardening was quite popular.

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He developed an idea (the MGV model) to help him answer some of the home gardening questions. The idea was to train interested volunteers in horticulture and home gardening and ask them to commit to volunteer hours to help him with outreach.

Of course, he went to administration and the first thing they said was, “It won’t work!” However, Dr. Gibby went ahead and took a chance and here we are today.

Extension MGVs are in every state in the U.S. as well as Canada, Puerto Rico, and most recently, South Korea. The model of training volunteers to teach others about horticulture as a service to the community is a good model.

In 2020, despite the pandemic, Ohio MGVs rallied and worked in their communities while maintaining their safety. MGVs donated more than 99,000 hours to a variety of projects.

For instance, in Clark County, most of the hours were completed at the Snyder Park Gardens and Arboretum. In Warren County the volunteers work on school gardening projects and with the Glendower Mansion Garden Project and Fort Ancient Native Gardens.

One of the projects in Montgomery County is working with the Dayton Memorial Park Cemetery and Mausoleum, and in Miami County, they have an award-winning school garden program and a teaching garden at the Miami County Fairgrounds.

All counties with programs have projects that focus on the local community’s needs. Most of the counties are focused on food insecurity issues with a variety of projects (community gardens, gleaning, growing vegetables for the food banks, etc.).

All county programs also train at different times of the year. For instance, Butler County is in the process of completing the training this year and Clark County will be training in January 2022.

Training requires 50 hours or more of classroom horticulture content. Counties bring in Extension specialists from around the state as well as local experts.

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Upon completion of the classroom work, interns are required to complete 50 hours of service to the county projects the first year to become certified.

If you are interested in learning more about the MGV program, go to your county’s website. Each county website starts with the county and then add []. For instance, is our website.

Click on the link on the left-hand side for the MGV program. You can learn more about your county and when they train.

If you are interested in the Clark County program, please go to and learn more about the training and requirements.

All volunteers for OSUE are required to complete an online background check and the cost for training in each county may be different.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

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