Master Garderners mark 25th anniversary

LITTLE ROCK — About 1,000 Arkansas Master Gardeners were expected in Little Rock on Monday to mark the 25th anniversary of the program’s founding.

“The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service started a Master Gardener volunteer program 25 years ago with a class of 30 people,” said Janet Carson, extension horticultural specialist. “Today, we have more than 3,200 volunteers in 65 of Arkansas’ 75 counties.”

Master Gardeners is an education and volunteer program that offers 40 hours of education to those who are gardening enthusiasts in exchange for 40 hours of volunteer work. After the first year, Master Gardeners are required to obtain 20 hours of continuing education and pay back 20 hours of volunteer service.

“Their handiwork is visible in counties across the state from beautification projects in local communities, to demonstration gardens in schools and nursing homes, to farmer’s market projects, educational seminars and annual plant sales,” Carson said. “These trained volunteers share their knowledge and spread their passion for gardening all across Arkansas.”

In 2012, the Master Gardener program had 3,234 members who reported more than 55,000 learning hours and more than 118,500 service hours.

“We see people of all ages and backgrounds, both men and women come together with one thing in common — a love of gardening,” she said. “This connection quickly unites them into a force to be reckoned with — and the results are pretty amazing.”

Monday’s events began at Fellowship Bible Church in west Little Rock, where Master Gardeners were taking part in seminars and other education opportunities. From there, buses were to take them to Moss Mountain, the Little Rock home of P. Allen Smith, television host and author.

To learn more about the Arkansas Master Gardener program visit www.arhomeandgarden.org/master_gardener.htm, or contact a county extension office.