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Volunteerism comes in many different forms and fashions. Everyone knows it takes a special kind of person to be a volunteer. As we are just winding down National Master Gardeners Week, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the great group at Washington State University, I would like to bring awareness to a fantastic group of volunteers you may not even know exists – the Extension Master Gardener℠ Volunteers. These volunteers serve in over 80 of the 101 North Carolina Cooperative Extension Centers across our great state. Collectively, they consist of over 3500 individuals. In 2022 they contributed 198,628 volunteer hours that NC State valued at 5.9 million dollars. Their efforts reached over 188 thousand N.C. residents. The 2020 National Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program estimated at least 84,700 EMG volunteers throughout the United States and Washington, D.C. contributed 3.1 million hours educating others, and helped people use gardening to grow food, improve their physical and mental health, and address environmental issues. Conservatively, these efforts are estimated to contribute 88 million dollars in value to the general public. Forty states participated in this report. With all these fantastic numbers, now you may wonder just what else they do.
First, to become a N.C. Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer you must attend a fairly intense training and successfully pass the exam. Then you commit to completing 40 hours of volunteerism within a year of passing the exam. That completes your internship. After this, you commit to annually volunteer 20 hours and seek 10 hours of continuing education that is approved by N.C. Cooperative Extension. So, what drives a person to make this kind of commitment when there is no compensation or material reward for such dedication? Of course, we are gardeners first and foremost, but that is only the glue that bonds us together. For most, it is the personal satisfaction of making a difference in the community or maybe one on one in another person’s life. That desire alone can provide many, many ways to reach others in various aspects of our lives. I continue to be amazed that working as a horticulture agent I am allowed to serve folks in many unsuspecting ways.
Again, so what do they actually do? Our local group helped extend the reaches of North Carolina Cooperative extension, Robeson County Center’s horticulture program. The following is printed at the bottom of every printed meeting agenda: “To help residents of Robeson Count improve the quality of life by putting research- based horticultural knowledge into use in accordance with guidelines of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service”. Our group may not be the largest in the state, but as one volunteer said, “We may be small but we are mighty.” I am extremely proud of our volunteers and their accomplishments. They have created a pollinator-friendly demonstration garden in the parking lot median of the boat landing at Princess Ann State Park for visitors to not only admire, but learn from and maybe replicate in their own landscape. Most recently RobCo’s group raised the money for and installed a Medicine Wheel Garden on the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair grounds in honor of our indigenous Lumbee people. I am very proud of Robeson County’s Extension Master Gardeners and all the efforts they devote to the citizens of Robeson County. Thank you volunteers for all you do!
For more information, contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticultural Agent, at 910-671-3276, by Email at Mack_Johnson@nscu.edu, or visit our website.