For the last 12 years, Chautauqua County’s Master Gardener Program has grown to a fully blossomed program.
Emily Reynolds, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Chautauqua County, recently spoke to the county Legislature’s Planning and Economic Development Committee about the Master Gardener Program.
“It’s a group of volunteers,” she said. “They go through a core training class and they become master gardeners by giving their time after the core training class and they continue to give every year.”
Chautauqua partnered with Cattaraugus County and was able to hire Shannon Rinow in January to serve as the Master Gardener Program coordinator.
Rinow said she’s excited to work in the two counties.
“I’ve really enjoyed working and getting to know all the volunteers in the program. They’re really the backbone of our organization,” she said.
She provided a newsletter to committee members that states, “The mission of the Chautauqua County Master Gardener Program is to educate and serve the community, utilizing university and researched-based horticultural information.”
The focus is to provide reliable fact-based training programs that share the best practice about gardening techniques.
Rinow’s office is on the Jamestown Community College’s Jamestown campus. Since it’s there, they have put in a community garden. “Our master gardeners do a demonstration garden there,” she said.
Once a month, they have a class where the community comes in and they talk about techniques, integrated pest management, weeding, composting and more.
“It’s exciting that we can share this project and demonstrate, and there’s food tasting each month when the vegetables are progressing,” Rinow said.
This summer, the master gardeners are working with a local Girl Scout Troop as well as Job Corp students. During the school year they work with some BOCES programs to put in tower gardens.
Once a week they have a helpline on Wednesdays from noon to 2 pm staffed by the master gardeners. During that time, the public can bring in soil samples for testing purposes, as well as answer questions regarding horticulture or gardening. Some people even bring in bugs for identification purposes.
Reynolds noted the master gardeners are not “worker bees” to care for community gardens, but rather educators who can help community groups start and manage their own garden.
According to Rinow, there are 44 master gardeners in Chautauqua County.
Individuals who would like to become a master gardener must complete the training program and remain current through participation in recommended training opportunities throughout the agreed term of volunteer service.
Training includes a core course in gardening, as well as refresher classes, field trips and workshops to enhance expertise and ability to communicate information related to ecological gardening and related topics to the public.
Each master gardener volunteer is expected to maintain 35 hours of volunteer time, which can be completed through community gardening efforts, educational presentations, fundraising for the Master Gardener Program, professional development meetings, and other gardening projects.
For more information on the Master Gardener Program, visit http://chautauqua.cce.cornell.edu/gardening/master-gardener-volunteers or email Rinow at email@example.com.