Even in the age of innovation, gardening is still a beloved activity for numerous. The gardening renaissance inspired by the pandemic has actually caused a boost in those seeking to work on their green thumb, however many fledgling gardeners require training and abilities to prosper in their new pastime. This is where UConn Extension’s Master Gardener program can be found in.
While numerous programs had a hard time to switch to an online design in the early days of the pandemic, the UConn Extension Master Gardeners were all set and continued offering guideline, thanks to forward-thinking changes the group began in 2017.
The Master Garden enthusiast program wasn’t always in this position. It’s provided nationally through the Cooperative Extension System, and Connecticut’s very first classes were kept in 1978. Participants receive horticultural training and an accreditation through a procedure that includes a community outreach element. The program starts each year with the 16-week class part where interns, the term utilized for students, meet weekly for a full-day of learning. After examinations, they volunteer in the 9 statewide Master Garden enthusiast locations, one at each Extension Center and the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford. They supply neighborhood members with horticultural-related information under the instructions of Extension’s local Master Gardener organizers.
Program graduates stay active by finishing yearly volunteer hours and going to Garden Master classes. These volunteers assist coach new students and lead signature tasks throughout the state. On-demand resources on the program site also help those interested to fill knowledge spaces.
Conveniently making the pivot to online alternatives
“We have more online offerings and will continue to considering that they’ve been so well-received by the public,” says Sarah Bailey, the state program planner. “Digital experiences are the norm now and individuals want options for learning from another location due to the fact that it’s something we have actually become accustomed to during the pandemic.”
Bailey assumed the role of state program organizer, in addition to her role as Hartford County Master Gardener organizer, in the fall of 2016. She wanted to make the program more accessible, given that the eight-hour weekday class primarily attracted retirees. Jean Madden-Hennessey was employed as an instructional technology expert and the Tolland County Master Garden enthusiast organizer in 2017 to help move the program into a hybrid online design. The group spent one year preparing and transitioning to the online design before the launch of the hybrid course in January 2018.
By the time the pandemic started, Extension’s Master Garden enthusiast program was comfortable online. While Master Garden enthusiast programs in other states had a break in classes throughout the pandemic, UConn Extension’s program rotated and continued offering life transformative education.
That need for virtual knowing chances has remained strong as COVID-19 restrictions diminished. Half of the applications for the 2022 program class selected the online alternative. While the Master Gardener program will not remove in-person programs, the online option will constantly be used in some format. The Garden Master classes, one-time offerings on specialized topics, plainly show the preference for online choices.
“Individuals prefer online for some classes, and it widens who you can reach,” Madden-Hennessey adds. “Gardening is a pastime for numerous and interns and volunteers like being able to sit and learn while being comfy in your home.”
Fulfilling a cravings for understanding with growing choices
The gardening renaissance prompted brand-new course offerings too. An online Basics of House Gardening series was included, supplying people with an a la carte gardening education experience. Modules in the series include core principles, environmental aspects, ornamental plants, and growing your own foods.
“A big location where we’re seeing this transformation is in how our customer public is reaching us and getting information,” Bailey states. “We are reaching them and ensuring they get the details they need at libraries and farmers’ markets, and we did that prior to the pandemic. It’s also online access, with Facebook Live and WebEx occasions. We want them to reach us practically and then have a discussion about their garden questions. We want people to know that the Master Garden enthusiast program is here and accessible.”
Extension’s Master Gardener program continues developing and serving a wider audience.
“Master Garden enthusiast interns and volunteers have an individual connection to their communities,” states Bailey. “They’re passionate members and fans of their programs, where they have a sense of community, and become ambassadors for UConn through their work.”
Individuals in UConn Extension’s Master Garden enthusiast program invested the equivalent of 5,027 days discovering with the organizers, trainers, and program volunteers in 2021. That was 120,640 hours total of class time spent in plant pathology, diagnostics, ornamental plants, soil health, and entomology, among other subjects. There was a total of 1,508 non-traditional trainees statewide. Learning spaces consisted of physical classrooms, labs, garden spaces, and online.
The Master Garden enthusiast program belongs to UConn Extension in the College of Farming, Health and Natural Resources. Applications are due October 14, 2022, for the complete program. Discover more about upcoming courses.
Follow UConn CAHNR on social media