Even in the age of innovation, gardening is still a cherished leisure activity for lots of. The gardening renaissance inspired by the pandemic has caused a boost in those looking to work on their green thumb, however lots of fledgling garden enthusiasts need training and abilities to be successful in their new hobby. This is where UConn Extension’s Master Garden enthusiast program comes in.
While lots of programs had a hard time to switch to an online model in the early days of the pandemic, the UConn Extension Master Gardeners were all set and ongoing offering guideline, thanks to forward-thinking changes the team started in 2017.
The Master Garden enthusiast program wasn’t always in this position. It’s offered nationally through the Cooperative Extension System, and Connecticut’s first classes were held in 1978. Individuals get horticultural training and a certification through a procedure that consists of a neighborhood outreach component. The program begins each year with the 16-week classroom part where interns, the term used for students, satisfy weekly for a full-day of knowing. After exams, they volunteer in the nine statewide Master Gardener locations, one at each Extension Center and the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford. They offer community members with horticultural-related information under the direction of Extension’s local Master Garden enthusiast coordinators.
Program graduates stay active by completing yearly volunteer hours and attending Garden Master classes. These volunteers help coach brand-new students and lead signature tasks throughout the state. On-demand resources on the program site likewise help those interested to fill understanding spaces.
Comfortably making the pivot to online options
“We have more online offerings and will continue to because they have actually been so popular by the public,” says Sarah Bailey, the state program organizer. “Digital experiences are the standard now and people want options for finding out remotely due to the fact that it’s something we have actually ended up being accustomed to throughout the pandemic.”
Bailey presumed the role of state program planner, 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 mainly drew in senior citizens. Jean Madden-Hennessey was employed as an instructional innovation professional and the Tolland County Master Garden enthusiast planner in 2017 to assist move the program into a hybrid online model. The team spent one year preparing and transitioning to the online design prior to the launch of the hybrid course in January 2018.
By the time the pandemic began, Extension’s Master Garden enthusiast program was comfy online. While Master Garden enthusiast programs in other states had a break in classes during the pandemic, UConn Extension’s program rotated and continued offering life transformative education.
That need for virtual knowing opportunities has stayed strong as COVID-19 constraints dwindled. Half of the applications for the 2022 program class selected the online choice. 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 subjects, plainly suggest the preference for online alternatives.
“People choose online for some classes, and it broadens who you can reach,” Madden-Hennessey includes. “Gardening is a hobby for numerous and interns and volunteers like being able to sit and discover while being comfortable in the house.”
Satisfying a hunger for understanding with growing alternatives
The gardening renaissance prompted brand-new course offerings as well. An online Principles of House Gardening series was added, providing individuals with an a la carte gardening education experience. Modules in the series include core fundamentals, ecological elements, decorative plants, and growing your own foods.
“A huge location where we’re seeing this improvement remains in how our customer public is reaching us and getting info,” Bailey says. “We are reaching them and making sure they get the details they need at libraries and farmers’ markets, and we did that prior to the pandemic. It’s also online gain access to, with Facebook Live and WebEx occasions. We want them to reach us virtually and then have a conversation about their garden concerns. We want people to know that the Master Garden enthusiast program is here and available.”
Extension’s Master Gardener program continues developing and serving a broader audience.
“Master Gardener interns and volunteers have an individual connection to their neighborhoods,” says Bailey. “They’re enthusiastic members and fans of their programs, where they have a sense of community, and end up being ambassadors for UConn through their work.”
Participants in UConn Extension’s Master Garden enthusiast program invested the equivalent of 5,027 days finding out with the organizers, instructors, and program volunteers in 2021. That was 120,640 hours overall of class time spent in plant pathology, diagnostics, ornamental plants, soil health, and entomology, to name a few topics. There was a total of 1,508 non-traditional students statewide. Learning spaces consisted of physical class, labs, garden areas, and online.
The Master Gardener program is part of UConn Extension in the College of Farming, Health and Natural Resources. Applications are due October 14, 2022, for the full program. Learn more about upcoming courses.
Follow UConn CAHNR on social media