Master Gardener Program

History

In 1972, an innovative Extension Service agent in the State of Washington reasoned that well trained volunteers could answer many everyday homeowner questions, freeing him and his colleagues for more technical and difficult problems. The Extension agent selected, trained, and certified volunteers as Master Gardeners. They soon succeeded in meeting his desired objectives. In fact, they exceeded his expectations, and so it was that the Master Gardener Program began.

Since that time, the Master Gardener Program has grown and is now active in forty-five states. Florida's program began in 1979. The program has been a tremendous success and is now active in fifty-six of Florida's sixty-seven counties. The Florida Master Gardener Program is sponsored by the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), of which the Cooperative Extension Service is a part.

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Brevard County's Master Gardener Program

Brevard County was one of the first three counties in the state to instigate the Master Gardener Program. Currently we have approximately 163 active Master Gardeners. The main ways in which they help us is by answering homeowner questions over the phone at both offices and by staffing Master Gardener Plant Clinics in ten locations throughout the county. Currently we are looking for Master Gardeners to help answer the phones and assist walk-ins at our Cocoa office or to assist at any of our MG clinic locations.

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Policies

The title, "Florida Master Gardener", is to be used only and exclusively in the Florida Cooperative Extension Service Master Gardener Program in which trained and certified Master Gardeners answer gardening questions. Master Gardeners are expected to use the title only when doing unpaid volunteer educational work in the Extension Horticulture program.

Florida Master Gardeners are advised not to advertise their names or their place of business, nor to be listed on advertisements of business places as Master Gardeners. This is a University of Florida / Florida Cooperative Extension Service public service program. Appearing at a commercial activity, having association with commercial products, or giving implied University of Florida Extension Service endorsements of any product or place of business is improper.

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Requirements

To become a Master Gardener you would receive approximately fifty hours of training in various areas of horticulture and agree to volunteer seventy five hours the first year and 35 hours each year you wish to remain active. There is currently a charge of $200 for the class, with $140 refunded after a minimum of fifty volunteer hours have been met.

The main criteria for choosing volunteers includes: a passion for gardening, desire to help people, a thirst for knowledge, and the availability for volunteering during the weekdays.

Benefits

Here are some of the benefits of being a Master Gardener:

  • continually learning new things about gardening, insects, etc.;
  • the opportunity to go to Gainesville every year to attend the master gardener continue training conducted by University of Florida professors and other Master Gardeners;
  • receiving ten issues of the Brevard Country Master Gardener Newsletter;
  • the opportunity to attend field trips throughout the state; and
  • the chance to attend meetings and hear guest speakers.

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Classes

The class is usually held January through March on ten consecutive Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the Agricultural Center in Cocoa. If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, please print and complete an application (pdf) and mail it to:

  • Brevard County Extension Service
    Attn: Master Gardener Program
    3695 Lake Dr.
    Cocoa, Fl 32926

You can also call (321) 633-1702 (from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays) to ask to be put on a mailing list. Generally, applications for the MG class are sent out in August, with interviews held in September. Usually, the class is chosen by October.

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