Training Volunteers across state lines: a regional approach to Master Gardener training in Southeastern Washington and Northern Idaho
Heitstuman, M. D.
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WSU and UI Master Gardener (MG) volunteers provide science-based information on horticulture and environmentally sound gardening practices. However, there is a limited number of Extension faculty in Southeastern Washington and Northern Idaho with the expertise, time and resources to train MG volunteers. The goal of the regional Master Gardener training was to provide a high quality, cost effective training that utilized the resources of both WSU and the UI. Sixty-hours of training was provided to class participants, including web-based on-line learning in 2010. Classes were held each Tuesday afternoon from January through April, with participants from 6 different counties. WSU Asotin County Extension coordinates this training, with fees generated from the classes supporting the local Master Gardener program. Course instructors include WSU and UI faculty representing 6 departments; county-based faculty; nursery owners, MG; weed coordinators and urban foresters. Over 250 individuals have participated in the training since 2002. A survey was administered 8-months after the most recent training, with a 57% response rate. One-hundred percent of the participants said the training increased their horticultural knowledge and their ability to serve as MGs. Seventy-one percent increased their understanding of pest life cycles; 62% increased their ability to choose plants that thrive in local environmental conditions; and 58% increased their ability to diagnose insect pests and plant diseases. Seventy percent indicated that they plan to become MGs in their counties. The regional approach has allowed County Extension Offices to provide a high quality training that meets the needs of local clientele.