Master Gardeners a green asset
By Sian Perry
Master Gardeners gave more than $50,000 in volunteer hours to the county in 2008, according to recent report to the Nassau County Commission by Master Gardener Bea Walker.
Master Gardeners locally train under Rebecca Jordi, a horticulture agent with the University of Florida Nassau County Extension. Under her tutelage, the program and its participants have won numerous awards, including the 2008 Florida Master Gardener Award of Excellence for written mass communications.
Interested participants go through at least 50 hours of training sponsored by the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and local county extension offices that includes smattering of everything form gardening to neonatology to soil testing, according to a University of florida press release.
After the training, new master gardeners must serve at least 75 volunteer hours within the first year of certification and 35 hours in subsequent years. To renew their certification after the first year, they must undergo 10 hours of annual training.
Consumer horticulture programs they help to support include landscape Matters classes for county property owners to learn best practices for their Northeast Florida gardens, plant clinics, crash courses in Florida gardening, garden club lectures and newsletters. Jordi also writes a Garden Talk column that runs regularly in the news-Leader.
The Master Gardener program also created and maintains the Demonstration gArden at the James S. Page Governmental Complex in Yulee, where residents can see best practices put to use and get ideas and information for their own gardens.
The 4-h Environmental Horticulture program reached 3,500 youngsters, according to the report, through events such as the annual Ag Extravaganza, Al Literacy, Science Night, summer environmental camps and mentoring Eagle Scout candidates. It also provides a judge for the Northeast Science Fair.
The repot estimates that Master Gardeners gave $57,311 in volunteer hours, including work on projects such as the landscape renovation at the Nassau County Courthouse in downtown Fernandina beach, environmental cleanups supporting Keep Nassau Beautiful, the Demonstration gardena and work on programs such as Buzz Busters, a mosquito control effort, the Ag Extravaganza and Ag Literacy day, and micro-irrigation design and installation.
Volunteers also dedicate hours at the extension's offices, including website management, general support such as answering calls and e-mails, and writing press releases and feature.
For more information about the Master Gardener program, contact Jordi at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit nassau.ifas.ufl.edu, or call the Nassau County extension Yulee office, 86026 Pages Dairy Road, at 548-1116 or 548-1182.