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MASTER GARDENERS: Might becoming a Master Gardener suit you?

As the gardening season winds down, gardeners always think about the future. What can we do to improve our soil? Enhance our landscape? Ease the workload? What plants have caught our eye? Master gardeners are thinking about the future in a different way.

Master gardeners go through training to help you with gardening challenges. We write, answer questions, do educational presentations, demonstrate, and share horticulture information in a variety of ways. Our training is based on research done at our land grant college, the University of Minnesota, about Minnesota plants, soils, insects, diseases and weather, as well as about emerging horticultural problems that we face. This is information that you can trust—not opinion-based, YouTube information nor magazine articles not applicable to our weather nor to plants that won't thrive or survive in northern Minnesota. We as master gardeners further refine information based on our experience with local conditions. Northern Minnesota is not California, Ohio, Florida, the Pacific Northwest nor is it Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The voice of horticultural information is dwindling in many ways. Although a plethora of information is available online, live information is decreasing and commitment to horticulture is also decreasing. In a survey taken in 2015, only one-third of land grant universities and colleges—charged with disseminating horticultural information to the public since 1914—have separate departments of horticulture. The University of Minnesota has many specific areas of researched horticulture study and degrees but only a minor in the general area of horticulture. We no longer have local extension educators in Minnesota; they were the local sources of horticultural information for homeowners, cities and counties as well as a resource for people earning their living through agriculture—farmers. Although many of these roles have been taken up through well-done, online information, the person-to-person communication and the on-site investigation of problems is largely gone.

Schools are starting school gardens and cities are developing community gardens, but the educational resource of parents and grandparents is lost for so many children because urban living and the lack of a place to work with and in nature. There are problems now with an anticipated shortfall of people trained to fill jobs in agriculture and horticulture. Master gardeners attempt to keep the educational part of the equation going through educational programming of various forms. We develop programming to respond to community requests and needs we perceive. Meeting these needs is a challenge in the rural areas of Minnesota.

Master gardening groups have dissolved in our part of the state as more state programming is focused on urban living. The challenges of logistics with long distances and a lower population base compounds our efforts. Beltrami is one of the few counties in our area with an active master gardening group. It, however, is an aging group with a mounting number going to emeritus status this coming year. We don't have lines of eager volunteers as they do in the Twin Cities willing to make the commitment that it takes to fulfill this role. We need people who have a passion for gardening and sharing that knowledge to join us.

If you are a person interested in gardening, the environment, the very survival of a citizenry that understands the interrelatedness of all parts of nature and our very food security, please consider becoming a master gardener to help educate the people who live here. It is also fun!

Contact the Master Gardener voice mail —(218) 444-5716—to reach a contact to learn more about pursuing this life-satisfying activity!

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