Master gardener: The title conveys authority and expertise.
“Somebody hears you’re a master gardener and suddenly they have a million questions,” said Cathy Power, who took the Linn-Benton County Master Gardener course offered through Oregon State University’s Extension Services last winter.
While master gardeners do receive hours of instruction in botany, composting, vegetable gardening, and other topics, course organizers say the training emphasizes research skills over knowledge.
“The master gardener training is not geared toward making people know everything,” said Signe Danler, a master gardener for more than 20 years and teacher of the online master gardener course. “Master gardeners are researchers.”
Locals interested in obtaining a master gardener certification have the option of either an in-person or online course.
The in-person course for Linn and Benton counties meets once a week for eight weeks in Tangent. The full day of instruction covers topics like soil management, lawn care, and pest identification. The cost is $130 and 66 volunteer hours, and the registration deadline has been extended through Friday, Dec. 23.
For those who can’t make the in-person class, Extension Services offers an online course, which serves the entire state and beyond. To become a master gardener through the online course, students pay $390 and volunteer between 40 and 70 hours, depending on their county. Registration for this course is open through Friday, Dec. 16.
Pami Opfer, the Master Gardener Program Coordinator and an instructor for the in-person class, said one of the most critical components of the course is the volunteers. The county’s extension offices receive thousands of questions each year, and they rely on their corps of volunteer master gardeners to answer them.
“Folks learn just as much in the volunteer payback as they do in the classroom,” Opfer said. “They are getting calls from the public, so they’re figuring out what the real-world issues are, and then they have to research it.”
Power agreed that talking to the public and other gardeners is one of the highlights of becoming a master gardener.
“When you’re interested in something, it’s really nice to talk to other people who are interested in it,” she said. “It really opens you up to the community.”
More information on the Linn-Benton County Master Gardener Program and registration can be found at extension.oregonstate.edu. Registration and information for the online Master Gardener course can be found at pace.oregonstate.edu/catalog/
By Maggie Anderson