Florida Master Gardener Course Offered In Sumter County

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Master Gardener Training

The Master Gardener Training Program is demanding and intensive. Formal classroom work constitutes more than 50% of the 75 hour training period. Subjects include basic botany, soils, fertilizers, vegetables, entomology, citrus, turfgrass, use of (and alternatives to) chemicals,
ornamentals, diseases and related topics. All information is based on the knowledge and research of the University of Florida.

Each weekly session is about seven hours and a portion of each class includes a practical,
hands-on activity related to the theory just presented. Each session concludes with the "most
asked questions" relating to the subject matter. These are the questions most commonly asked by homeowners and serve to prepare the Master Gardener for the day when that first homeowner
question must be correctly answered.

Each trainee is also provided, at a minimal charge, a collection of UF/IFAS books.
This collection contains extensive reference materials from the University of Florida. These materials are used so that Master Gardeners always provide recommendations approved by the University of Florida at Gainesville.

Master Gardeners deal only with homeowner’s questions. The Extension Service Agents
themselves respond to all commercial/professional growers concerns. On completion of the 75-
hour training period, all Master Gardener trainees are required to pass a comprehensive
examination on the materials covered. The trainees will then need to give 75 hours of volunteer time to the Sumter County Master Gardeners. This volunteer time must be completed within one year of the comprehensive examination. Only then can the trainees be certified and be awarded the title of Master Gardener. Once certified, Master Gardeners must abide by a set of policies set out by the University of Florida and IFAS. Those "Policies Regarding Florida Master Gardeners" are attached and should be carefully studied.

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Master Gardener Activities

Most Master Gardener activities center around the Extension Service offices, at least initially. The first twenty volunteer service hours of each new Master Gardener are spent there. This is in fact a continuation of the training as the new members become familiar with the center, its personnel and facilities, and the Extension agents become familiar with their new helpers. The remaining required service hours may be spent in a variety of activities related to some aspect of gardening and contribute to community education and service through Sumter County Extension.

Many Master Gardeners continue their close association with the office by answering
telephone calls in plant clinics, mailing out brochures in response to requests, or by developing
presentations for garden clubs and other civic associations. Others choose to work around the
grounds of the Extension Service Building They may also choose to garden with children at the Sumter County Youth Center.

Master Gardeners may also choose to present classes to the public in these gardens,
helping the typical new-to-Florida homeowner adapt his gardening techniques to the peculiarities
of Florida and Sumter County in particular.

As the Master Gardeners assist the Extension Service Agent and staff, they are in effect
"extending the Extension Service." As such, they provide advice and recommendations which
have been well documented as a result of experimentation and testing and are approved by the
University of Florida.

Other activities include plant clinics conducted throughout the county, manning
information booths at fairs and flower shows, giving presentations at garden clubs, working with
youth groups (4-H, Sumter County Youth Center, etc.), developing community gardens, helping
the disadvantaged and handicapped in gardening, and even such tasks as preparing this
information brochure. There is something for almost every skill at every level. Many Master
Gardeners far surpass the mandatory service hours, with some exceeding several hundred hours in a year.

Training never ceases for the certified and working Master Gardener. Throughout the year, Master Gardeners visit local gardens, nurseries, parks and similar facilities. Specialized knowledge is gained to better enable the Master Gardener to give expert advice.
These monthly outings are also used for planning and status reports on various projects and
information exchange and updates. Many times a brown bag lunch is enjoyed amid flora and
fauna in surroundings rarely seen by the average citizen.

IFAS conducts "post-graduate" Master Gardener training at the University of Florida in
Gainesville yearly. This voluntary two-day training session offers Master Gardeners continuing
education as well as to offer time for Master Gardeners from throughout the state to share
information and to receive recognition for the jobs they perform. The training session is presented by State Extension Specialists and Extension Agents who strive to bring all Master Gardeners into “sync” with the latest horticultural developments and provide a look into the future of horticultural research.

The Master Gardener Program is an opportunity to learn and to help others. We hope
that you will become a part of this "growing" experience.
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