Ad Spot

Community Spirit: Master Gardener Volunteers keep giving back

By Susan Hawkins

Cooperative Extension

The Davie County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers (EMGVs) are well known in their community. But what many people might not know is that this group of volunteers has been around and active in the community for more than 20 years.

The group started, as most Master Gardener groups do, with the need of the county horticulture agent to have help in reaching out to all the homeowners and other community members who need gardening advice. Greg Hoover, who was the agent at that time, held the first Master Gardener training class in Davie County in 1999 with a handful of students. One of them, Rebekah Brown, is still an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (EMGV) in Davie County. He quickly followed up the first class with another one in 2000.

Sarah Wood, who was a student in the class of 2000 is also still a Davie County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer. Over the years, Greg and subsequent agents held more trainings and more volunteers joined the group. Today the group numbers 28 volunteers.

The Davie County EMGVs have been involved in many volunteer activities. They provided gardening advice at public events such as farmers markets, given public talks on gardening, offered gardening classes in schools and assisted with school gardens, had hands-on gardening activities at public school events like Farm Animal Day, assisted and provided gardening advice in community gardens, and completed gardening-related service projects.

The Davie County EMGVs have also run two Junior Master Gardener youth camps in the summer for many years.

The volunteer activities continue to grow. In 2017, they planted a pollinator garden in the Main Street Park in Mocksville. They continue to maintain the pollinator garden and created a Monarch Waystation to provide habitat for Monarch butterflies in the garden.

In 2019, the EMGVs started a foodscape project on East Depot Street in Mocksville. Using existing raised bed planters, they created a garden that mixes ornamentals with vegetable plants –  bringing fresh produce to the area.

This year the EMGVs expanded volunteer activities again.

Diane Salmon, the longtime manager of the Deep Roots Community Garden, moved early this year. Diane asked if the Davie County EMGVs, along with Jesse Ledbetter and the FFA, would take responsibility for the garden at A Storehouse for Jesus. As we head into spring, Davie County EMGVs are working to plant cool season vegetables and to get the garden ready to plant warm-season crops. This year they will also be planting blackberries to supplement the vegetables being grown. Produce grown in the garden is donated to the food pantry at  A Storehouse for Jesus. Plans for the garden are to continue to grow produce for the food pantry, while also making the garden a place where Extension and the FFA can have hands-on learning opportunities in horticulture.

Before someone is allowed to become an EMGV, they must go through an initial training. EMGVs receive a thorough education in home horticulture. The initial training consists of at least 40 hours of balanced, integrated, practical curriculum in soils and soil amendments; introductory plant science; integrated pest management; insect, disease, and weed management; sustainable garden management; pesticide safety; and plant problem diagnosis. The purpose of the education is to prepare the students for their roles as volunteers. EMGVs are also required to participate in at least 10 hours of continuing education each year. The education can range from talks that are given at the monthly EMGV meeting to field trips to botanical gardens.

The heart of being an EMGV is volunteering. After the initial training, the student undergoes an internship where they must complete a minimum of 40 hours of volunteer time in a year in order to become a certified EMGV. Once the EMGV is certified, they are required to volunteer at least 20 hours per year in order to remain certified. Most Davie County EMGVs volunteer many more hours than 20 hours each year.

Initial training classes for the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program will be held in Davie County this fall.

Anyone interested in becoming a Davie County EMGV and joining this dedicated group of volunteers should call Susan Hawkins, the Davie County Horticulture Agent, at 336-753-6100 or email her at susan_hawkins@ncsu.edu.