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MGV Training, or I Like Using My Brain

August 12, 2015


a few veggies for supper from the garden, mid-July

In February I embarked on getting my Master Gardener Volunteer training through the University of Wisconsin Extention in Dane County. Certification requires attending 16 x 3 hour lectures plus viewing a few additional on-line lectures, 24+ hours of volunteer work in a combination of community gardens, school gardens, farmers market, and the UW Extention teaching gardens, and an exam.  There has also been a large manual to read along the way in preparation for classes.  I tuck my course notes into the binder as well and it will be an excellent resource in the future.  I’ve wielded my highlighter with glee.

I haven’t mentioned the training much because then if I failed or dropped out, I wouldn’t feel as embarrassed.  But I’m nearing the end now and I’m not very worried about making it through.  I have more than exceeded my required volunteer hours (although I have a shift at the farmers market and a shift at a food pantry garden yet to work).  Our last class is next week, at which time we will receive our exam.  We get to work on it for two weeks at home, and as I’ve kept up with the reading and taken good notes during lecture, I am sure I’ll do fine.

Classes have been very interesting.  We have had lectures on IPM (integrated pest management), plant physiology, organic techniques, plant pests and diseases (bugs, bacteria, fungus), fruits, compost, vegetables, house plants, perennials, annuals, soils, and more.

Not all of the information was new to me, but sometimes it helps to hear things a different way.  Some of our guest lecturers were highly entertaining, like the entomology specialist who clearly loooooved his beetles, and the veggie gardener who urged us make a detailed plan in the off season and stick to it because, “You can’t trust your summer brain.  Your summer brain is crazy!”

Spending time both in the classroom and the dirt with people who are passionate about plants was an engaging way to spend the last 7 months.  I look forward to continuing to work as a MGV in the future, both through volunteering and continuing education.

I still have a lot to learn.  I think the title Master Gardener Volunteer is misleading.  The “Master” part might be there as a psychological incentive for gardeners with an ego or something, but the true purpose of the program is to be a Volunteer for the Extention.  Being certified doesn’t make me a Master of anything, as a visit to my failing garden this summer will attest.  But at least I am now armed with more knowledge and inspiration, and tools to answer future questions.

If this sounds like fun to you, check it out.  More information can be found here.  Don’t wait too long to check it out for next year – I interviewed in November 2014 for the 2015 program.  I highly recommend it!

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