Master Gardeners Make a Difference! - April 14, 2010
Jeff Schalau, Associate Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources
University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County

Many people have heard of Master Gardeners, but they may not know exactly what they do or how to become one. Master Gardeners are knowledgeable volunteers that have completed a comprehensive horticultural training course and extend that information to others through volunteer service in their communities. There are over 60,000 Master Gardeners in the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S., the Master Gardener Program is affiliated with the Land Grant University System and Cooperative Extension.

In Yavapai County, Master Gardeners must complete 50 hours of volunteer service within a year of taking the course to become “Certified”. Master Gardeners maintain certification by volunteering at least 25 hours and completing 6 hours of continuing education per year. Volunteer opportunities are numerous. Master Gardeners assist me by answering questions from the public on our two office hotlines. Some other volunteer activities include: staffing booths at fairs and community events; assisting with school and community gardens; special educational projects; organizing conferences; fundraising; and providing educational presentations to diverse public groups. Of course, they do all these activities without compensation and do not use their Master Gardener title for personal gain.

We have 159 active Master Gardeners in Yavapai County. There are also 34 additional Associate Master Gardeners that will soon finish the 15-week training course and begin volunteering. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is teaching and coordinating the Master Gardener training course. Some of our 2009 highlights were community gardening presentations by the Speaker’s Bureau and a mentoring program for Associate Master Gardeners to help them become certified. Another major project is an on-line native plant database that will soon be open to the public. We also hold monthly Master Gardener Association (MGA) meetings where guest speakers share expertise and provide continuing education. These meetings are typically attended by 40-50 Master Gardeners.

As the Cooperative Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, I stay fairly busy and rely heavily on Master Gardeners to assist the public with insect identification and management, plant diseases, and general horticultural information. In 2009, Yavapai County Master Gardeners documented 15,997 hours of service. Using the Independent Sector’s value of volunteers ($20.25/hr), the contribution of Master Gardeners to Yavapai County communities was $323,575 for the year. This reached 3,461 county residents through face-to-face consulting, 1,185 residents by phone, and 290 via e-mail. The Speaker’s Bureau also gave 37 presentations to various community groups that reached 978 residents. As you can see, Master Gardeners are an important resource to Yavapai County communities.

Of course, it takes many good people to sustain a successful Master Gardener program, but I’d like to recognize a few of our key players. Cynthia Cartier of Prescott was the 2009 MGA President and Bob Burke of Rimrock is the current MGA President. Camp Verde Master Gardener, Nora Graf, has edited our monthly newsletter, Yavapai Gardens, for over 14 years. Mary Barnes of Chino Valley serves as the Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator. The back issues of Yavapai Gardens and more information about the Yavapai County Master Gardener Program are available on our website:

So, if you have gardening questions, talk to a Master Gardener. Their contact information is included below. If you would like to talk to a Master Gardener face-to-face, our Cottonwood office is located at 2657 Village Drive in Verde Village near the intersection of Hwy 260 and Western Drive. We also have a Prescott office. Master Gardeners are usually available to serve you Monday through Thursday between 9 am and 3 pm (we are closed during the noon hour at both offices).

People often ask me if I am a Master Gardener and the answer is always “no”. I get paid for what I do and Master Gardeners are unpaid volunteers. Master Gardeners are devoted volunteers that truly make a difference in Yavapai County and they look forward to serving you!

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension has publications and information on gardening and pest control. If you have other gardening questions, call the Master Gardener line in the Cottonwood office at 646-9113 ext. 14 or E-mail us at and be sure to include your address and phone number. Find past Backyard Gardener columns or submit column ideas at the Backyard Gardener web site:

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Arizona Cooperative Extension
Yavapai County
840 Rodeo Dr. #C
Prescott, AZ 86305
(928) 445-6590
Last Updated: June 21, 2010
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