In 2016, a roomful of Extension Master Gardener Coordinators across the country sat gasping when the speakers took the stage.
Dr. David Gibby, a prominent silver-haired gentleman, began talking about his childhood in the Southwest in the 1930s. He shared stories about his parents who defined his upbringing and inspired community volunteer programs employed in 49 states.
Gibby’s parents were at an event and wore their Sunday vests. Before they reach their destination, they are stranded with a flat tire in a remote location. A car with teenagers came to the rescue. Gibby accepted the offer, even though she felt uneasy about the stranger.
The teenager said he had to remove the damaged tire and take the tire home to have it repaired. An hour passed, and Mr. and Mrs. Gibby thought they had seen the last tire. Suddenly the teen reappears and mounts the repaired tire. The teenagers left before Gibbys could offer to pay or thank them. Mr. and Mrs. Gibby celebrated this act of kindness and encouraged their children to pay in advance.
Back in the 1970s, David Gibby and his colleague Bill Scheer were overworked as extension agents in Washington State. With questions about home gardens flooding in from rapidly urbanizing areas, his two community-oriented agents were unable to keep up with the burgeoning demand for information. After much deliberation, Gibby and Scheer came up with the concept of the Extension Master Gardener Program.
They recruited and trained volunteers to answer gardening questions and serve community needs. Based on their time spent in Europe, they were familiar with the German tradition of awarding titles to individuals who had mastered a particular profession. rice field.
After some initial setbacks from skeptical administrators, Gibby and Scheer recruited volunteers. 200 applicants were accepted into the program.
Washington State University has developed a 40-hour course to train new applicants, including sessions on houseplants, fruits, lawns, vegetables, plant diseases, insects, weeds, and pesticides. At the end of the training, applicants took a final exam demonstrating their proficiency in the topic. Upon completion of the course, master gardeners were expected to volunteer in public gardening under the supervision of an extension.
The volunteer program is a success and has impacted programs at land grant colleges in 49 states, Canada and South Korea. The Extension Master Gardener program will celebrate his 50th anniversary in 2023.
The program has grown to over 86,000 volunteers in 49 states. In 2018, Master Gardeners has volunteered over 5.6 million hours and educated over 8.6 million people to benefit their communities. David Gibby’s pay-forward ethic is alive and well!
The North Dakota State University Extension Master Gardener Program began in 1980 and currently has over 200 volunteers. In 2022, this generous group has volunteered more than 12,500 hours in his 37 counties in North Dakota. Volunteers grew produce for food pantries, shared science-based gardening recommendations with the public, and worked to beautify their communities.
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