Growing into a Master Gardener

It was always a goal of mine to be a master gardener, but it was one that I set aside for retirement when I would have more time to devote to it. So that time is now! The purpose of this blog is to document my journey in completing the master gardener volunteer program offered by the U of M Extension Services. Since everyone’s background and goals are different, I realize this is only one person’s journey. My goal is to illuminate some of the intricacies of the program and share what I have gained from being an intern for those who might be considering becoming a master gardener volunteer.Vicki Olson

+ About Me
Vicki Olson

I have loved gardening my entire life and that love has been nurtured by friends and family along the way. My grandmother lived on the outskirts of a small town in South Dakota and practiced the farm to table concept with a large vegetable garden and chickens running around the backyard. My mother had several three huge flower gardens bordered by strawberry plants and there was a large swath of woods behind us, perfect for investigating frogs, salamanders, garter snakes, lightening bugs and all other types of insects. Rows of home canned fruits and vegetables lined the shelves in our basement.

I have lived in multiple houses in South Minneapolis and Minnetonka with each of them
presenting different opportunities and challenges. I have fond memories of hanging out at garden centers on a Sunday afternoon, new to learning about perennials and tracking their blooms – and participating in a community garden with relatives. Raising a family and working full time in healthcare made for a little less time for education but each spring brought the excitement of a new year of possibilities and experimentation. Now I have completed the hardscaping on my current urban yard and am looking forward to getting back to improving the lawn and gardens.

Issue #1 Application Process

I happened upon the deadline for application for the master gardener volunteer program quite by accident. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that the 2022 application deadline was October 1st, two days away! I was pleasantly surprised when I downloaded the application to find that the goals of the program were much more inclusive of many of my retirement volunteer goals than I expected. See the priorities here:

The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener volunteer program

The first four priorities made perfect sense to me, but I didn’t realize that the focus on local food would be align with the food insecurity issues that were so prevalent during the pandemic. It was also exciting to see the climate change and nearby nature as priorities, two things that I really wanted to incorporate into my volunteer work. I had this aha moment of, “This is meant to be!”

I submitted my application in the nick of time. The application had 30 questions, so it did take some time to think through. I am glad I had done a rough draft and then refined my answers for entering into the final application online.

A couple of weeks later, I received an email describing the next step of the process which is a short presentation by the county extension educator and interview by a master gardener and intern pair.  The interview was done in a breakout room of the zoom call, and it was fun to talk with like-minded people – lovers of gardening.  There is something infectious about being around people that have the same passion that you do.

Yay! On October 29th, I was accepted into the program! So excited! Now I just need to complete my background check and safety of minors training. Then I will need to sign up for the CORE Course by December 1 which starts in early January. The CORE course is the name for the curriculum for the master gardener volunteer program.  There is a cost involved so they had asked during the interview process if this is something you can commit to (although there are scholarships available).