It is that time of year again. Master Gardener Volunteer (MVG) hours are due. Since 2004, I have spent the last couple weeks in September recording my continuing education and volunteer hours to maintain my Master Gardener Volunteer Certification. Collecting enough volunteer hours has never been a problem with my history of running a community garden club for elementary students based at one of our schools. Hundreds of hours were spent each year preparing lessons, initiating and maintaining communication with teachers and parents, creating handouts, putting up bulletin boards, and finally teaching the lessons and activities. I gave all that up in June. You might be wondering where I will get my hours from now.
Fortunately, I am finding that it will not be difficult to meet the minimum number of volunteer hours to maintain my Master Gardener Volunteer certification in good standing. Slowly, over the last few years, really starting in 2014, I have been able to grow my network. This has included applying for conference presenter positions, being invited to be a conference speaker, being an invited classroom speaker – in our district and others, and being an invited community speaker for special occasions like environmental day or a pollinator festival.
When I speak to groups, I let them know that part of the mission as a Master Gardener is to share horticultural knowledge with our communities, and that is what brings me to them – my ability to share information on topics in a passionate, engaging way. Master gardeners are an important part of our communities in Wisconsin, and other states, as well. The annual report put out by the Wisconsin Master Gardener organization compiles the important contributions, including financial, for each county. I encourage you to take a look at the report. I was thrilled to find my former group listed on page 48. You might be surprised at all the contributions being made around the state. I can personally account for the youth education hours for the most part, but many other contributions were made as well. Did you know that the current monetary valuation for volunteer time in Wisconsin is $22.48 per hour, according to the above report? Wow! That adds up! Each MGV is expected to perform 24 volunteer hours and obtain 10 hours of approved continuing education hours each year. Even if the minimum number of hours are performed, at the above rate, that is $2,248.00 being contributed to the community in time and expertise, per individual volunteer! This is, in part, why I keep beating the drum about thanking people in the community for what they do! It is important we/they feel valued. It cannot be overstated.
And, although our group has received less and less state funding, along with more and more positions cut, this dedicated association of gardeners keeps plowing ahead, without pay, with their mission to educate, enrich, and enhance our lives with the selfless giving of time, energy, and information. On a state level, in Wisconsin, it is estimated that Master Gardener service to their communities is estimated at a total of 4.5 million dollars! I am proud to be part of such a group.
So, while I do not really care for tabulating my hours each year, I do it. I do it because I want to continue to make a difference by being part of this group. I do it so I can continue to be asked, or to be able to offer, to speak on a subject that I care about because I truly believe in the mission. My motivation for this year is that I will be part of the Spring Into Gardening conference in our city, next March. After presenting at the State Master Gardener Conference in 2015 and the International Master Gardener Conference later the same year, I did not hesitate to jump at the opportunity to speak with a more local group of interested community members.
Master gardeners matter because we work hard to enrich our communities. We work alone, as part of groups, as your neighbor, as your friend, as an educator, and as your partner in learning how to live sustainably by returning to nature, getting our hands dirty, and sharing our bounty – whether that be words of knowledge, inspiration or baskets of vegetables and plant divisions. Master gardeners are volunteers in the best sense of the word, always giving, and taking very little back in return. So, if you know a Master Gardener Volunteer, thank them for their contribution, for it is far greater than you think.