Maine Master Gardener Volunteer Newsletter – Fall 2023

In this issue…

Program Updates

It’s been awhile since our last newsletter and we’ve been busy! We wanted to update you about some of the projects our team has been working on:

  • This year active MGVs will be able to access our new online MGV training! If you are interested, watchout for more information coming soon about how to register to access the online training platform. Active MGVs will receive a large discount on the fee which covers administrative costs. More details on this soon!
  • For the first time ever, we accepted applications to our Master Gardener Volunteers Training through a new online application platform. We appreciate all the staff and volunteers who helped us test the system before it went live!
  • We’re creating a new portal for volunteers that will allow you to enroll, submit your hours, and share your impacts (like Harvest for Hunger donations) all in one place! This will also allow volunteers to view the hours and impacts they report including yearly and lifetime totals! Our goal is to launch this new platform for the 2024 enrollment. 
  • We’re excited for the 2023 – 2024 MGV training to start, staff are currently reviewing over 150 applications. 

Wishing you well,

Pamela Hargest and Becca Long

Co-chairs, UMaine Extension Home Horticulture Team

UMaine Extension Needs Assessment: We need your input!

A message from the UMaine Cooperative Extension Leadership Team:

To help with future planning for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, we have partnered with the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (PIE Center) to collect data to understand the needs of our clients, participants, employees, and partners. We believe the PIE Center will be able to assist UMaine Extension in achieving the following goals:

  • Understand public awareness of UMaine Extension as a brand and a trusted
    source of information.
  • Provide UMaine Extension programming and resources that are based on
    community needs, including but not limited to, historically and currently
    underserved people.
  • Respond to critical issues facing Maine’s population
  • Support rural, suburban, and urban communities.
  • Build upon UMaine Extension’s successes and decide areas of focus for the
  • Remain grounded in the organization’s principles and values, central to the land-grant mission.

Please consider completing the survey, available here: UMaine Extension Statewide Community Needs Assessment Data Collection Portal

The survey closes September 17, 2023 and a paper version is available for those without internet access. Stop by or contact a local UMaine Extension office for a printed copy.

Please visit the website for more information on the UMaine Extension Needs Assessment process.

Thanks for taking the time to complete these questions. We really appreciate it.

Take care,

UMaine Extension Leadership Team

Report your MGV Hours and MHH Donations

Did you know that reporting your volunteer hours, Maine Harvest for Hunger Donations and impacts are essential for us to demonstrate the value of the Master Gardener Volunteers Program to our funders? Long ago you may remember learning that UMaine Extension is funded through our local (county), state, and federal government. The information you share in your volunteer hours report and survey helps create a meaningful story about the impact and importance of the program. 

Reporting takes only a few minutes and is critical to the success and continued support of the UMaine Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program. Please know that reporting your hours is not boastful or trivial. Data about time invested in these activities and the number of people reached are important measures of the worth of the Master Gardener Volunteer Program. Funding is dependent on our ability to show the impact of our volunteers and their efforts.

Thank you to everyone who has been reporting their hours so far this year. If you haven’t reported your hours, please do so here: Reporting Master Gardener Volunteer Hours (bookmark this page!). MGVs have until the end of the year (December 31, 2023) to complete their annual requirement of 20 hours or 40 hours if you are currently working on your certification. If you still need to submit your produce donations for the 2023 season, please submit those using our Maine Harvest for Hunger Reporting Form.

Our goal is to share our statewide impact report for the Master Gardener Volunteers and Maine Harvest for Hunger Programs going forward so you’ll get the chance to see the overall impact of these two incredible programs. Stay tuned for more information in our new newsletter!

See the next newsletter item for instructions on reporting the impacts of your educational and outreach efforts!

2022 Master Gardener Volunteer Success Story
We wanted to share with you all the results of your hard work in 2022 (and show you how all the hours and impacts you report to us get passed along to our funders):

Public and private gardens are important tools for enhancing physical and mental health. They also play a key role in sustaining the health and vitality of our natural communities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, gardening has been on the rise in Maine with our offices experiencing a tremendous influx of gardening questions. As it becomes more and more challenging to sort through information online, Maine gardeners need access to reliable research-based information, now more than ever. Extension trains and supports Master Gardener Volunteers, who help extend University knowledge to their neighbors through the teaching of sustainable gardening practices.

The Master Gardener Volunteers (MGV) program provides participants with a minimum of 64 hours of in-depth training in the art and science of horticulture. Trainees receive current, research-based information from our educators and industry experts and are connected with service projects that match their interests, skill set, and availability. MGV coordinators facilitate relationships between MGVs and community partners; assisting with needs assessment, program planning, risk management, and problem solving. In 2022, Master Gardener Volunteers played a vital role in connecting communities with educational resources through community events, social media and programming. 

The MGV program provides opportunities for gardeners with all levels of experience to connect with meaningful service projects in their community. In 2022, 664 volunteers donated 30,262 hours to a variety of educational and food security projects throughout the state including 23 school gardens, 16 demonstration gardens, 12 horticulture therapy gardens, 13 pollinator and native gardens, and 56 food security projects. Their efforts amounted to the direct reach of 1,744 youth and adults through programming and the indirect reach of 7,452 Maine residents through outreach, news articles, TV features, and more.

As a result of participating in this program, MGVs reported that they:

  • Developed a new garden or expanded an existing one,
  • Adopted sustainable gardening practices including:
    • Techniques which improve soil quality,
    • Practices that improve efficiency,
    • Integrated pest management, and/or
    • Water saving techniques
  • Increased garden yields and consumption of home-grown food, and
  • Used Cooperative Extension to identify pest problems and determine research-based management strategies.

Many volunteers enter the MGV program with the goal of improving their gardening skills for their own personal benefit and leave surprised by how deeply involved and passionate they become about community projects.

Interns: We Have a New Webpage Just For You!

If you’re working on completing your 40 hour Master Gardener Volunteer Internship, checkout the new page just for you in the Toolkit (password: ladybug). On this site you’ll find: 

Maine Master Gardener Volunteers Facebook Group

Do you have gardening questions you’d like to ask fellow volunteers? Or perhaps you are organizing an event or work day you’d like to share? 

Join the Maine Master Gardener Volunteers Facebook Group! This is a private group only open to Maine Master Gardener Volunteers and UMaine Extension Staff. We welcome you to ask gardening questions, share information and opportunities, and get to know each other. As always, remember that the goal of the MGV program is to share reliable, research-based information when providing gardening advice to fellow volunteers and neighbors.

You may join the group by searching ‘Maine Master Gardener Volunteers’ or selecting THIS LINK.

Upcoming Events and Programs

  • Creating Habitat for Backyard Birds (Zoom): Thursday, September 14, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. Free for Master Gardener Volunteers! Register online here.
  • Getting to Know Garden Herbs (Falmouth): Wednesday, September 27, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Sliding scale program fee, $5-$15. Register online here. Only 3 spots left!
  • Maine Hunger Dialogue and Climate Action Summit (Orono): Wednesday, October 11, 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Sliding scale program fee, $0-$50. Register online here.

2023-2024 Online Training Programs (share with your contacts!):

  • Maine Gardener Training: Designed for gardeners who desire a foundation in basic horticulture education and skills for personal use. Recommended for those who would like to access the educational content of the Master Gardener Volunteer training program but do not plan to volunteer. Enrollment for the 2023-2024 training program will open on Tuesday, October 10, 2023 at 12:00 PM and close on Monday, October 23, 2023 at 4:30 PM or when capacity has been reached, whichever is sooner. The course will begin on Monday, November 6, 2023.
  • Maine Horticulture Apprentice Training: Designed for learners interested in exploring a career in horticulture, whether an entry level employee, a high school student, or those interested in changing their career path, it is designed to supply learners with a foundational horticulture education suitable for skilled entry-level positions in the horticulture industry. Developed with input from horticulture industry leaders, this program will prepare learners with the practical horticulture knowledge and skills desired by employers and earn a University of Maine micro-credential. Enrollment for the 2023-2024 training program will open on Monday, October 3, 2023 at noon and will close on Monday, October 23, 2023 at 4:30pm, or when capacity has been reached, whichever is sooner. The course will begin on Monday, October 30, 2023.