Master Gardener Volunteer Program Policy

What is the Master Gardener Program?

The Master Gardener Volunteer Program is a national program and in Maine is part of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. The overall objective of the Master Gardener Program is to educate home gardeners, address community efforts related to horticulture and support the educational mission of the UMaine Extension. The mission of the UMaine Extension is to help Maine people improve their lives through an educational process that uses research-based knowledge focused on issues and needs.

Individuals apply for enrollment in the Master Gardener Volunteer training program to learn about horticulture. This training involves both classroom and hands-on experience.  After their basic training, Master Gardeners volunteer a minimum of 40 hours of their time to develop, adapt and extend research-based horticultural information and educational programs to the residents of their respective county. Trainees will become a Certified Master Gardener Volunteer after successful completion of the training and 40-hours of volunteer time in an approved outreach project.  Acceptable projects include garden/environmental exhibits, lectures or public presentations, and garden demonstration projects that are open and accessible to the public. Such activities may also include:

  • Ongoing York County Master Gardener Volunteer Programs and Projects (see Master Gardener projects list).
  • Presentations to garden clubs, service organizations, schools and other community groups
  • Coordinating donations and/or growing food for Maine Harvest for Hunger
  • Writing horticulture related articles for local newspapers, newsletters, magazines, and websites
  • Educational gardening activities such as advising schools or community garden efforts, and projects located at public sites such as parks, historic properties or other public open spaces.
  • Designing and/or producing educational exhibits or teaching aides
  • Participating in special garden-related efforts to reach citizens with disabilities or who are disadvantaged

All projects require the approval of the Master Gardener Program Coordinator.


Any resident of Maine interested in studying horticulture and volunteering in community gardening projects may apply to the Master Gardener Volunteer Program. Since we usually receive more applications than we can accommodate, applications are subject to screening for county residence, gardening and community service experience.

If you are a person with a disability and will need any ac­commoda­tions to participate in this program, please call the UMaine Extension Office in York County at 207-324-2814 to discuss your needs.  Please contact the Master Gardener Program Coordinator two weeks prior to the start of the training to assure the fullest possible attention to your needs.

Initial Training

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension will provide a minimum of 40 hours of Master Gardener volunteer training. Training will be interactive with lecture, hands-on learning demonstrations, and self-directed learning activities. Class participation, discussions, presentations and quizzes will be used to monitor the progress of volunteers.


The title of Certified Master Gardener Volunteer is awarded to participants who successfully complete both the training program and the 40 hours of volunteer time within a specified time. Participants must attend at least 80% of all training sessions (including all “core” classes); demonstrate knowledge and skills by achieving a score of at least 70% on the final exam.  Individuals requiring special accommodation should make arrangements with the county Master Gardener Coordinator.

Master Gardener Volunteers Hours

The purpose of this policy is to clearly define for MGVs and University of Maine Cooperative Extension staff what constitutes appropriate volunteer hours. This policy includes both MGVs in training who are working towards their initial certification requirement of 40 hours of volunteer time and certified MGVs who are continuing in “active status” and who are required to volunteer at least 20 hours each year to remain active.

There are three categories of volunteer hours for MGVs; all are of equal importance in meeting our MGV Plan of Work goals and improving the lives of Maine people. We refer to these hours as Administrative, Community, and Education.

  • Administrative volunteer hours include time conducting leadership and/or organizational activities of MGV programs and projects. Administrative time would include time spent planning and conducting meetings, developing communications, emails, and letters, conducting surveys, entering data and other tasks involved in managing an MGV project or supporting the state Home Horticulture Plan of Work. For example, a volunteer may serve as a local project coordinator for Maine Harvest for Hunger in a particular county. At the discretion of the county MGV coordinator, volunteers may also receive credit for time providing general support for University of Maine Cooperative Extension. This can include serving on the county Executive Committee, providing general administrative support, assisting with office upkeep, or other duties as approved.
  • Community hours are contributed while working on approved MGV community projects that are non- educational but which are in support of our University of Maine Cooperative Extension MGV mission. Such volunteer hours include time conducting approved community beautification projects, gleaning fields or growing food for Maine Harvest for Hunger, working to assist people who for reasons of age or physical disability need a helping hand to continue their passion for gardening in programs such as Garden Angels.
  • Education hours are contributed while teaching or preparing MGV presentations or other University of Maine Cooperative Extension educational programs, answering horticulture questions, developing educational materials, demonstration gardens, displays and resources, and writing newsletter articles or publications.

All MGV hours need to be conducted in conjunction with programs and projects which meet the approval of the county MGV Coordinator. Weight may be placed on certain types of hour categories if needed. County MGV coordinators may require participation in particular projects.

The honor system is used to report valid hours using MGV report forms (paper or online) available through the county programs. They are subject to review and approval by the county MGV coordinator.

Travel to and from volunteer Master Gardener Volunteer Programs

Travel time may be reported on your Volunteers Report for volunteer hours. Time spent traveling while conducting MGV volunteer projects may be included in your volunteer hours contributed. We encourage volunteers to track mileage traveled as a University of Maine Cooperative Extension MGV as you may claim that as a tax deduction. Mileage and time spent traveling to and participating in educational programs for your ongoing learning does not constitute volunteer hours.

New First Year Master Gardener Trainees Working Towards Certification

As a new first-year York County Master Gardener Volunteer-trainee working towards certification, at least 30 of your required 40 hours are to be within one or more of the established projects outlined in the Master Gardener Project List (Kids Can Grow, Maine Harvest for Hunger, Laudholm, Plant Sale and Raffle, Garden Angel, Workshops, Yardscaping, Portland Flower Show) The remaining 10 hours in your first year can be in a community project of your choice, as long as it is an approved project. Any MGV can propose a project for approval. Project Approval Form.

Continuing Active Master Gardener Volunteers

As a continuing Master Gardener Volunteer, you are required to volunteer 20 hours per year to maintain your active status. For your 20 hours, you might like to create your own community project and request approval. Project Approval Form.

Projects are approved based on their educational aspect, value to the community (without simply allowing you to become an organization’s unpaid gardener), and adherence to the policies of the UMaine Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program.

Calculating Master Gardener Volunteers Hours

MGVs may consider reporting hours trivial, but the importance of this is critical to the success and continued support of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Quantifying time invested in these activities and the number and diversity of people reached through our activities are important measures that demonstrate the worth of the MGV program to the public and University of Maine Cooperative Extension funders. Potential funding is more easily attained when significant efforts and impact can be proven. The ability to successfully compete for funding is critical to our financial survival. MGVs should be made aware of the value in reporting their activities and time spent in service.

Valid Master Gardener Volunteers Hours

  • Any volunteer time accepted or approved by the county MGV Coordinator (Extension staff in charge of the local program) counts as volunteer hours. University of Maine Cooperative Extension MGV Coordinators may request some of the volunteer’s time be spent on a specific project or type of volunteer project.
  • Attendance at educational programs where MGVs are receiving further training does not count as volunteer hours.
  • Travel time to and from a volunteer activity may count toward volunteer hours.
  • An example of time spent on activities which are typically NOT approved by the county MGV Coordinator might include setting up chairs at a local garden club meeting.
  • An example of time spent on activities which are typically approved by the county MGV Coordinator might include teaching a gardening seminar to the local garden club and clearly doing such in your role as a University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

*Any questions regarding what constitutes volunteer time should be directed to the local MGV Coordinator.

Use of the title “Master Gardener Volunteer”  

The title Master Gardener Volunteer should only be used by individuals trained in a UMaine Cooperative Extension program. The title is valid only when used by an active MGV who is participating in a program approved by the county MGV Coordinator. When an individual ceases to be active in the Master Gardener Volunteer program, their designation as a Master Gardener Volunteer ceases.

  • The title Master Gardener Volunteer should not be used in a manner that implies University of Maine Cooperative Extension endorsement of any person, product, or place of business.
  • The title Master Gardener Volunteer should be used only when doing unpaid volunteer work for University of Maine Cooperative Extension. When experienced MGVs speak before groups on horticultural subjects, they may accept unsolicited reimbursements (such as reimbursements for expenses) or non-monetary gifts. If an organization such as a garden club or Adult Education Program offers an honorarium, such funds should be donated to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension MGV program in that county to support on-going projects. It is inappropriate, however, to seek speaking engagements for pay while participating in an authorized University of Maine Cooperative Extension activity and using the title Master Gardener Volunteer.
  • Master Gardeners trained and/or certified from other areas: Individuals who have completed the Master Gardener Volunteer Training in another state or county in Maine may be certified as a Master Gardener in Maine. This certification is approved by the county Master Gardener Coordinator.

Continuing Certification

Master Gardener Volunteers who wish to remain certified and active in the program must continue to volunteer at least 20 hours per year and periodically attend advanced training opportunities. These opportunities include field days, tours, or special workshops and courses.  There is no fee for continuing as a Master Gardener Volunteer.  University of Maine Cooperative Extension county offices must update contact information for each active MGV annually.  The University of Maine also requires that Volunteer Standards of Behavior, Photo Release and Non-Discrimination forms be kept on file in each office for the current year.

MGVs may make arrangements with the coordinator for a temporary leave of absence.

Time/Activity Records

Master Gardener Volunteers are required to complete a monthly report of their activities, including project information, time spent and contacts made. This minimal record-keeping process helps the local University of Maine Cooperative Extension staff monitor the progress and effectiveness of individuals’ outreach efforts.  Volunteer reports can have a great impact on future funding for this program.

Pesticide Recommendations

Because the University of Maine Cooperative Extension is liable for its advice, and because pesticide recommendations for organic or synthetic products change constantly, only University of Maine Cooperative Extension personnel may recommend pesticides. Master Gardener Volunteers are encouraged to refer all requests for pesticide recommendations to the county Extension office or the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Pest Management Office, 491 College Avenue, Orono, Maine 04473; Telephone 1.800.287.0279; or at the UMaine Extension IPM website.


There is a fee, $220, for the basic MGV Training course. This fee is consistent statewide and covers expenses that include an extensive online reference manual, other publications, supplies and meeting expenses.  The fee is due prior to the first day of class following acceptance in the program (if necessary, other payment arrangements can be made). If the fee is a barrier to an individual, he or she may contact the county MGV Coordinator. Limited financial assistance is available. Contact us for more information.

In complying with the letter and spirit of applicable laws and in pursuing its own goals of diversity, the University of Maine System shall not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or citizenship status, age, disability, or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other areas of the University. The University provides reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities upon request. Questions and complaints about discrimination in any area of the University should be directed to: Office of Equal Opportunity, The University of Maine, Room 101, 5754 North Stevens Hall, Orono, ME 04469-5754, telephone (207) 581-1226 (voice and TDD).

We welcome donations to support Master Gardener Volunteer activities.