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Still time to enroll in Colorado Master Gardener Program

By Jim Smith
SUN Columnist

If you have a love of gardening and would enjoy sharing your passion with others, perhaps you should begin thinking about becoming a Colorado Master Gardener.

Those of us who have transplanted to the San Juan Mountains from other states, might find gardening at 7,000 feet a challenge to our gardening skills and sometimes downright frustrating. Do not despair: the Master Gardener Program will help you gain the knowledge, skills and ideas necessary to turn your yard into a fantastic home garden.

To become a Master Gardener, your only prerequisite is to have a passion for gardening. The term “Master Gardener” does not mean that you have expertise in all subject matters related to gardening. The hands-on expertise comes from the 55-plus hour training program, ongoing continuing education opportunities, information provided by the CSU Extension-Archuleta County office and from the knowledge shared by other local Master Gardeners.

The Colorado Master Gardener program is specifically designed to use the services of trained volunteers who have horticultural knowledge and a willingness to share that knowledge with other county residents. Many newcomers and inexperienced gardeners in Colorado are in great need of gardening advice. The Master Gardener training will give you the skills needed to diagnose and solve gardening problems and give you the confidence to share your expertise with others. Master Gardeners provide the following types of services to Archuleta County:

• Answer gardening questions that come into the Extension Office.

• Design programs related to gardening.

• Create and maintain demonstration gardens.

• Work at the Archuleta County Fair and plant clinics.

• Demonstrate new gardening techniques.

• Help educate children about gardening.

• Participate in many other exciting community gardening projects.

The ongoing success of the Colorado Master Gardener program in Archuleta County is largely due to hundreds of volunteer service hours donated by our dedicated Master Gardeners. The public positively benefits by being able to talk with knowledgeable local gardeners face to face and to receive non-biased, research-based information. Besides having fun and meeting new people, there are lots of benefits to becoming a Master Gardener, such as:

• Teaching and sharing gardening skills and information to others, fostering more successful gardeners.

• Helping individuals make informed decisions about gardening and solve gardening problems.

• Using horticulture to empower gardeners, develop partnerships, and build stronger communities.

• Promote environmental responsibility through water conservation and least-toxic pest control.

• Beautify the community by teaching about appropriate plantings for our climate.

• Flexibility to conduct the types of volunteer service you enjoy most.

• Lifelong learning about plants, soil and horticulture with practical classroom instruction and hands-on experiences.

The Master Gardener program and training is conducted by the Colorado State University Extension via distance technology and face-to-face. The Master Gardener training courses are taught by Colorado State University Extension professionals and experts.

Classes typically meet once a week from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. for 11 consecutive weeks. Cost of the training, which includes a copy of the Master Gardener Manual, is $275 per person and must be paid prior to training. Married couples who register together and receive only one copy of the training materials may participate at a reduced price of $445/couple. Those participants who do not wish to participate as a Master Gardener volunteer will be required to pay the full registration cost of $625 for the training.

If you would like to learn more about successful gardening in the Pagosa Springs Area, be sure to call the CSU Extension Office in Archuleta County today at 264-5931 to reserve your space in the 2013 Colorado Master Gardener Program, which begins Jan. 31. Registration will remain open until Dec. 21.

To receive the title “Colorado Master Gardener,” the volunteer must complete the following requirements within the first year:

• Complete the Colorado Master Gardener training program.

• Attend a minimum of 80% of the training classes.

• Complete a minimum of 50 hours of Colorado Master Gardener volunteer service.

To maintain the title of “Colorado Master Gardener,” volunteers must complete the following activities annually:

• Complete a minimum of 24 hours of Colorado Master Gardener volunteer service.

• Complete necessary volunteer reports.

• Attend a minimum of 12 hours of continuing education.

• Pay an annual fee of $25 for program administration and distance learning continuing education.

The Master Gardener program is innovative and flexible in its outreach and works to match volunteer skills and schedules. Each year, Colorado Master Gardeners all over the state help people make the right choices for their garden care. Anyone who would like to play an active role in the education of gardeners of all ages in the Pagosa Springs Area is invited to join our Colorado Master Gardener team.

Volunteering in 4-H

For more than 100 years, 4-H has stood behind the idea that youth are the single strongest catalyst for change. What began as a way to give rural youth new agricultural skills, today has grown into a global organization that teaches kids life skills.

4-H is dedicated to positive youth development and helping youth step up to the challenges in a complex and changing world. 4-H is dedicated to helping cultivate the next generation of leaders and tackling the nation’s top challenges such as the shortage of skilled professionals, maintaining our global competitiveness, encouraging civic involvement, and becoming a healthier society.

How do we maintain the 4-H program? More than 500,000 Volunteers in 71 countries are active in 4-H and developing positive youth relationships with members ranging in age from 5-19. Volunteers are the heart of the 4-H program, without knowledgeable, caring, responsible adults, youth cannot learn, engage, give back or succeed. This is where you come in.

What is a 4-H project?

In the 2011-2012 4-H year, Archuleta County had seven 4-H Clubs, involving 140 youth. These youth participated in 16 projects, such as Rocketry, Scrapbooking, Clothing Construction, Shooting Sports, Veterinary Science, Livestock and Photography. Making these youth successful in their projects were 27 leaders who guided, listened, taught and cared.

Many of these leaders have been involved for more than 10 years and continue to come back year after year because they believe in what they do. Many think that 4-H is all about livestock. Livestock is a huge part of 4-H, don’t get me wrong. It is the basis of which 4-H began 100 years ago. Many of our youth are not capable of housing and caring for any type of livestock animal. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be a part of the same mentoring and caring atmosphere 4-H has to offer.

The 16 projects we offer barely scratch the surface that 4-H has to offer. Projects exist because we have volunteers willing to teach. There is a project for any hobby that you can think of. Cycling, Hiking, Leather craft, Robotics, Wildlife, Gardening, Power of Wind, GPS, Visual Arts and Woodworking are just examples of projects not offered in Archuleta County. These are not offered because we don’t have volunteers to lead them. But the interest is there: kids are always looking for new things to do.

The best part of Volunteering with 4-H is that the research is done for you. Colorado State University, which is Colorado’s land-grant University, supplies all curriculum for every project. That’s right, the work is done for you. Activities, research, outlines and final projects are at your disposal. Volunteers are there to teach, mentor, guide and apply knowledge in a real-world setting. Project groups tend to be small, anywhere from 5-10 kids. But limits can be placed, depending on the safety aspect of the project or what the leader is comfortable with.

What do projects require?

Typical volunteers donate two hours of their time a month, beginning in January and working through the summer until county fair in August. However this is very flexible; you donate what time you have and we work around your schedule. The Extension Office is always available to hold your meetings and 4-H helps offset the cost of any materials, and youth are required to purchase any supplies for their projects.

We are currently looking for leaders in a few specific areas, projects that we have offered in the past, but are not limited to:

• Robotics.

• Rocketry.

• Entomology.

• Leather craft.

• Electricity.

• GPS/GIS.

Or, what you enjoy.

What is required of a volunteer?

All volunteers are required to pass a background check with CSU. This of course is in place for the safety of all youth. A short leaders’ training, available online, is also given to each new leader. Volunteers have access to office supplies and support of office staff.

If you are interested in volunteering your time and sharing your passion with our wonderful 4-H youth, contact Becky Jacobson at the CSU Extension Office. The CSU Extension Office is located at 344 U.S. 84, and can be reached at 264-5931. We would love to have you join our team of wonderful volunteers and lead our amazing youth.

Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.

Calendar

Dec. 13 — Mountain View Homemakers, noon.

Dec. 14 — Archuleta County Christmas Party, 6 p.m.

Dec. 21 — 4-H Club Wolf Creek Wonders meeting, 2 p.m.

Dec. 24-Jan. 2 — CSU Extension Office is closed.

This story was posted on December 13, 2012.