By Bill Bush
The annual fall Master Gardener Volunteer Training Course is for anyone, pro or novice, interested in gardening and volunteering. According to Horticulture Agents Scott Eckert, the only qualifications to take the course are a high school diploma and a willingness to learn.
The fee for the course is $110 and students are required to volunteer for 40 hours with the extension office during the following year.
Eckert said the purpose for the course is to teach gardening and to recruit volunteers.
“You take it with the agreement that you’re going to return your volunteer time, but you get the knowledge forever,” Eckert said.
The extension office relies on volunteers and opportunities include helping with activities like The Giving Garden, garden tours, The Harvey County Home and Garden Show, and flowerbed displays. Eckert said that volunteering isn’t limited to 40 hours.
“I got a pretty good active group that’s ongoing,” Eckert said. “I have a lot of people that have been involved with us for a long time, so it’s not just a one year thing, necessarily. You can continue to be a master gardener and volunteer.”
Eckert meets monthly with volunteers, which included a potluck dinner before COVID-19 interrupted their regular schedule. In the last few months, they’ve met a couple of times in person and the rest have been by Zoom.
Eckert said that course would cover around 20 topics including soils, plant diseases, insects, herbs, flowers and turf, trees and shrubs, gardening, vegetables, fruit and landscaping, among others. The teachers of the class are Kansas State University experts, horticulture industry personnel and county extension agents.
Anyone living in Harvey County is eligible to take the course, which varies between 20-35 participants each year, according to Eckert.
The classes will be a combination of hands-on training and lectures. Half of the classes are held in Newton, while the others include field trips to Emporia, the Dillon Nature Center in Hutchison, the John C. Pair Horticulture Center (which is the K-State horticulture research farm) in Haysville and Butler County in El Dorado.
In years past, the classes in Newton were held at the extension office from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
“With COVID being front and center, we’ll be moving our training,” Eckert said. “We’ll deal with that as we need to.”
Eckert started in 1999 and this will be his 22nd class. As a horticulture agent, he’s in charge of the Harvey County Farmer’s Market, the Master Gardener program and helps homeowners with their garden and landscape problems. He said the extension office is all about education.
The class is hosted by the Kansas State University Extension office in Harvey County and runs on Thursdays from Sept. 17 through Dec. 17. The deadline to enroll is Aug. 31. Those interested in the master gardener program can stop by the extension office in the basement of the courthouse at 8th and Main streets in Newton or call Eckert at (316) 284-6930.