Volunteer – Give Time to Your Community

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UC Master GardenerDid you know that there are many ways you can volunteer and give back to your community here in Union County? Your town or county government has many committees, commissions, or boards that always seem to have vacancies. Senior centers, assisted living centers, nursing homes, and often times many non-profit agencies that serve our community need volunteers. I participate in the Union County Human Services Home Nutrition program delivering hot meals to neighbors in the county once a week and find it very rewarding.

You have probably heard of, or may even know, a Master Gardener. This volunteer program through Cooperative Extension is near and dear to my heart because I have spent my career training and working with these passionate volunteers. Sometimes others don’t understand that this program comes through your local County Extension Office. North Carolina Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are trained by Extension staff so they can help provide educational programs related to gardening and the environment to the community. The Union County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have a Teaching Garden that is open to the public year-round, host the annual Heritage Festival, hold the Successful Gardener program on the first Thursday of each month except December, offer gardening help via their Growline, publish a free monthly newsletter called We Garden Union County, help with 4-H Nature Camp, and many other activities.

Extension Master Gardener trainees receive basic instruction in Botany, Soils & Fertilizers, Entomology, Pathology, Plant Diagnostics, Composting & Soil Amendments, Pesticide Safety, and growing vegetables, fruits, lawns, and ornamentals. In Union County that training starts in early Spring followed by core training in the Fall. The total training time is around 70 hours in the classroom, with hands-on learning, and via fieldtrips. Once the classroom portion of their training is complete, the Trainees transition to Interns with a required volunteer give back of 50 hours to become a North Carolina Certified Extension Master Gardener Volunteer. Those hours are spent learning and working alongside Certified Extension Master Gardener Volunteers who serve as mentors.

If you may be interested in learning more about gardening and sharing your knowledge with your community, now is the time! I will be hosting three Information Sessions this week, two in-person on January 18 and one online via Zoom on January 19. Registration is free through Eventbrite. For any additional questions, give Debbie Dillion a call.