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Masters of the Gardenverse

Previously on Art of Stone Gardening… 

If you’ve been keeping up, you may have heard me talk about the UGA Extension Service and some of my bigger-than-life friends like Terrie Thamer who boast the coveted title of Master Gardener. Now I’m here you to tell you all about MGEVs (Master Gardener Extension Volunteers) and the important work they do. Maybe in the end, you’ll find yourself wanting to join the cause.

Masters of the Gardenverse! Saving the world one plant at a time! These are the heroic traits of a Master Gardener:

  • Volunteering!
  • Sharing knowledge!
  • Raising & donating funds!
  • Raising awareness!
  • Devotion to the earth and all things that grow on it!

One action at a time, MGEVs bring light and love to the people, plants, and habitats around them.

Who are MGEVs?

While not masked (except during COVID times) MGEVs are a committed, impassioned, giving group of super heroes that are all around us. See Image 1.

Image 1: MGEVs are average folks whose training prepares them to be Masters of the Gardenverse! Pictured here are members of the Headwaters Master Gardeners donating their time and expertise to landscaping a new Habitat for Humanity home in White or Rabun County.

A MGEV can be anyone, your neighbor, a friend or a family member. The reasons that folks become MGEVs are as varied as the plants in the world. My journey to MGEV began in 2002. I was working in marketing and sales – driving to Atlanta, wearing a suit and really hating the job. I lived in Flowery Branch and had a large yard. Going outside, pulling weeds and getting dirty really helped me understand and change priorities in my life.

How does one become an MGEV?

I started by hanging out at a local nursery. When the owner saw how interested I was in learning about plants, she suggested taking the Master Gardener program. I did that in 2001 through the Extension office in Hall County. Then, I went back to school and studied Horticulture at Gwinnett Tech, all of which were critical to the creation of Art of Stone Gardening.

Image 2: The UGA Extension Service translates science of everyday living for farmers, families and communities to foster a healthy and prosperous Georgia. MGEV training is a program of the Extension service.

Training to become a MGEV is offered through the UGA Extension Service. To become a MGEV takes more than a pair of gloves and a trowel. Potential Master Gardeners must apply and complete 42 hours of core horticultural training, two exams, and 50 hours of volunteer service within the first year after training. To maintain the title of MGEV, the Superhero is required to complete 25 hours of volunteer service each year.

Image 3: Members of the Headwaters Master Gardeners put their training and expertise to work when they installed this Children’s Garden at the Clarkesville Public Library. Members attend workdays there each month to maintain the garden and keep-up their certification.

What do MGEVs do?

The best way to convey the power and influence of MGEVs is to share the story and work of one group of Master Gardeners.

Meet Kathy Booker, former president of the Headwaters Master Gardeners. She lives in Rabun County and became a MGEV in 2011. It was an item on her bucket list. The training was offered by Habersham County Extension Agent Steven Patrick who coordinates MGEV training for the area.

Image 4: Residents of Victory Home and members of the Headwaters Master Gardeners harvest shitake mushrooms grown in a cooperative project. The residents cut and drilled the logs. Together they inoculated the logs with the shitake fungus, sealed them with paraffin, positioned them, and left them to Mother Nature (the Master Master Gardener).

The Headwaters Master Gardeners club is made up of about 35 MGEVs who have a mix of interests and who live in Rabun, Habersham and White Counties. As Master Gardeners, they are called to service, and serve they do! COVID-19, of course, has pruned the club’s activities, but the outdoor nature of their projects have allowed them to remain fairly active.

Some of their projects include:

  • A partnership with Victory Home, a substance abuse recovery center for men in Tallulah Falls. The club cleans and maintains a greenhouse on site in which they grow perennials for an annual spring plant sale. They split the proceeds of the sale with Victory Home. The residents work with MGEVs when projects allow. See Image 4.
  • Fundraising projects such as the holiday wreath workshop, which helps raise funds for greenhouse operations. See Image 5.
  • Four scholarships that are awarded to high school students each year. $500 is awarded to one student at Rabun, Habersham and White County High Schools and to a 4-H student nominated by area Extension Agents.
  • Creating and maintaining a Children’s Garden at the Clarkesville Public Library. See Image 3.
  • Home visits to individuals who have questions and concerns about almost any aspect of gardening. In this way, MGEVs take the load off the Extension Agents, who are often busy managing programs and serving commercial or large-scale growers.
  • Creating and maintaining a garden at St. James Episcopal Church in Clayton
  • Creating and installing landscaping for homes built by Habitat for Humanity of Northeast Georgia. See Image 1.
  • Writing articles
  • Working in the Extension Office
  • Serving humanity and the world (these are my words)

You can see how through these projects, MGEVs bring “the latest horticultural information and practices from the world of research to our community’s landscapes and gardens” (from the Headwaters’ website).

Image 5: The funds raised through future holiday wreath-making workshops, held in the greenhouse at Victory Home, will be shared with Victory Home and Headwaters Master Gardeners.

While the work of MGEVs is great, Master Gardeners are disguised as ordinary citizens. They come in all stripes, ages, shapes and sizes. The hyphae that binds them together is their love of touching the earth and playing in the dirt. In this way, they are kindred spirits, and their work together creates bonds and builds community.

Do you want to join the ranks of Superheroes among us? Get the details on becoming an MGEV in your community by visiting this website.

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