COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Pam Bennett loves her job. As coordinator of Ohio State University Extension's Master Gardener Volunteer Program, she works with what's she keen on -- people and plants. She loves, she says, to see them both grow.
"I love (the volunteers') enthusiasm and dedication and their desire to teach and share their knowledge," said Bennett, who's also an educator in OSU Extension's Clark County office. "Their diverse backgrounds and stories and their hunger for knowledge keep me grounded and constantly looking for ways to improve the program."
Ohio's Master Gardener volunteers receive 50 hours of training from OSU Extension horticulture experts. In return, they provide 50 hours of gardening-related program service to their county Extension office. They stay certified through continuing education and by continuing to volunteer. In all, more than 3,000 Master Gardener volunteers work in 60 of Ohio's 88 counties.
- In Henry County, Master Gardener volunteers designed and planted a sensory garden for residents of a home for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. Featured: Plants that stimulate the senses -- sight, smell, taste, touch -- plus raised beds for wheelchair access.
- In Lake County, Master Gardener Volunteers taught residents of the county's Juvenile Justice Center how to start and take care of a vegetable garden. Now fresh produce from that garden often gets served in the center's dining hall. In 2010, the garden was named OSU Extension's Outstanding Master Gardener Volunteer Project.
- In Bennett's home county, Clark, Master Gardener Volunteers created the Gateway Learning Gardens: seven separate plantings -- including herbs, perennials and an Early Ohio Settler's Garden -- designed to teach people more about gardening. The annual Gateway Garden Jubilee takes place there every August.
- Last year, Master Gardener Volunteers from around the state donated $50,084 in cash plus 2,080 hours of in-kind labor worth $43,784, for a total of donation of $93,868, to go toward rebuilding tornado-damaged Secrest Arboretum at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster.
Elsewhere, Master Gardener volunteers staff a gardening hotline in Cuyahoga County; grow vegetables for Cincinnati's Freestore/Foodbank (the "Volunteers for Veggies" program); lead hands-on summer sessions for junior gardeners in grades 1 through 4 in Licking County; and revamped the Fort Ancient State Memorial Prehistoric Gardens in Warren County.
"The volunteers are totally connected to the projects and programs in their county, spreading the word about Extension and gardening," Bennett said. "They have the ability to make a great difference and have an impact on Ohioans."
Learn more about the Master Gardener Volunteer Program at http://mastergardener.osu.edu/.
OSU Extension is the outreach arm of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
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Related video (0:34): Pam Bennett speaking March 30 on "Recommendations for Early Spring Planting": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRtLCWkjlWA&feature=relmfu. "I know everyone is excited because the weather has been so great lately. However, don't get too far ahead. ... It's way too early to plant some of those warm-weather crops."