The Master Gardener Program is an all-volunteer organization sanctioned by Land Grant institutions in each state and functions as an extension of the college or university. In Wisconsin, the program is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who aid UW-Extension staff by helping people in the community better understand horticulture and their environment.
Master Gardener Volunteers are people of all types who want to make a difference. They want to use their horticulture skills and knowledge to create positive change in their communities. Whether working with students on grafting in the Menomonie High School AgriScience class, providing resources on making great compost, assisting jail inmates with growing produce at the Dunn County Jail Garden or beautifying a public space, Dunn County MGVs take an active role in making things happen!
The Master Gardener Program in Dunn County started in 2010. More than 83 people have been trained since that time, and there are currently 14 certified Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) for 2018.
In 2017, these MGVs volunteered 60 hours in providing education to youth, 86 hours in community education, 409 hours in support of other local services, for a total of 555 hours of volunteer service in Dunn County.
Since 2010, 7,908 hours of volunteer service have been provided at a value of over $158,930 (using the current estimated dollar value of volunteer time in Wisconsin of $23.06 per hour, from Independent Sector).
Most Dunn County MGVs are members of the Dunn County Master Gardener Association (DCMGA). DCMGA has completed their seventh year as an association, providing education and educational seminars to the community. Newly elected officers for the upcoming year include: President Sally Schendel, Vice President Betty Verdon, Secretary TBD, and Treasurer Nancy Schofield. Katie Wantoch, UW-Extension Dunn County Agriculture Agent, advises the association.
Master Gardener Volunteers were involved in a variety of projects and organizations in 2017. Below are a few of the highlights shared by members:
Teaching grafting at Menomonie High School — Each spring students in the horticulture class at Menomonie High School get a chance to learn the process of grafting. Ms. Jean D’Angelo, Agriscience teacher and MGV, collects scions from her neighbor’s apple trees and orders dwarf rootstocks. With help from MGVs, students get to cut their scion to fit the cleft of the divided rootstock. They also add grafting wax to the exposed areas to keep from drying out. Students learn a new skill and are able to take their grafted apple tree home to plant in their yard.
Produce from Jail Garden donated to Food Pantry — In 2010, the Dunn County Jail Garden was started under the management of volunteers. During the first seven years, 127 Huber inmates contributed 2,100 hours as part of their community service requirements. The garden is about 34,000 square feet, including space for apple, plum, and cherry trees, along with a variety of vegetables such as asparagus, rhubarb, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, vine crops and others. So far, the garden has provided more than 15,000 pounds of produce to the Stepping Stones Food Pantry of Dunn County.
Dunn County Historical Society rain garden upgraded — A professionally planted rain garden at the Dunn County Historical Society has been maintained by MGVs for the past few years. The garden contains false indigo, wild quinine, blue flag iris, three kinds of ornamental grasses, rudbeckia, obedient plant, and several kinds of native flowers. After assisting with brush removal in the spring and pulling weeds throughout the summer, MGV Martha Wallen is working with the new museum director to add educational signage and handmade stepping stones.
If you are interested in learning more about the Master Gardener Volunteer Program, please contact the UW-Extension office at (715) 232-1636 or visit our website—http://dunn.uwex.edu—for more information.