• Missouri Master Gardener
    Missouri Master Gardener

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – St. Louis area Master Gardeners may be as well known for their community spirit as for the beautiful and bountiful gardens they tend.

“It’s safe to say our volunteers have really helped transform the region,” said Holly Records, St. Louis Master Gardener coordinator with the University of Missouri Extension and Missouri Botanical Garden.

In the 2019-2020 program year alone, 392 Master Gardener volunteers contributed more than 42,000 hours of work in 59 ZIP codes across the area. Their work has ranged from sprucing up neglected corner plots and supplying local food pantries with fresh produce to sharing their expertise and labor to projects throughout the St. Louis County area.

“A beautiful green space always makes a difference. Every community deserves places and spaces that show people are connected and care. That’s the best part of what Master Gardeners volunteers bring to every project,” said Records, who coordinates youth and adult St. Louis Master Gardener and Pollinator program volunteers, a speaker series and related educational and outreach programs from her office at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

The mission of MU Extension’s Missouri Master Gardener Program is “helping others learn to grow,” said David Trinklein, MU associate professor of plant sciences and state coordinator for the Master Gardener program. Participants take a at least 30 hours of training — 54 hours in St. Louis County — and commit to volunteering to help others in their communities to learn about gardening and the environment.

“The St. Louis Extension Master Gardener program is a prime example of how working at the local level through educational projects related to horticulture can make a lasting impact on those in the immediate community,” Trinklein said. “It typifies the attitude and activity of Extension Master Gardeners throughout Missouri.”

Master Gardeners are a fixture in parks, Missouri Botanical Garden venues and numerous garden and planting projects across the St. Louis area. Recent and current projects that highlight “that Master Gardener magic” include

  • An educational and demonstration community garden and programs adjacent to the Ferguson Farmers Market, including programs serving clients with disabilities at United Cerebral Palsy Heartland.
  • Wildwood YMCA garden donations of more than 2,000 pounds of food, including sweet potatoes tended by children in the day program.
  • Donations of more than 4,500 pounds of produce to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry from the Jewish Community Center’s Garden of Eden.
  • Restoration and renovation of the North Gate at Jefferson Barracks Park, including 13,400 hours of service donated to the St. Louis County Parks Department, the equivalent of almost seven full-time staff positions.
  • 16,000-plus hours donated to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s four sites.
  • Garden installations at the Ubuntu Center for Peace, Stray Rescue and a shelter for victims of partner violence.
  • Vegetable and perennial gardens for Alliance Française.
  • A speakers bureau that gave more than 70 talks on dozens of topics last year.

The Master Gardener program pivoted to online-only training during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many outdoor volunteer efforts have continued safely with masking and social distancing measures in place. Records said other popular offerings like Cultivating Young Cooks will resume again as soon as possible, so children, parents and teachers can learn about everything from vermiculture and goat milking to hydroponics and more.

“Our programs, like our impact, continue to grow,” she said.

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Photos available for this release:
Master Gardeners work with community volunteers to prepare the gardens for plantings.
Before the pandemic, UCP Heartland clients and staff enjoyed a day making birdhouses out of gourds.
Program participants turn dried gourds into birdhouses and plant the seeds for next year’s garden.
Ron Brown prepares for the 2021 growing season.
Friends of the Market Community Garden renovate space for indoor gardens and storage.

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