KANSAS CITY, Mo. – During this National Volunteer Week, University of Missouri Extension horticulturist Tamra Reall notes that volunteers across the state are the backbone of the Missouri Master Gardener Extension Program.

“They are such an important part of our extension mission and are ambassadors for sharing research-based information with our communities,” Reall says.

For Master Gardener Sherri Carter of Oak Grove, her grandmother’s passion fueled a lifelong interest in gardening and in teaching others how to garden.

Carter, vice president of Master Gardeners of Greater Kansas City, says attending 4-H classes her grandmother taught and going with her to Master Gardener meetings ignited her excitement for gardening.

Carter took the Master Gardener class in 2015 in person; once she began volunteering, “that solidified it,” she said. She fulfilled her goal of retiring early to become a Master Gardener.

“I love teaching other people,” Carter said. “I come from a service-oriented family. I enjoy helping with projects like ‘Blooming Blue Springs’ in conjunction with the Blue Springs Historical Museum.”

Carter also teaches at the Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area near Blue Springs.

“I love the teamwork of Master Gardeners,” she said. “There is so much talent, knowledge and strengths among our members.”

Debbie Johnson, president of the Master Gardeners of Greater Kansas City, decided to join Master Gardeners before she retired.

“I prefer to be outside than inside,” said Johnson, who loves teaching children through the Garden and Grow program.

She encourages anyone interested in Master Gardeners to give it a go.

“You get back so much more than you give.” And knowing only some of the answers is part of the process, she said. “You learn by volunteering.”

The mission of the Missouri Master Gardener Extension Program is “helping others learn to grow.” It promotes and raises public awareness of MU Extension as a source of unbiased, research-based gardening information, Reall says. Through activities such as MU Extension hotlines and answer services, workshops, speakers bureaus, garden show booths and demonstration projects, Master Gardeners provide gardening information to thousands of Missourians each year.

To become certified as a Master Gardener, an individual must complete a 30-hour core training course. Core training is offered both in person and online. Then, the Master Gardener trainee is required to give 30 hours of volunteer service back to the community in approved MU Extension activities. For more information, visit

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