Master your garden |

Master your garden

Now is the time to plant the seeds of volunteer spirit. The Colorado State University Colorado Master Gardener program will start again in Garfield County next year, and volunteers are needed to help the program grow.

The local Colorado Master Gardener program is currently hosted by Eagle and Garfield counties on a rotating basis. It will resume locally starting in late January 2018 and run through April. Applicants can enroll in October for next year’s classes in either the Colorado Master Gardener volunteer program or the Colorado Gardener Certificate program.

The Colorado Master Gardeners are trained in horticulture by CSU Extension staff. In-turn, the program volunteers provide gardening information to Colorado communities on behalf of CSU Extension staff.

Kayla Hinkley, CSU extension agent (agriculture and youth/livestock), said if more people show interest and sign up for the classes, they can be made available annually in Garfield County.

“If people want to get involved, they should sign up for the Garfield County class,” she said. “We’re always looking for more volunteers.”

Hinkley added that there are roughly 25-30 Colorado Master Gardener volunteers in Garfield County, and their primary goal is to help education flourish throughout the county.

But while the next class is still several months away, Colorado Master Gardeners will likely be on hand at this year’s Garfield County Fair and Rodeo, July 31 through Aug. 6. Colorado Master Gardeners often judge the open class fruit and vegetable entries as part of their volunteer obligation.

“They also help with the check-in, answering questions, and really anything education-related,” Hinkley added.

Colorado Master Gardeners offer invaluable assistance throughout the state. Projects include holding public information classes; offering assistance to the public with community garden education and field visits; and operating educational booths at farmers markets.

In 2016, 35 Colorado counties took part in the Colorado Master Gardener program. All told, 1,408 volunteers gave nearly 54,000 hours of service, which is the equivalent of $1.4 million in salary value.

Colorado Master Gardeners are required to volunteer for at least 50 hours their first year in the program. The requirement drops to 24 hours in the following years.

CSU Extension Director Carla Farrand said the program has been running in Garfield County for two decades and has been a rousing success. She added that the cost is $170 for the first-time fee, and that Colorado Master Gardeners remain certified in following years through volunteering.

If you want to enroll in the Colorado Master Gardener training, but don’t have extra time to volunteer, the Colorado Gardener Certificate program may be the perfect option. The CGC program offers the same training but with a higher fee of $530, plus the cost of materials.

The certificate is bestowed upon completion of the program, but the participant cannot become a Colorado Master Gardener without the volunteer commitment.

There is limited space in the CGC program, which is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Contact the Garfield County CSU Extension Office in Rifle at 970-625-3969 for details on class offerings and applications.

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