SDSU Extension Master Gardener Program Back »

The purpose of the SDSU Extension Master Gardener program is to provide current, research-based, consumer horticulture information and education to the citizens of South Dakota through SDSU Extension Master Gardener projects and services.

Through the SDSU Extension Master Gardener program, interested volunteers receive training in horticulture and environmental topics of special value to home gardeners. In exchange for their training, SDSU Extension Master Gardeners share their time and knowledge on approved projects within their communities. Through the leadership, instruction, and hands-on assistance provided by Master Gardeners, the broad resources of South Dakota State University are extended to benefit South Dakotans at the local level and enhance the quality of life in South Dakota communities.

Who are Master Gardeners?

Being an SDSU Extension Master Gardener is about becoming a VOLUNTEER with SDSU Extension to help educate the public about gardening and natural resources. Being a master gardener is about helping deliver meaningful community programs to improve the well-being of individuals and communities, to protect natural resources, and to help keep fresh fruits and vegetables on the table. It’s about working in tandem with SDSU Extension staff and other volunteers to make a difference in the places we live, learn, and work. You don’t have to be an expert in any particular area. You must simply participate in the training, have a desire to learn and a willingness to serve!

  • Master gardener volunteers assist SDSU Extension educators in addressing identified community needs, such as:
  • Answering the public’s gardening questions
  • Provide educational programs for the public
  • Facilitate gardening projects at schools, libraries, and other public community sites
  • Increasing food security
  • Creating safe greenspaces
  • Beautification projects
  • Garden therapy programs with seniors to maintain their physical and mental health
  • School garden programs to promote science awareness in kids
  • Display gardens to protect pollinators, combat invasives, and encourage gardening
  • Use gardening to teach life skills to the incarcerated
  • And much more

History of the Master Gardener Program 

Nationally, the Master Gardener program began in 1972 in response to high public demand for horticultural information from local extension offices in the state of Washington. The pilot program provided interested individuals with specialized home garden horticulture training in exchange for providing volunteer assistance to extension service personnel in delivering individualized information to clients. 

The successful program in Washington provided a pattern, which was eventually replicated in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, nine Canadian provinces, and South Korea. It is estimated that there are nearly 100,000 active participants in the Master Gardener program nationwide.

The South Dakota Master Gardener program began in 1985 when Dean Martin organized the first classes. When Dean retired in 1988, training was put on hold until 1993 when training resumed. Each year, training is scheduled in several locations across the state so that individuals will have an opportunity to take the training at a site relatively close to home. 

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