FREEHOLD – It was a proud moment for the Monmouth County Master Gardener Program, watching its most recent class graduate. This class of 30 graduates marked the program’s 20th year of horticultural and gardening education.
On the achievement, Freeholder Deputy Director Lillian G. Burry stated: “We are proud to celebrate 20 years of amazing work by the Monmouth County Master Gardeners. The growth of this active volunteer program has been incredible to watch. The work of the Master Gardeners has not only beautified our community but offers our residents an enriching horticultural experience.”
Master Gardeners began in 1999, upon requests from community gardeners for more horticultural information. It was a partnership between Monmouth County, the Monmouth County Parks System, Brookdale Community College and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Monmouth County that bore this two-decade old program.
Volunteers in the program are trained to diagnose plant problems, suggest good cultural practices for gardens and advise gardeners to the best care for home landscape.
At the helm of the Master Gardeners ship for the past 20 years was Diane Larson, Horticulturist and Rutgers Master Gardener Coordinator. Larson oversaw the transformation of over 564 volunteers into Master Gardeners.
“The Monmouth County Master Gardener program would not be what it is today without the leadership of Diane Larson,” said Burry. “I was proud to present her with a proclamation to honor her hard work and dedication to cultivating the Master Gardener program into a premier volunteer program in Monmouth County.”
In addition to the Garden Helpline, where Master Gardeners respond to horticultural inquiries from the local community, the program also established the Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) garden. Started in in 2006 by the Master Gardeners and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Monmouth County, the garden was inspired by the Association for Garden Communicators initiative. The PAR garden encourages gardeners to dedicate a row of their garden to produce for local food banks and food pantries.
Since its inception, the PAR garden has produced more than 30,000 pounds of food for local food pantries throughout the county. Through 18 community gardens, and nearly 19,000 pounds of food harvested, the Monmouth County Master Gardeners have made a significant impact over the years.
It is not hard to be a part of this county legacy. If you wish to become a Master Gardener, you must live in Monmouth County, complete at least 60 hours of training classes, and fulfill 60 volunteer hours.
The 2019 program application is due by Jan. 2, 2019. For more information, call 732-431-7260.