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NC State Holds First N.C. Extension Master Gardener College

Outdoor shot of Matt Bertone and three Master Gardeners
Matt Bertone, of NC State University's Plant Disease and Insect Clinic, leads a tour during his Diagnostic Workshop for Extension Master Gardeners.

More than 100 Extension volunteers from across the state worked to improve their gardening GPA – “Good Planting Advice” – when they gathered at NC State University last week for the first-ever North Carolina Extension Master Gardener College.

According to Lisa Sanderson, the state’s Extension Master Gardener (EMG) coordinator, the four-day event was an opportunity for the program participants to get in-depth training and connect with NC State University experts. Participants also had the chance to get a taste of life at NC State, eating at campus dining halls and staying in dorm rooms.

The agenda for Thursday, June 8, was filled with workshops and tours. The workshops related to diagnosing plant diseases and insects, leadership development and more. Tours of the university’s Agroecology Farm, its Compost Learning Lab, its demonstration tree fruit orchard in Clayton and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ soil test lab.

On Friday, participants met in the Witherspoon Student Center, where they heard a series of keynote speeches:

  • “Risk Management for Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, by Jim Semple, director of NC State Insurance and Risk Management
  • “Tales of a Man and His Garden: A 50-Year Journey” by Bryce Lane, lecturer emeritus in the Department of Horticultural Science
  • “Edible Landscaping” by MaryJac Brennan, Extension agent in Forsyth County;
  • “Those are Bees, Too? Diversity and Ecology of Native Pollinators in North Carolina, by Elsa Youngsteadt, a research associate in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology

The college wrapped up on Saturday, when participants chose from more than 25 concurrent sessions delivered by NC State specialists and agents as well as Extension Master Gardener volunteers. The sessions covered a wide range of topics, including pruning, permaculture, pest and beneficial insects, vermicomposting, effective meeting management, organic pest control and more.

Sanderson said she expects the college will be held biennially, with the state EMG Conference taking place every other year.

About Extension Master Gardeners (EMGs)

EMGs receive intensive training on a range of gardening topics, then volunteer their time and expertise to support the educational outreach programs of North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s county centers. In 2016, 4,300 EMGs contributed community services valued at $5.1 million as they managed demonstration gardens, directed youth gardening programs, presented educational talks and more.