A Personal Reflection on the 2019 Master Gardener Training

by Laura Pyatt, EMGV Intern

As a member of the 2019 Master Gardener training class, I  want to share a personal reflection on my experience with this worthwhile program.

2019 was a big year! It was Extension Agent Ashley Troth’s first full calendar year in her position with Durham County Cooperative Extension, and yet she made navigating the ins and outs of the Extension Master Gardener program a breeze. When our class began in January, Ashley proved her skills by teaching one of our first classes: Entomology, the study of insects. We were set up for success from then on! (A fun fact that I learned in that class is — Ashley raises baby shrimp at home.)

I loved the weekly routine of the class. I am a freelance events coordinator, which means that every day is different for me, juggling a variety of clients, meetings and events. The class was a lovely break from an often chaotic lifestyle. Every Thursday, I set my alarm for 7 a.m., had breakfast and coffee at home, and walked 30 minutes to the Cooperative Extension office so that I could free up a parking space for someone else. I turned it my weekly quiz, then took my seat in the back of the room next to classmate Marya. One of my favorite memories was when Marya reminded the whole class that her name rhymes with “malaria.” The classes were engaging with a variety of lectures, activities and role plays. I left each week feeling incredibly overwhelmed with knowledge and incredibly full from all of the amazing snacks that Master Gardeners Margaret and Taka prepared for us.

I looked forward to walking home each week from class, often with an arm full of plants, while people downtown might have stared at me wondering why I was carrying around so many tomatillo starts. I have never met such a generous class of people. I feel that everyone was willing to share plants, seeds, personal experiences, knowledge, or ignorance around an issue we addressed in class. I also don’t think I had to buy a single start or seed for my spring OR summer veggie garden! The seeds Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Cheralyn Berry generously brought in during the class she taught on growing vegetables were quickly buried in my raised beds, and my family ate radishes, cucumbers, and English peas ‘til we were sick of them.

Extension master gardener volunteers engage with the community in a multitude of ways. Here, they are staffing a table at a life-science networking event. Photo credit: Eric Waters. Used with permission.

I found an opportunity to combine my day job with my new volunteer services, too. I throw a monthly life science networking event at the Chesterfield Building in downtown Durham, and I invited the Master Gardeners to participate in two events. The first one was in August, and the volunteers brought a diffuser filled with lavender, and answered attendees’ questions about all sorts of garden-related problems. The second one was this month, and the volunteers aptly brought the diffuser filled, this time, with pine, and answered lots of questions about house plants. It was so inspiring for me to see the attendees of my event lining up to ask the volunteers questions! What I didn’t tell the volunteers in advance was that these events attract a pretty stuffy life-science crowd, and they often aren’t very engaging. However, the Master Gardeners were so welcoming, knowledgeable, and had the best table display, that people couldn’t stay away!

This reflection sums up a small amount of what being a part of the 2019 Master Gardener class meant to me. I thank everyone who made the class a success, and I highly recommend the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program to anyone inclined to apply to the next training class.

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is interested in being an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, call our office at 919-560-0528 and ask to be notified when the application process for the 2021 training begins. The process generally begins the previous fall.