My name is Betsy Burgeson and I have the privilege of working with a fantastic group of volunteers and a wonderful organization. I am the Master Gardener Coordinator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County.
The Master Gardener program is a volunteer-based educational outreach program that focuses on horticulture and gardening. Master Gardeners are community members that have gone through a 14- to 16-week core training that covers more than 15 key topics in horticulture including, but not limited to, garden botany, composting, soils and fertilizers, insects, vegetable and flower gardening, and pest management.
Following the course, participants donate a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer time annually to remain a certified Master Gardener. Master Gardeners are involved in a variety of projects and events based on the educational priorities in Chautauqua County. Just a few ways Master Gardeners are out and about educating the community are by holding workshops; giving demonstrations and educational presentations; having educational booths at several festivals throughout the county; working with youth gardening projects; creating and installing a communal garden at the Mayville Food Pantry; working with the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy controlling invasive plants at their preserves; and writing horticultural articles, factsheets and bulletins.
The Chautauqua County Master Gardeners program graduated 19 new volunteers in December.
In addition to all of these activities, the program has also created a Horticulture Helpline at Cooperative Extension that is open and active on Wednesday afternoons from April until October. Volunteers man the help desk, and residents are encouraged to call or stop in with any gardening questions.
Since the program started back up in 2009 after a 20-year absence from Chautauqua County, volunteers have donated more than 5,900 hours to the community. This equals more than $165,000 worth of services!
In the spring of 2009, 17 people graduated from the first core training session. Twenty-three more graduated from the Spring 2010 class, and I am pleased to announce the addition of 19 new Master Gardener volunteers that graduated on Dec. 15.
Congratulations and welcome to Jan Barrelle, Janet Centner, Mary Donnelly, Patty Eckwahl, Janet Forbes, Debbie Gorski, Mike Jabot, Anne Johnson, Pat Krenzer, Mark Loomis, Patty Luciani, Patty Petrella, Wendy Present, Richard Selden, Cathy Seymour, Amy Smith, Pat Smith, John Starkweather and Cheryl Wahlstrom.
The mission of the Chautauqua County Master Gardener Program is to educate and serve the community, utilizing university and research-based horticultural information. Volunteers are from the community who have successfully completed 50-plus hours of Cornell-approved training and volunteer a minimum of 50 hours per year. For further information, contact Betsy Burgeson, Master Gardener coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension/Chautauqua County, 664-9502, ext. 204.