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Does time working with garden clubs count?

IMG_1745Frequently you ask, “I am a member of the local garden club. We work on projects out in the community, teaching youth to garden or educating adults about plants. Can I count this as MGEV hours?”

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. There is rarely a definitive answer, is there?

MGEV hours are earned on projects that are Extension-based. These projects are tied to Extension’s mission to extend lifelong learning to the people of Georgia through unbiased, research-based education in agriculture, the environment, communities, youth and families. Extension prioritizes its programming according to local need. For example, the problem of childhood obesity prompts educational programs that address exercise, nutrition, and food preparation. Similarly, the problem of overfull landfills prompts education about plant selection and maintenance practices. Or, in the obesity example, teaching people how to grow fresh produce may be a way to use research-based education to meet a local need.

Sometimes Extension’s work aligns or overlaps with another organization in the community. MGEVs tend to bump into garden club members because of the shared passion and excitement about plants. When gardeners who are educators or educators who are gardeners get together, you KNOW what happens next! One thing leads to another, a committee is formed, and the next thing you know, you are in up to your eyeballs! And thinking, “Surely, I am meeting my MGEV service requirement doing this!”

To be sure, ask yourself:

  • For whom am I volunteering?
  • Is this a project that Extension would do? Is it for the purpose of educating others, meeting a local need and drawing on research-based science? Is this a priority for Extension at this time?
  • Has this been approved as an Extension project?
  • Does the Extension Agent or Program Assistant know anything about this project? Are they involved in the decisions or planning?
  • Does Extension have responsibility? Is Extension pledging resources to the project?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, the project is most likely something that would earn MGEV service hours. If you identified the garden club as the organization for whom you are volunteering, or cannot make connection to Extension beyond your personal involvement, then you are most likely volunteering for the garden club and MGEV service hours would not apply. If in doubt, have a conversation with your Extension Agent. Talk through the project and see if it is something that Extension should have a role in. Who knows, having this conversation may generate ideas for strengthening the original effort or open other doors.

Remember that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, Extension or garden club. There are times when it is perfectly acceptable and sometimes strategic to partner with a garden club to address a need in the community. We all have our lifetime of contacts, individual skills and talents, and personal experiences. Working cooperatively with other organizations can often open doors or offer resources that Extension alone does not have. Remember to give credit where credit is due, thank your collaborators, and represent Extension well!

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sdorn

About sdorn

Sheri is the State Coordinator for the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program and Extension Specialist for Consumer Ornamentals. When she is not traveling about the state of Georgia admiring the work of Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteers, she spends time in her own (real and virtual) gardens.