Master Gardeners from across the state and UGA Extension representatives gathered at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Georgia Master Gardener program. Dr. David Gibby, former Extension agent in Washington State and the person credited with establishing the first Master Gardener program, was the keynote speaker.
In the early 1970s at a time of rapid urban growth and increased interest in gardening beyond crop production, Gibby found himself totally overwhelmed by public demand for information about plant problems. He said that it was virtually impossible to handle the volume of calls he received. Efforts to address questions through local media seemed to identify Extension as the place to go for help and actually increased the number of calls received. As someone who had worked on volunteer projects all his life, he had the idea of training volunteers in areas of horticulture to assist.
Initially, his ideas were repeatedly rejected by Extension administrators. Quite the storyteller, Gibby explained how he “persuaded” them to adopt his idea.
Having lived for a time in Germany, he knew that there the top proficiency level in horticulture is denoted by the title “Gartenmeister,” which he anglicized to “Master Gardener.” This would become an appropriate title for the volunteers who received this extensive horticultural training.
The idea quickly spread. Today there are Master Gardener programs in all 50 states and in several other countries. The program in Georgia dates to the fall of 1979, when a group of Metro Atlanta Extension agents organized the first training with 140 trainees. The program in Macon began the following year.
Thank you, Kathy, for sharing your story!