The Master Gardener Program began in Washington State in 1972. Dr. David Gibby, an extension agent for horticulture created the program in response to the overwhelming number of requests for gardening information. Volunteers were trained in horticulture to provide gardening information to the public.
Master Gardener programs now operate in forty five states and four provinces in Canada. In 1987, interest was great enough to support the first national Master Gardener Conference in Washington, D.C. A second national conference was held in Portland Oregon, in 1989. And in 1991, Master Gardeners from Ontario and Michigan hosted the first international Master Gardener Conference in Detroit. Other conferences were held in San Antonio in 1993 and Saskatoon in 1995.
The Master Gardener Program provides gardeners with intensive education in home horticultural principles. Participants who complete the program are certified as Master Gardeners by the Florida Cooperative Extension Service.
Working with the Extension Agent, Master Gardeners provide volunteer leadership and service to their community in gardening activities. Master Gardeners work with the Extension program and have the opportunity to participate in organized volunteer activities. This service consists of such things as answering gardening questions, conducting plant clinics, beautifying the community, and other activities designed to increase the availability of horticultural information and improve the quality of horticultural projects.
In Florida, where the program began in 1979, there are now over 35 counties with active Master Gardeners. The Master Gardeners are a part of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Florida.
The Master Gardener Program is open to all people regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion or national origin. After receiving intensive horticultural training and satisfactorily meeting other program requirements, Master Gardeners are required to provide a number of hours in volunteer service and continued training. Continued training is available at the state and county levels.