BROOKINGS, S.D. - Before she became an SDSU Extension Master Gardener, Arlene Brandt-Jenson's modest flower garden served to beautify her home's landscaping. Today, her garden has increased in size, beauty and it provides habitat for many butterflies, bees and other pollinator insects.
"I learned so much about how to attract certain types of butterflies based on what type of flowers I plant," Brandt-Jenson says of the eight-week SDSU Extension Master Gardener class she took in 2011. "It's pretty amazing to see a monarch caterpillar chewing on the leaf of a swamp milkweed growing in my garden and know that I'm helping these butterflies and other pollinators."
Along with learning about flowers and pollinator gardening, during the eight, once-a-week sessions, the SDSU Extension Master Gardener class teaches gardeners about every aspect of horticulture - from how to improve soil health, identifying and treating diseases and integrated pest management; to botany, plant identification, vegetable gardening, fruit production, lawn and tree care - and much more.
"This course provides in-depth information, as well as where to go for more resources," explains David Graper, SDSU Extension Horticulture Specialist & Master Gardener Program Coordinator.
Graper has been involved in the SDSU Extension Master Gardener program for nearly 25 years.
"In all this time, I continue to see the program satisfy curiosity, but also spark an even greater interest in learning about horticulture for participants," Graper says.
Benefiting all South Dakotans
Master Gardener classes are designed to be as hands-on as possible. Once participants have completed the eight-week session, to receive their Master Gardener certification, they must apply what they have learned by volunteering at least 50 hours to share their knowledge with their communities over the following two years.
"Answering questions from the public definitely expands my knowledge. I learn so much because I can only absorb so much from a class. However, when someone asks me a question I don't know the answer to, it makes me go back to my resources and find the answer," Brandt-Jenson explains.
Brandt-Jenson became an Master Gardener just before she took early retirement from a career as a District Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. As an Master Gardener, she continues to give at least 20 volunteer hours each year to the Watertown community. Recently, she taught an outdoor class on seeds and plants to second graders.
Volunteer service can vary, depending on an individual's skills and the needs of the local community.
"Some volunteers answer telephone requests for information, host plant clinics or speak to groups. Others assist with demonstration gardens, farmers markets, youth gardens, 4-H activities or write articles for local newspapers. Still others help with research projects, or serve as a volunteer coordinator," Graper explains.
In 2017 alone, SDSU Extension Master Gardeners logged more than 10,850 volunteer hours.
"Their service is invaluable," says Graper. "Master Gardeners serve every county and many communities throughout our state. They are a resource to all citizens. And many Master Gardeners give of their time and knowledge long after their mandated 50 hours are complete."
He adds that some Master Gardeners have served South Dakotans for more than 25 years.
Graper references the more than 14,000 hours which have been logged in the last 15 months, since a new Volunteer Reporting System went live. The system is a convenient way for Master Gardeners to log their volunteer activities and continuing education hours.
If a dollar amount were to be placed on the 14,000 logged hours, Graper said it would be more than $287,000 in service to South Dakotans.
"As Master Gardeners, we always keep learning," Brandt-Jenson says, emphasizing the value in networking with other South Dakota gardeners that the Master Gardener class and organization provides. "Master Gardeners are all ages and come from all backgrounds. Through Master Gardeners, I have made many friends, I would not have met otherwise."
Today, Brandt-Jenson also serves as President of the South Dakota Master Gardener Association, an organization which maintains communication among the many local Master Gardener groups and serves as a liaison with SDSU Extension. The association also provides grant funds to educational horticulture projects.
Deadline extended to May 25, 2018
The hands-on training sites for 2018 SDSU Extension Master Gardener program are Huron, Pierre and Rapid City. Participants may attend any of the three sites; the topics presented each week will be repeated in all three sites that week.
An updated training manual, written by SDSU Extension staff, will be utilized during the 2018 class. The first class will include picking up their training manual and learning the log-in procedure to access the online material. Trainees will need access to a computer or tablet and an email address to access the online material.
All classes will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. local time.
The training dates are:
- Huron: (Tuesdays) June 5, 12, 19, 26; July 10, 17, 24 and July 31.
- Pierre: (Wednesdays) June 6, 13, 20, 27; July 11, 18, 25 and August 1.
- Rapid City: (Thursdays) June 7, 14, 21, 28; July 12, 19, 26 and August 2.
Registration deadline is May 25, 2018
The class fee is $250 for individuals that commit to becoming SDSU Extension Master Gardeners.
To become an SDSU Extension Master Gardener, individuals must first become an intern. To achieve intern status, individuals must complete the course and pass the online final exam. Then, interns have two years to complete 50 hours of volunteer service. For more information, contact David Graper by email.