By Annika Morschauser
NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – The NEW Master Gardeners are all about “the love of gardening, the will to learn and the want to give back,” according to current President Kate Fix.
Their goal is to show individuals, their communities and the world that gardening can have a large impact and can be used in different ways.
“Our mission is to provide horticulture support and lead individual organization of community programs through volunteer education and environmental stewardship,” Fix said.
Nationally, Master Gardeners began in 1972 and has expanded from Washington state to having at least one group in each state.
Wisconsin has six districts of Master Gardeners that cover areas within the entire state, providing more than 200,000 volunteer hours a year.
The NEW Master Gardeners maintain several gardens within the area.
Each garden has a lead with around five to 15 volunteers to maintain the garden that benefits the community in different ways.
The Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) garden has produced 77 pounds of produce already and supports the restaurant in its facility.
The Brown County Central Library Children’s Edible Garden is a place for kids to learn about gardening and their extra produce is donated to food pantries.
The Locktender garden is home to over 70 different native plants that continue to expand and grow.
The Tank Garden at Heritage Hill showcases what a typical kitchen garden would have looked like in the 1700s.
They use historically accurate ways of tending it as well, meaning that pesticides and deer repellent aren’t used.
The St. Mark’s Church vegetable garden has been bountiful producing over 12,000 pounds of produce for food banks, the congregation and other members of the community.
They have a greenhouse on the UWGB campus that they use for prepping up to 3,800 plants to sell at their annual sale in May. Any unsold plants are given to a nearby community garden.
The other garden at UWGB beautifies the surroundings of the Brown County STEM Innovation Center.
Lastly, the YMCA garden focuses on education for kids as well as providing produce for food pantries.
If someone is interested in joining the group, there is a required course that needs to be completed along with a final exam, meeting a 70 percent score at least to pass.
The next sign up for the foundations of gardening course is Sept. 10 which ends on December 9. The final exam would need to be completed and passed by March 31.
“The goal is to be a training platform. It’s teaching and training you to find resources to help answer questions… It’s using the appropriate resources and sharing information,” Fix explained.
Members are required to have at least 24 hours of volunteer work, 10 hours of education and pay dues each year to maintain their certification of being a Master Gardener.
The NEW Master Gardeners consists of 68 volunteers, an executive team and board members that vary in number from 13-21.
Elections are held each year for the board member positions.
They also have different committees that meet their needs and communicate with the community.
For example, the project committee decides on what projects they can accept or start depending on if it meets their credentials.
To fulfill the education hours, Master Gardeners provides a number of courses covering topics such as botany, pest management, soil, composting, weeds, etc.
They also have a Garden Series in early spring which brings in different speakers who come to educate the group about whatever gardening aspect they specialize in or are very knowledgeable about.
In the past, they’ve had presentations on peonies, native plants, plants everyone should know and much more.
Currently, the NEW Master Gardeners are harvesting, planting cool weather crops, saving seeds, preparing for next year and reviewing everything they’ve accomplished this year.
“I think the most important part of us is that we are volunteers and good deed doers. The world needs more of us,” Fix said.
For more information, visit https://newmastergardeners.org.