The University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer program open to anyone with the desire to learn and to share information with others about research-based landscape and gardening practices. Master Gardeners reach into the communities with a variety of projects in partnership with local organizations, and they also staff the Master Gardener Help Desk by assisting residents with garden and landscape questions.
The DuPage County program currently includes more than 130 volunteers. In 2019, Master Gardeners volunteered 9,903 hours right here in DuPage County. That is a value of $266,291 to our communities, according to Independent Sector. These Extension volunteers directly reached thousands of residents last year through community projects, speaking engagements, and help desk initiatives. They also helped grow and harvest 2,210 pounds of produce donated to area food pantries in 2019.
University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners have served DuPage County communities for more than 40 years, making the group one of the first volunteer corps of its kind in Illinois. Examples of their work include: the Anne M. Jeans School Garden; Bloomingdale Community Garden; Cantigny Veterans Garden; Cass Junior High School program; Downers Grove Heritage Garden; Downers Grove North High School horticulture therapy program; DuPage County Care Center horticulture therapy program; Garden Help Line and mobile Help Desks; Graue Mill program; Kline Creek Farm, Naperville Community Garden; Ronald McDonald House; Western DuPage Special Recreation Association Rec and Roll; We Grow Dreams; Worms in the Classroom; speakers bureau educational presentations; and docent services for Cantigny Park.
Volunteers participate in extensive training sessions conducted by University of Illinois Extension specialists and educators in horticulture, insects, diseases, grasses, woody and herbaceous ornamentals, and fruits and vegetables. The Master Gardener program provides 60 hours of horticultural training in return for 60 hours of volunteer time. Much of the first 60 volunteer hours must be completed at the Master Gardener Help Desk, which is open to the public during the growing season.
To learn more about the program or Illinois Extension in DuPage County, visit go.illinois.edu/ExtensionDKK.
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Karen Davis, Master Gardener Program Coordinator
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