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By ADA LANG
A group of avid gardeners — roughly half of them Certified Master Gardeners and the rest hopeful candidates — met at Fanning Springs City Hall Auditorium to discuss the program and share pot luck.
The goal was to introduce potential members to the training staff and Master Gardeners.
Members and potential members came from as far as Cedar Key and Morriston to learn more and view “Water’s Journey — The Hidden Rivers of Florida.” The half-hour movie chronicles cave divers who are mapping the aquifer system that makes its way under the tri-county area and emphasizes the importance of preserving the only source of water for residents of the area.
Barbara Edmonds, who heads the Nature Coast Master Gardener program, hosted the event. The program represents Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties and the training is tailored towards gardening in the northern part of the state. This year’s class will be taught by Agricultural Extension Agent Anthony Drew.
The Master Gardener Program first began in 1972 in Washington state, when an extension agent realized that well-trained volunteers could answer many homeowners' horticultural questions. This would allow he and his colleagues to deal with the more technical or difficult matters.
The program is active in 45 states and Florida’s began in 1979. The program is sponsored by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) and managed by the Cooperative Extension Service in Bronson.
The classes will start in March and continue every Thursday for nine weeks. The fee is $25, although there are a limited number of scholarships available.
Once certified, a Master Gardener is required to volunteer 50 hours by December 2012, and 50 hours a year after that. A few hours of continuing education training are also required annually.
Even if you have no desire to become a Master Gardener, you are encouraged to visit the extension office in Bronson, which includes several demonstration gardens with plants that do well in our area. Staff or volunteers will be happy to answer any questions you may have. The gardens include turf, ground covers and general plant examples. Additionally, there is a butterfly garden and there are plans for a sitting area, walk paths, rain barrel and composting demonstration in the future.
For further information, please call 352-486-5131 or visit the website at ncmgfl.org
There are links to other gardening websites, including the Florida yards and neighborhood website. More information is available about gardening in north Florida at: savemygarden.com. You can also download an application for the Master Gardener program at their site under the "Hot Topics" link.