The Master Gardener Program in Columbia County started in 1999. Over 220 people have been trained since that time, and there are currently 29 certified Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) for 2018. The UW-Extension Educator facilitating the MG Program is Agriculture Agent George Koepp.
Volunteer Service in 2017
|Youth Education||112 hours|
|Adult Education||392 hours|
Since 2000: 26,764 hours at a value of over $495,375
* using the current estimated dollar value of volunteer time in Wisconsin of $23.06 per hour, from Independent Sector. Cumulative value based on previous annual estimates.
Where you can find activities by MGVs
- Columbia County Fair
- Ladies Night at the Portage Do It Center
- Portage Public Library
- Portage Community Garden
- Historic Indian Agency House
- Pauquette Park, Portage
- Museum at the Portage
- Wyocena Public Library
Sharing Our Knowledge
MGVs taught public classes on specific topics such as pruning trees, container gardens, growing and using gourds, beginning gardening, and preserving garden produce at a variety of locations. Others teach in one-to-one settings at Arbor Day events, farmers’ markets, garden shows, and booths at the Columbia and Lodi Fairs, with about 620 adult teaching contacts this year. A few MGVs educate by writing articles for newspapers and newsletters.
Fighting Food Insecurity by Growing Food
MGVs have participated in a community-wide eﬀort to address hunger and food insecurity by using the garden at the Portage Public Library to teach low- income families in the area how to grow food in small spaces. This is one of the sites for the summer food program, which targets neighborhoods with 50% or more school-age children eligible for free/reduced price meals. Families helped plant the square foot beds in May, and then one day a week for 10 weeks, children attending the meal program had a lesson related to growing, harvesting or eating plants.
Working With Youth in Service
Pauquette Park is the setting for weddings, band concerts and family reunions at the west entrance to the city of Portage. It takes a lot of work to maintain this garden space, so MGVs, as well as Kiwanis club members, have recruited help from the Portage High School Honor Society, Junior Kiwanians, and students required to perform community service. Students have not only helped beautify this public space, but learned to identify plants; how to dig, prune, and plant; and to be part of a team effort.