Using the MGV Title

A person can only use the title of Master Gardener Volunteer when:

  1. They are certified. This means that they have completed all of the requirements, including training and Extension-approved volunteer service.
  2. They are performing volunteer tasks for Extension. The Master Gardener Volunteer title can only officially be used when working on Extension approved volunteer projects. They cannot receive remuneration for these projects. It is permissible at any time or place for an individual to say that he/she has completed the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program training. However, they can only answer questions and perform tasks representing themselves as a Master Gardener Volunteer when they are actually volunteering for on approved projects. Master Gardener training and experience may be given as qualifications when seeking employment. However, once employed, Master Gardener credentials should not be displayed. MGVs are advised not to advertise as Master Gardener Volunteers in their names or places of business, nor be listed as such in business advertising. The name or MG logo cannot be used for personal gain, including to influence anyone to do business with them.

Projecting a Professional Image

As a MGV, you are a representative of University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension and a team member in the local Extension office. Therefore, it is important to maintain a professional image when you are serving in any MG capacity.

Dress as a professional; good-looking, clean casual clothing is recommended. Try to project a positive image and be as helpful as possible. When doing a program outside of the office, wear a MGV name badge. This serves as your identification and denotes your association with Extension. You may also want to wear a MGV shirt/hat, if you have one.

MGVs are self-directed and self-motivated. Try to find answers to problems rather than wait for others to solve them. When dealing with clientele, remember that they have a problem that is serious to them, even though it may seem trivial to you. Listen carefully to the description of their plant problem or their request for information. Try to find out as much information as you can, so that you can make a correct diagnosis of the problem. If you don’t know the answer, realize the power in saying “I don’t know, but I will find out.” Most individuals appreciate the fact that they will get a correct answer. When providing information, do so in a clear, simple but usable manner. Most people want to know what time it is, not how the watch was made.

When faced with a question you cannot answer, do not refer the caller to a specialist or educator and give them the telephone number to call. Instead, you should call the specialist or educator, find out the information, and return the call to the client. Do not “pass the buck.” Check with your local Extension staff to determine the appropriate method of referral.

Because you are part of a local team, take interest in what your colleagues are doing. Find out what other programs the local Extension office offers. Maintain pride in the MG Program and never miss an opportunity to promote the program.

As a representative of the Extension, you have the responsibility to help the public, these people are our clients.

Assumption of Risk

All activities, by their very nature, carries with them certain inherent risks that cannot be eliminated regardless of the care taken to avoid injuries. Some of these involve strenuous exertions of strength using various muscle groups, some involve quick movement involving speed and change of direction, and others involve sustained physical activity, which places stress on the cardiovascular system. The specific risks vary from one activity to another, but in each activity the risks range from: 1) minor injuries such as scratches, bruises, and sprains to 2) major injuries such as fractures, internal injuries, joint or back injuries, heart attacks, and concussions to 3) catastrophic injuries including paralysis and death. Extension recommends seek the advice of my physician before participating in any strenuous activity. You should have health and accident insurance in effect because no such coverage is provided by the University or the State of Wisconsin.

MGVs work on behalf of and under the supervision of Extension. Secondary liability protection is provided to all officers, employees and agents of Extension under Wisconsin Statute 895.46(1). Volunteers acting under the direction and control of Extension and for its benefit are considered agents and thus covered. This statute authorizes the State to pay claims based on the negligent acts of employees or agents or to defend employees or agents against allegations of negligence, which may have caused injury or property damage to others provided the employee or agent was acting within the scope of his/her responsibilities to Extension. Liability coverage, legal counseling, and possible legal representation apply only when the individual is acting in an official capacity as a MGV, follows an approved job description, is supervised by a University employee, and adheres to Extension policies. Coverage does not extend to other organizations or groups that a volunteer may choose to work with or has been authorized to work with. It is important that volunteers acknowledge mistakes that could lead to potential liability claims and that such incidents be reported promptly.

The federal Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 does exempt volunteers from some but not all liability for negligent acts (but provides no exemption for criminal actions). It requires a selection and training program and volunteer job descriptions. MGVs are not eligible for workers’ compensation.

Extension staff and volunteers are encouraged to purchase insurance to cover volunteers for field trips and special events.

Responsibilities and Rights

Responsibilities of a Wisconsin MGV

  1. To represent the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension in a professional manner.
  2. To accept only realistic assignments.
  3. To be acquainted with county Extension office procedures, Extension publications and personnel.
  4. To respect confidences and clientele information.
  5. To remain calm and courteous at all times.
  6. To follow guidelines outlined by the Extension agent or the local MG organization.
  7. To know your limitations; to be able to say “I don’t know”; to admit you can’t provide everything to everyone. Appropriately refer complex calls to Extension educators.
  8. To acquire and retain the knowledge, and to become familiar with the resources necessary to accomplish the assigned tasks.
  9. To follow through on commitments.
  10. To provide unbiased, research-based information from the University of Wisconsin, other Land Grant institutions, or the United States Department of Agriculture.
  11. To follow published Extension recommendations.
  12. To refer all commercial horticultural calls to the respective Extension staff.
  13. To always use tact and to give constructive advice; never be disparaging of opinions or procedures.

Rights of a Wisconsin MGV

  1. To be treated as a volunteer for the Extension.
  2. To have a suitable and worthwhile assignment.
  3. To know as much as possible about the organization of Extension, its policies, people and programs, and to be kept informed.
  4. To participate in activities.
  5. To receive quality and continual in-service training to handle assignments fully.
  6. To receive positive and constructive guidance and direction.
  7. To receive recognition and a variety of experiences.
  8. To be heard; to have a part in the planning process.
  9. To receive expressions of appreciation from professionals.
  10. To be free to request other assignments if there is a need in that area.
  11. To have access to Extension office horticultural reference materials.

Accepting Gifts, Honoraria or Expense Reimbursement

Occasionally a MGV may be offered a gift or honorarium as a speaker. It is permissible to accept a small gift but not money. It is not permissible to ask for or seek payment for any educational services provided as a MGV. It is the responsibility of the MGV to inform the person/group making the offer that no payment is expected or required. Donations to the MGA, or the MG Foundation Fund, are an acceptable method of handling “offered fees.”

A MGV can accept reimbursement for travel and expenses associated with preparing/conducting an educational program.

Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect Training (MRT)

With the implementation of Executive Order 54 – mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect – all Extension staff and volunteers are required to complete mandatory reporter online training. All Master Gardeners are required to complete this training. Even though some people may not volunteer with youth, they have the potential to interact with youth.  No exceptions.

Go to the Mandated Reporter Training page on the Level 1 site to get started. It should take 30-60 minutes to complete the core of the training, with options to access additional useful information that will add to the training time. This training can be counted as 1 hour (60 minutes) of continuing education.

Some Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Why do I have to do this training? I don’t work with children.
    With the implementation of Executive Order 54 – Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect – all Extension staff and volunteers are required to complete mandatory reporter online training.  All Master Gardeners are required to complete this training; there are no exceptions. Even though Master Gardeners may not volunteer with youth, they have the potential to interact with youth.
  • Did  my county educator have to do this training?
    Yes, it is required of all UW staff and volunteers across the entire system, not just MG Volunteers; it is required of everyone.
  • Why is the state dictating these things to us? We are just volunteers.
    There was no vote or choice given to UW staff or volunteers. This important training was designed to help protect our children, and is mandated by the Governor for all employees and volunteers who work in the UW System.
  • How long does the training take?
    The online viewing, along with answering the questions takes about 45 to 60 minutes.
  • If I already took the training for my job, do I have to do it again?
    Yes. This version of the training is specific for Extension volunteers.
  • How do I get started?
    Contact your local Extension staff to find out when they will be offering the training next.
  • What happens if I decide not to complete the training?
    This is a statewide training mandated by Executive Order 54 https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/code/executive_orders/2011_scott_walker/2011-54.pdf. There are no exceptions, if the training is incomplete you will no longer be eligible to be a part of the MGV program.


Within Wisconsin (Moving Counties)

A MGV who has taken training in Wisconsin can transfer to another county just by informing both counties that they are moving. They should also change their updated contact information (if they are moving residences) in the Online Reporting System.

From Another State

Out of state MGVs wishing to be certified as WI MGVs:

  1. Must verify their original certification by giving their local WI Extension agent a copy of their original MG course certificate or a letter from the certifying body in their transfer state stating the date MG training was completed, final exam was passed and required volunteer hours were completed.
  2. Must have the local Extension office provide their contact information to the MG Program Office for inclusion in the Online Reporting System and for the CBC.
  3. Must complete a background check, mandated reporter training, and be enrolled in the Online Reporting System (including checking off on the behavioral agreement and other statements) before starting volunteer activities.
  4. Must purchase a manual ($40 plus S&H).
  5. Must complete, during the first year they seek WI certification, the minimum number of volunteer hours and 20 hours of continuing education that is approved by Extension. This is to better acquaint them with Extension bulletins and gardening conditions in Wisconsin. Wisconsin MGV recertification guidelines apply once transfer MGVs are certified in Wisconsin.
  6. Should review the current online information for the Level 1 Course.
  7. Are encouraged to take the next available Extension MG training session in their area. This requirement may be relaxed for MGVs coming from adjacent states with similar gardening conditions and similar training materials. This is left up to the discretion of the County Coordinator.

Time Off

Family commitments, work obligations, health, and a variety of other issues sometimes prevent people from participating as a MGV. MGVs that are unable to complete the minimum requirements for recertification can resume participation by completing and reporting their hours. If it has been more than 5 years since they were last certified, they must complete 20 hours of continuing education. If it has been longer than 10 year, it is up to the discretion of the County Coordinator whether they should be required to take MG training again or just resume their volunteer activities. Any requirements that were enacted since their last certification (such as MRT, background checks, etc.) must be completed for recertification.

For a very temporary interruption, an individual can complete a one year exemption request form and submit it to their local county in order to receive MG Program Office communications for the following year. It is expected they will resume normal participation and submit hours the following year.


Use of the MG Program Logomg-footer-logo

The Wisconsin Master Gardener Program relies on the public’s ability to easily recognize their services and products. To help our clientele and the public recognize the scope and nature of our mission, it is important that we present a clear, consistent message and image.

This logo should only be used for Extension-approved activities, programs and events. It cannot be used for commercial purposes or personal gain, or for MGA-only uses not sponsored by Extension. This logo is available from the county Extension educator/office or the MG Program Director.

The logo should never be redrawn, retyped, stretched, recreated electronically, or altered in any way (it can be scaled to a different size, but not changing the proportions).

In any application, the logo should be placed prominently so it is easily recognized and legible. The logo may be enlarged or reduced but should never be displayed so small or so large that the image is illegible. No boxes, circles, or other figures should be drawn around the logo in such a way as to appear to be part of the logo or in any way that competes with or detracts from the logo.

For permission to use the MG Program logo contact the MG Program Office.


When delivering information, it is important to utilize university research based, unbiased information to the public using reputable sources. If a chemical product is requested, only make recommendations for products labeled for the recommended use and all instructions on the label are to be followed, regardless if synthetic or organic. MGVs should avoid endorsing product names, and reference active ingredients when communicating with clients; any specific references should be clarified as examples only, and no sign of endorsement or criticism.

Example: Brand names and commercial businesses are listed only for reference. Such references are not intended as an endorsement by the University of Wisconsin – Extension over similar brands or businesses.

Continuing Education

Continuing education keeps Master Gardener Volunteers informed, involved, and learning about research-based horticultural and volunteer topics and advances.  It is a critical component to volunteer development and satisfaction and promotes high quality volunteerism.

Quick Reference: What Types of Things Count for Continuing Education?

The following includes continuing education sources based on level of appropriateness. Final approval lies with the local Master Gardener Coordinator. If a local coordinator is not present, contact the MG Program state office for approval. 

  • Appropriate for Continuing Education”: can be counted for continuing education hours. 
  • May Be Appropriate for Continuing Education”: may count for continuing education hours; you need to be able to provide a justification to your local MG coordinator explaining how this continuing education source helps you develop your skills as a MGV. 
  • Not Appropriate for Continuing Education”: will not count toward the continuing education requirement.

Scroll down for the full Continuing Education Policy Requirements and details.

Appropriate for Continuing Education:

  • University research-based horticulture or gardening information, regional to the Midwest
  • Larry Meiller radio program “Garden Talk”
  • Wisconsin Horticulture Update (WHU)
  • Local Extension or UW gardening/horticulture programming
  • Extension or UW YouTube videos or webinars on horticulture/gardening, regional to the Midwest 
  • Horticulture programs at local Master Gardener meetings
  • Twilight meetings (ex. seminars or walk and learn events at a field station) or field days
  • Horticultural seminars at local colleges
  • Lectures at botanical gardens (excluding certain topics, such as crafting)
  • Presentations by MGVs
  • MG conferences
  • Garden Expo seminars (research-based content)
  • Plants Plus Master Gardener online training
  • Master Gardener online advanced training (through state office)
  • Online, research-based gardening/horticulture articles from a .edu/.gov site (Ex. Extension Garden Fact Sheets) 
  • Books or a webinar/video/television series from the Approved Media Resources
May Be Appropriate for Continuing Education:

  • Garden Expo seminars (non research-based content)
  • Tours with guided educational component (ex. Local greenhouse tour with greenhouse manager explaining how the controlled environment works)
  • Volunteerism-related information (seminars, articles, videos, webinars)
  • Regional Extension programming or information, non-Midwest (Ex. attending a seminar on drought tolerant plants to grow in Arizona)
  • Webinars on gardening or horticulture topics from nonprofit organizations
  • Extension YouTube videos on horticulture/gardening, regions other than Midwest
  • Beekeeping in the context of pollinators (not honey production)
  • Gardening or horticulture books. If not found on Approved Media Resources, you may submit the title for approval.
  • Webinar/Video/television series. If not found on Approved Media Resources, you may submit the title for approval.
  • Online gardening articles from a nonprofit website (Ex. http://www.olbrich.org/)


Not Appropriate for Continuing Education:

  • Fiction/memoir/travel books/personal essays pertaining to gardening, farming, or nature; (Ex. Michael Pollan books such Omnivore’s Dilemma, Second Nature; Memoir of a Seed Saver by Diane Ott Whealy)
  • Book club discussions (even if discussing books on the Approved Media Resources list)
  • Home improvement/entertainment gardening shows (Ex. HGTV, Big Dreams Small Spaces, Monty Don’s French Gardens)
  • YouTube videos or webinars from individuals (ex. gardening enthusiasts), gardening celebrities, or for-profit websites
  • Magazine articles
  • Online gardening articles from a .com website
  • Gardening/gardening entertainment blogs
  • Beekeeping relating to honey production
  • Cooking/food preservation/medicinal use/foraging information in any form
  • Tours without guided educational component (ex. Local self-guided home garden tour)


To fulfill the continuing education requirement of recertification, a Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV) must complete 10 hours of continuing education per year using approved sources. The exception to this is the first year a volunteer certifies. This requirement is doubled (20 hours) if an individual has been away from the program for more than 5 years

Hours are reported on the honor system in the online reporting system (ORS).

To be counted toward recertification requirements, a continuing education experience should:

       1a. present research-based information on horticulture or gardening in an objective manner
       1b. support or improve an individual’s ability to serve as an Extension volunteer, 
        2. align with Master Gardener Program scope and scientific literacy guidance.

 Best practices

  • Get information from a variety of sources if possible, depending on what you have access to.
  • As well as you are able, make sure to focus on the most current information. There are, of course, exceptions to this—some gardening information is as true now as it was 50 years ago! If you are wondering if something older is appropriate, check in with your coordinator.

MGVs accrue continuing education hours over the reporting year (January 1-December 31). Continuing education hours are non-transferable between reporting years. MGVs can claim the amount of time a continuing education option runs unless otherwise specified. Time spent can be rounded up to the nearest 15 minutes. Travel does not count toward continuing education hours.

Reading: Books and online articles 
Everyone reads at different speeds. Because of this, attributing continuing education hours to book or article reading is difficult. Books must be on the Approved Media Resources list in order to count them for continuing education. They must meet criteria for an appropriate continuing education experience (above). 

The Review Process: The review committee consists of Extension staff and MGVs. Reviews of suggested items occur at least on a semi-annual basis in fall and spring. Items are judged as to whether they meet the criteria for a continuing education experience. Authors or content creators are evaluated based on the Suggested Speaker Guidance. Items must be deemed appropriate with a majority vote by committee members to be added to the Approved Media Resources list. 

If you would like to suggest a book, webinar series, television series, or other form of media for inclusion on the Approved Media Resources list , please submit it here.

  • Books: Must be on the Approved Media Resources list. Specific examples of types of books that will not count are below in “Not Appropriate for Continuing Education”. You may claim 1 hour of continuing education (CE) per 25 pages of text. You cannot claim more than half of your CE hours using book reading per year (5 total hours). You do not need to read an entire book cover to cover. It is appropriate to read chapters or sections from approved books (as opposed to a whole book). Pages read from different approved books can accrue. Ex: You read 15 pages from one book and 10 pages from another book = 25 pages of reading.
25 pages 1 hour CE
50 pages 2 hours CE
75 pages 3 hours CE
100 pages 4 hours CE
125 or more pages 5 hours CE; you can read books in excess of 125 pages but cannot count more than 5 hours, regardless of the time spent. 


  • Online articles: Must be from a reputable source and present research-based, unbiased information, such as University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension or other sources that provide unbiased, research-based information. (Ex. Garden Fact Sheets, publications on the Extension Horticulture website or horticulture articles written by Susan Mahr.)
    • Per 1 article read = .25 hours CE

Scientific Literacy Guidance

Master Gardener Volunteers are expected to:

  • Be able to find and explain scientific-based recommendations
  • Recognize bias and lack of scientific neutrality

Not all gardening or horticulture information you come across is 100% unbiased, research-based information. As you engage with information and resources as a volunteer, we encourage you to be aware of what is considered appropriate information and what is not appropriate information for use in the Master Gardener Program.

Some sources contain mostly appropriate information but contain some degree of bias or inappropriate information, such as an author’s personal preference for using homemade pesticides. We encourage you to identify what is appropriate and what is not as a part of your learning journey.

For more information, read https://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/intro_01.

Speaker Guidance

Guidance for MG Meetings or Seminars with Speakers

Speakers brought in for continuing education purposes to MG meetings or seminars should be vetted by the local Master Gardener coordinator, the Master Gardener Association (if present), MGVs responsible for engaging the speaker, or some combination of the above. The vetting process can include appropriate research into a speaker’s past presentations and public profile for purposes of determining qualification. 

Vetted speakers should be:

Qualified instructors on their topic. This means:

  • The instructor uses research-based information and presents it in an objective manner


  • They have practiced in their particular field and have technical, artistic, or experiential knowledge

Presenting from an educational, neutral viewpoint. This means:

  • Speakers should not be selling a good or service, advocating for a political or religious agenda, or using discriminatory language or content.
  • Consideration should be given to the general point-of-view of the presenter in relation to the topic and whether it fits with the Master Gardener Continuing Education policy

Speakers who do not meet the above requirements should not be engaged to speak for the Master Gardener Program. Contact your MG Coordinator with questions.

In general, speakers should behave in line with the general behavioral expectations outlined in the Volunteer Behavior Expectations. 

To count as continuing education, the presentation or workshop given by the speaker must meet the requirements outlined in the Continuing Education Policy.

Field Trips Guidance

Guidance for MG Field Trips for Continuing Education

All field trips for the purposes of Master Gardener Volunteer continuing education are subject to both the Continuing Education Policy and local and state program rules regarding risk and liability. Discuss with your local MG coordinator or the MGP state office before booking a tour or field trip to see what considerations must be addressed.