When COVID-19 forced many of us to observe stay-at-home orders last spring, people looked to hobbies like gardening to enjoy the outdoors while stuck at home. But people new to growing food needed to know where to start.
The Purdue Extension Master Gardener (EMG) program was designed for moments like this. The program trains gardening enthusiasts as volunteers to assist Purdue Extension with home horticulture education in Indiana communities.
The EMG program quickly pivoted to offer online tools. Spring training for EMG volunteers was quickly converted from in-person to virtual. For fall, John Orick, Purdue Extension Master Gardener State Coordinator, worked with a team of Extension Specialists and EMG county coordinators to host the first-ever statewide virtual basic training for EMG volunteers. They trained 495 participants from 34 counties, hosting 14 live webinars covering core topics and county-based sessions for volunteers to connect with others in their region.
“I would highly recommend the Purdue EMG Basic Training,” says Betsy Bosway of Indianapolis. “I was slightly skeptical about how a virtual format might work, but my experience far exceeded my expectations. The program offered us the best of the best, with an expert lecturer each week giving us advice on their areas of expertise. Each participant, whether in a large city or rural area, benefited from the virtual format.” Bosway plans to volunteer in the EMG educational demonstration gardens at Holliday Park in Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, Rosie Lerner, Extension Specialist in Consumer Horticulture, who frequently serves as a resource to the EMG program, launched a regular video series shared on social media, “Tips for First Time Gardeners.” She demonstrated proper techniques for key gardening skills, such as container gardening, controlling weeds, proper watering, when to harvest and tidying the garden for fall.
Tips for First Time Gardeners video series impact:
• 20,270 views on Facebook
• 5,002 views on Twitter
• 2,751 views on YouTube
• 4,096 likes, comments and shares on social media
See how Extension served your Indiana community in the 2020 Purdue Extension Impact Report: extension.purdue.edu/annualreport/.