Skip to Main Content

Twenty-Five Years of Extension Master Gardeners in Whitley County

You may have heard the term ‘Master Gardener’ or ‘Extension Master Gardener’ (EMG), and wondered what that truly meant. You may have seen a sign in a public garden that said, “Planted and maintained by Whitley County Master Gardeners,” and wondered who those people are, and what other things they do. As 2023 marks the twenty-fifth year of Extension Master Gardener activity in Whitley County, I thought a quick history lesson and update might be in order.

Let’s start with what Extension Master Gardeners are not. They are not a superior race of gardeners, nor are they commercial gardeners who advise businesses.

They are Purdue Extension volunteers with a broad base of training and experience whose mission is to share that knowledge with people in the community. Extension Master Gardeners are trained by Purdue Extension through a 15-week course that covers a broad range of gardening topics, and they must pass a final exam. The course length may vary slightly from year to year.

The Purdue EMG Program, sponsored by Purdue Extension, is a volunteer training program designed to meet the gardening information needs of the community. The purpose of the program is to teach people about growing plants and how to effectively provide plant-related information. Specifically, the program aims to provide information and technical assistance about gardening and consumer horticulture through trained and certified volunteers.

Nationwide, the Master Gardener Program was founded in the Seattle, WA area by Washington State University Extension in 1972. In 1978, the Master Gardener Program started in Indiana. By 1996, 25 counties in Indiana offered Master Gardener Programs.

In Whitley County, the first training class was held in 1997, with volunteers starting their work in 1998.

In 2022, it was estimated that over 50 Indiana Counties had an active Extension Master Gardener program.

Conservatively, Extension Master Gardeners in Whitley County have volunteered over 15,000 hours in their 25 years. We have some local Extension Master Gardeners who have individually volunteered over 1000 hours.

Some current projects of Extension Master Gardeners include educational demonstration gardens throughout the county and at our 4-H fairgrounds, a garden walk in June, educational seminars at the fair, and other educational projects. In past years, we have sponsored a garden symposium, attended by around 150 people. Covid put a stop to that gathering in 2020. We may see a return…stay tuned!

On a human level, Extension Master Gardeners have a big heart for gardening, learning, and sharing their knowledge with others. They each bring a unique set of talents and skills to the program and do their part to make Whitley County a better and more attractive place to live.

Does this program appeal to you? Would you like to be part of our next basic training class and become an Extension Master Gardener?

Our Whitley County Master Gardeners would love for you to join our ranks and share your passion for all things green. Give us a call at 260-244-7615 and we’ll add you to our prospect list. When the details about this fall’s class become final, we’ll share that information with you directly.

For more information, visit


Kimberly Jewell, Whitley County Extension Master Gardener, contributed to this article.

To Top