Master Gardener logo, green on white

Master Gardener Volunteers help extend gardening knowledge into the community.

Flowers in Minns Garden, Cornell Campus.  Echinacea.  Cornell University Photography.
Image by Lindsay France

Echinacea or coneflower

Master Gardener Volunteer Program

What is the Master Gardener Program?

The Master Gardener Program is a national program of trained volunteers who work in partnership with their county Cooperative Extension office to expand educational outreach throughout the community by providing home gardeners with research-based information. Master Gardeners assist with gardening projects in the community, teach classes and workshops, plant and maintain demonstration gardens at CCE-Orleans, provide information and soil pH testing at events, and answer gardening questions that come in to the GrowLine, a horticultural hotline.

The first Master Gardener program was started in Washington state in 1972. Forty-six states now have Master Gardener programs. 

In Orleans County

Our Master Gardener program provides reliable, researched-based gardening related information to the public. Master Gardeners help community members with their horticultural questions, soil sampling and analysis, plant selection/care, and identification of insects and plant diseases. Many help in summer months with answering diagnostic lab questions, hosting educational workshops and events, and tending gardens in our community. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I become a Master Gardener?

New Master Gardeners are accepted into the program year round. If you’re interested in becoming a Master Gardener, contact the Extension office at 585-798-4265 ext. 125 or to express your interest and then come to the Master Gardener meetings or help with upcoming events. After meeting our Master Gardeners and learning more about the program, you can complete an Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension New Volunteer Application and Background Screening and formally enroll as a Master Gardener Student or Friend of the Master Gardeners until completing the required core Master Gardener course/training.

Do I need formal training to become a Master Gardener?

Master Gardeners should start with an interest in and/or knowledge of gardening/horticulture, enthusiasm for acquiring & sharing horticulture knowledge, a willingness to work with and help others within the areas of gardening & horticulture, and a willingness to learn about our community & its resources relative to the Master Gardener program.

Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension offers the Master Gardener Core Course/Training as needed to provide an educational foundation for all Master Gardeners. The course is typically held every other year, with the next projected training to start in January 2026.

May I take the Master Gardener training if I don’t want to become a Master Gardener?

Yes! Training is open to anyone who would like to expand their horticultural knowledge. Encourage friends and family members to take the course with you and have more fun at training!

Are there leadership opportunities in the Master Gardener program?

Yes! Each year Master Gardeners elect the following officers in November, with the office to start in January: Chairperson – Conducts the monthly meeting. Vice-Chairperson – Assists the president as needed and conducts the monthly meeting in the president’s absence. Secretary – Keeps the minutes of the meeting including attendance. Treasurer – Is the chair of the finance committee and keeps a record of finances of the group.

Master Gardeners can also chair events, coordinate the diagnostic lab, and serve on a variety of committees. A variety of skills and talents are needed! Those with an interest in administration and coordination will find their niche alongside those with education and gardening interests. It takes a community of Master Gardeners to make our program a success!


Katie Oakes
Horticulture Educator, Master Gardener & Master Food Preserver Program Coordinator
585-798-4265 ext. 125

Last updated June 14, 2024