Master Gardener logo with Tompkins

Master Gardener volunteers help extend gardening knowledge into the community.

Master Gardeners planting a native plants demonstration garden

Master Gardeners plant and maintain demonstration gardens at CCE Tompkins

Master Gardener volunteers at the 2012 Spring Garden Fair & Plant Sale (CCE-Tompkins).
Image by Sandy Repp

Master Gardener volunteers at the 2012 Spring Garden Fair & Plant Sale

Master Gardeners potting up perennials for the plant sale in May

Master Gardeners potting up perennials for the Spring Garden Fair & Plant Sale

Master Gardeners enjoy garden tours together

Special garden visits and tours are organized for the Master Gardeners

Master Gardeners assisting customers at the May plant sale

Assisting customers at the Spring Garden Fair & Plant Sale

Master Gardener Volunteers

What is the Master Gardener Volunteer Program?

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

Who Becomes a Master Gardener?

Master Gardeners enjoy people and plants. They range from usually having no professional gardening or landscaping experience, to very experienced gardeners. They all share a genuine interest in making the world more vibrant and livable through gardening. Master Gardeners are students, teachers, moms, dads, grandparents, working folks, retired people, and anything else you can imagine. All you need is a love for gardening, some time to volunteer, and a willingness to complete the training. 

Qualification for Trainees

Master Gardener trainees should have a basic knowledge of, or interest in, gardening; enthusiasm for acquiring and sharing horticultural knowledge and skills; good communications skills; and a willingness and free time to participate in volunteer educational activities.

Volunteers complete a written application, followed by an interview with members of our horticulture staff. Priority for selection is given to Tompkins County residents. There is a $200 cost for training materials with scholarships available for those in need upon request. In return, you commit to volunteering 80 hours over the following two years. 

Master Gardener Volunteer Training

Master Gardener training is held in alternate years and will be held again from September 2018-May 2019. Trainings are interactive and hands on will be held one Saturday each month from 8:45-1:30 in Ithaca as well as in surrounding Counties. Additionally we will meet one weeknight per month for additional optional session to enhance your learning and hands-on skills. We used a flipped classroom approach which means students will prepare for hands-on trainings by watching videos and tutorials as well as reading articles at home in between live meetings.  Trainees receive training on a broad spectrum of subjects applicable to home gardening, such as plant nutrition, soils, vegetable and fruit culture, trees, shrubs and lawns, diseases and insects that affect plants, pruning, and much more.  Advanced instruction is offered, and special seminars and refresher workshops are held so that Master Gardeners can stay current on gardening topics and keep their knowledge up-to-date.

You can learn more about the topics that are covered in the training by visiting the NY State Master Gardener Volunteer Program pages on the Cornell University website.

Volunteer Commitment

Each Master Gardener trainee commits to "give back" an additional 80 hours of service over a two year time period following certification. After that, volunteers must service 20 hours per year to maintain their status as a Master Gardener Volunteer. Some Master Gardeners have volunteered for many years and enjoy the satisfaction of helping their local communities and the camaraderie of fellow gardeners, monthly meetings, holiday gatherings, and group field trips to visit beautiful and unique gardens in our region that also are part of the program. Master Gardeners love to be part of a community of enthusiastic gardeners committed to community service. 

Current Master Gardener Program in Tompkins County

Tompkins County has had this program for a number of years, and it is a very successful program. Right now, we have approximately 65 active Master Gardener volunteers who do a number of different activities in the county. It is a very popular program and we normally have more than enough applicants to fill the training program every two years.

For more information . . .

To be notified when we are accepting applications in our next cycle, please email Jennie Cramer at We anticipate accepting applications again in Summer of 2020. 


Jennie Cramer
Horticulture Program Manager
(607) 272-2292 ext 146

Last updated July 26, 2019