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Creating Connections: Education Through Social Media

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Banner images from the Facebook page of Extension Master Gardener Volunteers in Durham County

Cultivating an online following through their blogFacebook page, and Instagram account has helped volunteers with the NC State Extension Master Gardener℠ program in Durham County reach a broader and more diverse audience with research-based, sustainable gardening information. Their efforts to create connections and educate through social media were recently recognized in the International Master Gardener Search for Excellence awards program. 

Based on lessons learned during the pandemic and a desire to further increase their reach and impact, Extension Master Gardener volunteers in Durham County created a united communications team that expands and coordinates the efforts of their individual social media and blog committees. By uniting these committees they are able to produce timely, high-quality, and scientifically-based content for a readership that includes gardeners of all experience levels. 

Together, their online content reaches a diversity of audiences with different but complementary content. Through social media, they engage broader and often younger audiences with easy-to-digest pictures and stories, while the blog allows them to share more in-depth content via longer articles. Posting links to their blog content on social media resulted in their online outreach reaching new heights in 2022, including: 

  • a record 1,796 followers and 19,353 unique viewers on Facebook, 
  • a record 1,416 followers and 5,904 unique viewers on Instagram, 
  • and unprecedented engagement on their blog, with weekly posts hitting 105,590 views and 81,693 unique viewers. This is a 42% increase in overall views compared to 2021.

Optimizing online partnerships is another way they have boosted their impact. “Sharing posts from trusted partners and encouraging them to do the same has exponentially increased our reach,” says Melinda Heigel, chair of the blog committee. Melinda also notes, “we have been mindful of sharing expertise from underrepresented gardeners to help show how diverse the world’s gardening leadership really is and inspire a new generation of gardeners to get outside and grow.”

Screenshot from Extension Master Gardener Volunteers of Durham County blog homepage.

The blog contains in-depth information on timely topics. Content reach is increased through social media posts.

Thanks to their commitment to communicating, coordinating, and fine-tuning their work as a team, Master Gardener volunteers in Durham County are now engaging more people than ever and connecting them with research-based information from trusted sources. In addition, their online outreach is helping

  • show the diversity and impact of their local Extension Master Gardener program,
  • aid in the recruitment of future volunteers,
  • support local partner organizations whose missions and goals align with those of the Extension Master Gardener program,
  • broaden involvement within their local program by soliciting more volunteers to contribute posts,
  • and provide volunteer opportunities outside of typical work hours, which encourages younger community members to become and stay Master Gardener volunteers.

Master Gardener volunteers in Durham County plan to continue growing and strengthening their online community through relevant and timely education, resources, free event promotion, and other activities. They are further multiplying their impact by providing guidance on how to develop blog and social media teams to Master Gardener volunteers in other counties.

Congratulations Award Winners!

In recognition of their efforts to support sustainable gardening education through social media outreach, Master Gardener volunteers in Durham County were awarded third place in the innovative project category of the 2023 David Gibby International Master Gardener Search for Excellence!

The David Gibby International Master Gardener Search for Excellence is the recognition program for outstanding Master Gardener volunteer work across the United States, Canada, England, and South Korea. Held every other year, the awards program invites Master Gardener volunteers to submit educational, group projects that result in significant learning in seven different categories. The program selects 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place recipients in each category.

Award recipients will be recognized during the 2023 International Master Gardener Conference, that will be held June 18 – 22 in Overland Park, Kansas.

Infographic of statistics from

The NC State Extension Master Gardener℠ program is a statewide network of volunteers and Extension educators working in N.C. Cooperative Extension county centers and on NC State campus. Through education and outreach, we connect people with the benefits of gardening and empower North Carolinians to cultivate healthy plants, landscapes, ecosystems, and communities. 

Explore stories from our 2022 Annual Report, which celebrates our work to help North Carolinians learn and grow.

Join, support, or connect with Extension Master Gardener volunteers in your community.