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NC State Extension

Become a Master Gardener Volunteer

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Join a network of passionate gardeners across the state who are dedicated to learning and sharing research-based information, enhancing their communities through horticulture, and connecting people with the benefits of gardening. Become a Master Gardener℠ volunteer!

The Extension Master Gardener℠ Program is offered by 84 of N.C. Cooperative Extension’s 101 county centers. Some aspects of the program are the same across the state, while others are tailored to meet the needs of the county in which it is based.

Contact your N.C. Cooperative Extension county center to learn more about your local program, including how to apply, volunteer opportunities, and when the next training course will be offered. Statewide, all Master Gardener volunteers complete the following steps to join the program:

Submit An Application

Becoming an Extension Master Gardener volunteer begins with applying and being accepted into your local county program. You may apply to an EMG program in another county, but first preference is given to residents of the county in which the training is offered.

Contact the Extension horticulture agent at your local N.C. Cooperative Extension county center for an application form, application deadline, and schedule of future training. Learn more about the NC EMG Program application.

Complete Initial Volunteer Training

Extension Master Gardener initial training prepares you to be a Master Gardener volunteer. The course introduces a wide range of horticultural topics, with a focus on finding research-based information and sharing the science behind sustainable gardening practices. Initial training includes:

  • Minimum of 40 hours of instruction
  • Taught by Extension staff and local experts
  • Topics include soils and plant nutrients, composting, insects, Integrated Pest Management, lawns, food production, organic gardening, herbaceous, woody and native plants, wildlife, landscape design and more.
  • Take-home or in-class, open-book exam

Visit the Extension Gardener Handbook online to explore the training curriculum.

Complete Volunteer Internship

Once initial training is complete, volunteers complete a minimum 40-hour internship to learn even more about horticulture and give back to their community.

During the internship, volunteers rotate through a variety of volunteer opportunities that support the educational outreach priorities of their local Extension center.

Become Certified

Once the 40-hour internship has been completed the volunteer is eligible to become a Certified Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

Maintain Certification

In order to remain active in the program, Master Gardener volunteers must meet annual re-certification requirements. These vary by county, with a minimum of:

  • 20 hours of volunteer service and
  • 10 hours of continuing education.

Extension Master Gardener Volunteers: