This journey began sometime in 2008 when my wife, Nan, asked if I would be willing to take the Master Gardener Volunteer course offered by the Ohio State University Extension. I was totally unaware of the program and its value in training horticultural volunteers in states with a land grant university. Fortunately, her request came at a time when our career responsibilities aligned in just the right way to make it possible for us to become a part of that year’s class. By the time we had finished, much had changed. I came to realize that, while I appreciated the natural world at some level, I really didn’t understand it or the ways in which I was called to care for it.
A better understanding of the natural world and our place in it is only one aspect of the Master Gardener program. Its primary purpose is to equip its graduates to volunteer in the local community using the new skills that have been acquired. Soon Nan and I were regular members of the volunteer horticultural team at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden as well as members of the local chapter of Wild Ones. In the years since, we have spoken, consulted and volunteered with a host of community groups, garden clubs, and conservation organizations. It has been a delightful, educational, fulfilling journey. We have met many new friends and been given new opportunities that we would never have dreamed were possible just a few years ago.
One of the recent places our journey has taken us is the Advanced Inquiry Program that is a joint effort of Miami University and seven major zoos across the country. More information about that program and the institutions involved can be found here. We hope to graduate together in December 2018 with masters degrees in biology. A fitting way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my wife’s simple request: “Would you go to class with me?”
If you have a Master Gardener program in your area sponsored by your local state university, we would encourage you to check it out and get involved. It can take you to good places and connect you to good people.
Even though we are deeply involved in our community as Master Gardeners and in our studies as students, we don’t spend all of our time away from our own half acre. We very much enjoy being in our growing garden; learning to care for it by following nature’s lead. We hope to share some of what we have learned (and are learning) in the virtual pages of this site. We hope you will be inspired to learn as we are learning to live with the land and not just on it.