Amidst the food, fun and heat, Master Gardeners talk with an average of 400 people per day during the Fair. They answer questions on everything from how to pollination troubles on squash to Japanese beetle management to powdery mildew on peonies. They try to identify oddities that people bring as pictures on their smart phones or (!!!) in their pockets. It's fun, fast-moving - and challenging!
"The visitor doesn't always tell you the whole story immediately", explained state director Julie Weisenhorn. "So part of being a Master Gardener is being a detective. It's satisfying when we are able to diagnose a problem and recommend one or more possible research-based solutions. Many times, it's simply a change in cultural care of a landscape that will help resolve the problem."
It's a team effort too. In 2013, about 150 Master Gardeners from 21 different counties signed up to staff four-hour shifts in the booth located in the wing of the Ag/Hort Building dedicated to the U's College of Food, Ag, and Natural Resource Science. By the end of their shift, they have gotten to know fellow volunteers and made some new friends. By the end of the Fair, they will have spoken with about 5000 people from Minnesota and surrounding states with some visitors from as far as northern Canada.
In addition to staffing the booth, 24 Master Gardeners also volunteered this year to present on gardening topics at The Dirt Stage. Some of the topics: night gardening, tomatoes, lazy gardening, bees, native plants. The Dirt is a free stage in the Ag/Hort Building designed to spread education about topics for Minnesota gardens and landscapes. In addition to Master Gardeners, presenters includes the MSHS, ornamental plant societies, and the green industry.
And, after it's over, volunteers can rest assured they have helped a slew of home gardeners solve some of their pressing issues and have healthier landscapes too.
Visit Master Gardeners, August 22 - Sept. 2, 2013 - 9am - 9pm, in Agriculture / Horticulture Building located at Judson and Underwood near Gate 7. Master Gardeners present noon - 2pm daily at The Dirt Stage in the same building.