Become a Master Gardener Volunteer

In the Master Gardener Volunteer Program, you receive 36 hours of horticultural training with Cooperative Extension university specialists, faculty, and local experts. The course fee includes instructional materials, which you keep.


To become a certified Master Gardener Volunteer, you must attend designated training sessions, volunteer time to your community equal to the amount of instruction, and pass a final exam. To remain certified, each year you will need to complete 24 hours of volunteer service and 10 hours of continuing education.

What Programs Are Offered?

Level 1 Training 

Minimum of 36 hours of in-depth classroom training on a variety of horticulture topics including botany, soils, pest management, entomology, plant pathology, weeds, and much more. This is intended to provide a basic understanding of horticultural concepts necessary to complete the volunteer service required for certification, as well as learning where to acquire additional information and resources in order to answer questions.

To become certified, you must:

  • Complete a background check
  • Attend one of two pre-training overview sessions
  • Complete the minimum 36 hours of Level 1 training
  • Sign a volunteer agreement
  • Achieve a 70% or better score on the final open-book exam
  • Complete at least 24 hours of volunteer service within one year of training (higher requirements may be imposed locally).

Level 1 Class Information: 

  • Lectures will be online at home, or in the UWEX office if you do not have Internet access at home
  • Labs will be held weekly
  • Held at the Marathon County UW Extension Office, 212 River Drive, Wausau, Wisconsin
  • Fee includes class materials
  • A Sign-up for information on when the next class will be offered can be found here

Level 2 Training:  (For current MGVs only)

  • This is run through the state office.  For more information visit the state site.

Who Can Participate?

Any adult (18 years or older) can participate in the Master Gardener Volunteer Program – no previous experience or training is necessary, although many people have some experience.  You must be able to pass the criminal background check to volunteer.

What You Can Do as a Master Gardener Volunteer?

In exchange for the training, you are asked to volunteer hours equivalent to the number of training hours received for that year. The following programs offer a sample of the opportunities open to Master Gardener Volunteers:

  • Extension demonstration and community gardens
  • County and community fairs
  • Botanical gardens
  • Horticultural workshops and talks
  • Horticultural therapy projects
  • Farmers’ markets
  • Answering telephone inquiries for horticultural information
  • Write newspaper gardening columns
  • Adopt-A-Classroom
  • Volunteer at your county Extension office
  • Local parks or beautification committees
  • Youth groups such as 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts

Many Master Gardener Volunteers donate their time beyond the required minimum numbers of hours. They volunteer thousands of hours of horticulture-related community service annually in and around Marathon County.  See Map of Projects.

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Cooperative Extension has been helping people solve their agricultural problems since 1913. Extension agents/farm advisors supervised “Victory gardens” during World War I and II and have helped home and community gardeners ever since. Eventually, a voluntary educational program was initiated to teach gardening to people who would then extend the information to others in the community. The first Master Gardener Volunteer Program was started in 1972 in Washington State. Since then, Master Gardener Volunteer Programs have spread to over 45 states and four Canadian provinces, and boasts of more than 45,000 volunteers.

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