2021 Master Gardener Volunteer


How do I become a Certified Master Gardener Volunteer?

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Dane County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV)! Becoming a Master Gardener Volunteer is a great way to give back to your community through supporting Extension, while learning about horticulture and meeting like-minded gardeners at the same time. For more information about the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program, visit: https://mastergardener.extension.wisc.edu/

MGV training is a three-step process. 2021 classes are online through UW-Madison. Local in-person classes may be offered in 2022, contact Lisa Johnson, Dane County Extension Horticulture Educator for more information johnson.lisa@countyofdane.com .

Online Foundations In Horticulture classes through UW-Madison
Step 1. FIH classes September-December, self-paced
Step 2. Orientation via Dane County Extension online November to mid-December
Step 3. Onboarding January-March, self-paced


The required orientation session is meant to present information about the MGV program, volunteer requirements and opportunities (various dates and times available). This will be offered online in 2021-2022. Sign up for an orientation date here.

The online training Foundations in Horticulture (FIH), is offered through the UW-Madison MGV State Program Office and starts in September 2021 and qualifies you to take MGV onboarding in January-March 2022. The deadline to register is August 13, 2021. There are 12 self-paced, pre-recorded classes online through Canvas/UW-Madison. Information about becoming a MGV, the orientation/open house and onboarding process is included. The cost for FIH classes is $299. Learn more about and register for FIH here

Required Volunteer Hours/Activities with Dane County Extension

At the successful conclusion of onboarding, you will be ready to volunteer as a certified MGV! Note that you cannot volunteer as a MGV until onboarding is completed. In Dane County, once you complete onboarding, for your first year of volunteering the 24 minimum required volunteer hours (or more if desired) there are required hours in different categories:

  • 12 hours in the Teaching Garden as part of a team in one of the 12 garden areas (you get to choose your garden area). For more information on the Teaching Garden visit: https://dane.extension.wisc.edu/horticulture/teaching-garden/ . You will also learn more about the Garden and activities during orientation.
  • 4 hours at a local food pantry garden, community garden, church garden, West Madison Ag Station Garden or a school garden,
  • 3 hours at a local Farmers Market (we have MGV booths at 6 markets) shadowing certified MGVs as they answer gardening questions (more information about this in orientation).
  • 5 elective hours at any of a number of approved locations that you can view in the Online Reporting System. More information on this will also be given at orientation.

If you are differently abled and certain activities might not work for you, let me know and we will discuss alternative activities


Note that you may volunteer more than 24 hours in any category over the minimum if desired! In following years, you have more flexibility to volunteer where you would like, within the approved sites. Many MGVs like to volunteer at Olbrich, the Arboretum, the Zoo, Allen Centennial Gardens, the West Madison Ag Station, city or county parks, Monona Terrace Rooftop Garden, the MAMGA prairie at Lake Farm Park, and the Teaching Garden as some examples. Other give presentations, answer questions on our Horticulture Helpline (via phone or email), volunteer at the Farmers Markets, do research, volunteer with MAMGA (more on that below) or other activities.


MGV Continuing Education Requirements

In years going forward, you will also need a minimum of 10 hours of continuing education classes to retain certification. Green Thumb Gardening classes are one way to fulfill that requirement, along with educational events from MAMGA, Garden Expo events, Landscaping and Grounds Maintenance (aka Winter Seminar Series) events and much more. There will be more information on Green Thumb classes in early September.


Madison Area Master Gardener Association (MAMGA)

MAMGA is the local MGV association that supports Dane County MGVs.  MAMGA provides many benefits to its members on an annual basis. Some of these include discounts at area nurseries and retailers, free admission to MAMGA-sponsored programs, events and educational programs, garden tours, service and community education opportunities, fellowship and social events. Annual dues are $25. For more information about MAMGA, Click here.

Register for Orientation

Required Orientation session: If interested in taking the MGV recommended classes package and you intend to become a MGV, a one-hour orientation session is required. For 2021, this will be online. Sign up for a session here.

Madison Area Master Gardener Association (MAMGA)

MGV Associations Memberships:


Continuing Education

Approved Resources for Master Gardener Continuing Education (CE)

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