Q&A with Master Gardener: Sarah Roy
Not everyone is born with a green thumb and when you've got a question about your home garden, sometimes it's best to simply ask the experts. Master Gardeners are a group of impassioned volunteers trained in the art & science of gardening on behalf of the local county cooperative extension service. Simply put -- they're your gardening gurus.
The FLIK Hospitality Team recently had a chance to sit down with a newly minted Master Gardener, Sarah Roy, earlier this season to learn more about the Master Gardening program and the importance it brings to local communities.
Check out our Q&A to learn more!
*Responses have been edited for clarity*
Hi Sarah! Thanks for taking time to share about your volunteer work! Can you give a little background about yourself and where you're from?
Absolutely! Gardening brings me so much joy and I’m happy to share with you. I live in Knoxville, Tennessee and just finished up my volunteer hours to officially become a Master Gardener a few weeks ago.
Congratulations! Let’s start from the beginning. Tell me, how long has the Master Gardener Program been around?
The program was originally developed in 1973 to equip volunteers to be able to educate the general public on research findings. Basically, the county extension agents were overwhelmed with questions from their community and saw an opportunity to educate home gardeners. If there is one thing we know about gardeners it’s that they like to share about gardening so it was the perfect combination.
Beyond education, Master Gardeners are committed to providing community service in a variety of ways. The program has thrived and now Master Gardener programs exist in all 50 states.
Wow! There must be a lot of certified Master Gardeners out there. What does your training program consist of?
There are currently over 86,000 certified Master Gardeners volunteering right now! The volunteer must go through a certification course first which lasts between 12 and 15 weeks. Content covers botany, propagation, landscape design, vegetable gardening, integrated pest management, and more. We get a 4 inch binder full of information to learn and reference. It is the most fun class I’ve ever attended!
Once the class is complete, around 40 hours of volunteer work must be completed within the first year, but that number varies by state. Volunteer activities include community beautification projects, public education and speaking events, working info booths at local farmers’ markets and other related community outreach planned by the various Master Gardener Associations.
It seems Master Gardeners are an integral, perhaps overlooked, part of society. What specifically motivated you to volunteer?
I love plants and growing things, even in the small space I have on my apartment balcony, but I wanted to do more and share that knowledge with others. There are so many opportunities to help people understand growing healthy food and the benefits of using native plants to beautify their space, to use my skills to help people in need, and to make sure people are getting the benefit of well-researched information from university researchers.
As a food service company that focuses on serving real, wholesome foods, we understand the importance of knowing where our food comes from.
It’s imperative, especially in a world full of ultra-processed foods. Master Gardeners can be an integral part of educating and equipping community members to care more about the food system, the environment, and ways to make better food choices.
How would you recommend someone get in touch with a Master Gardener for advice?
You can search for your county’s Extension website and find contact information there. If your county doesn’t have a program, look at the state Extension website for a list of nearby counties that have one.
Thank you for taking time to share about the Master Gardeners program. Before you go, answer me this: what is your favorite edible food to grow?
Snow peas! They are one of the first things you can grow in the spring, getting your garden started after winter, and are sweet and crunchy to eat right away with no cooking needed.
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