Representatives from the Sandoval Extension Master Gardeners were on hand at the Jan. 25 Sandoval County Commission meeting to share some of the group’s accomplishments in 2022.
Advisory Council Chair Meg Buerkle Hunn and Sandoval County Agriculture and Extension Agent Rachel Zweig gave a presentation during the meeting to let the commissioners and the public know what the program does and boast at some of its accomplishments last year.
The Sandoval Extension Master Gardeners are trained by New Mexico State University horticultural specialists and instructors under the guidance of Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service. SEMG is a volunteer organization committed to providing better gardening techniques to the community with the latest, most practical horticultural information available. The program began in 1995. There are 11 counties in New Mexico and the Navajo Nation Extension Service with active Master Gardener programs.
“The Master Gardeners is a completely volunteer organization, and the mission is to serve Sandoval County residents and sustainable gardening in the high desert,” Zweig said. “It’s gardening both for food and also ornamental.”
The nonprofit program grew 40,000 pounds of produce in 2022 that was donated to food banks in Sandoval County and racked up over 11,000 hours of volunteer work.
“In 2022, we had 175 Master Gardeners, and I want to report and celebrate that we accomplished 11,232 hours of volunteer work in Sandoval County,” Hunn said. “When you translate that using the federal rate for volunteer work, that’s $336,428 worth of volunteer work that our gardeners have done in this county.”
Hunn then showed off an oversized check for that amount to the commissioners and the public.
The Master Gardeners also host several instructional classes, including raised-bed gardening and cooking. In 2023, Gardening with the Masters, a long-standing public education effort that had been remote since the pandemic, returns to an in-person class. These classes are led by Master Gardeners and are held at the Meadowlark Senior Center from 7-8:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month.
“This is really important what you guys do,” District 5 Commissioner Joshua Jones said. “My great-grandmother gave me a plant when I was younger, and I think she thought it was important for me to learn how to grow things. However, I did kill that plant in short order. So I just want to recognize how important the work that you guys are doing and especially the volunteer hours that you guys put in. You know, I think it’s greatly appreciated, so thank you.”