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History of the Illinois Master Gardener Program

The Master Gardener program began in 1972 in Washington State. Dr. David Gibby, Extension agent, was overwhelmed by the volume of requests for gardening information that came into his office. He devised a plan to involve Extension specialists and faculty in the training of volunteers in exchange for a commitment to spend a specified number of hours doing volunteer work in the community. From that first class of Seattle area Master Gardeners, the concept has spread to all 50 states and several Canadian provinces.

The program was started in Illinois in 1975, under the direction of Floyd Giles, former Extension Horticultural Specialist and State Master Gardener coordinator. The first program was conducted in Will County, followed by other counties in the Chicago area. Today, the program reaches nearly all Illinois counties and includes volunteers from farms, small towns, suburbs and cities.

Coordination of the Illinois Master Gardener program is conducted through Extension Unit offices or in one special partnership, through the Chicago Botanic Gardens. The unit Extension office is the local presence of the University of Illinois, designed to bring university resources and expertise to the people of the state.