About the Extension Master Gardener Program

Who are Extension Master Gardeners?

Extension Master Gardeners are trained volunteer educators. They work within their local communities to encourage and promote environmentally sound horticulture practices through sustainable landscape management education and training.

As an educational outreach component of Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Master Gardener program brings the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities – Virginia Tech and Virginia State University – to the people of the commonwealth.

All volunteers are trained and have at least 50 hours of horticultural classes and return at least 50 hours of volunteer community service through their local Extension office.

Master Gardeners sit at table at event
Newport News Extension Master Gardeners help the public at an educational information desk.

Since 1979, Virginia Extension Master Gardeners have served communities throughout the Commonwealth by providing unbiased and research-based horticultural information to home gardeners.

Master Gardeners provide a resource for all Extension program areas and for professionals from many other agencies. They provide communities with locally identified programs, including answers to individual questions via hotlines and plant clinics; radio, newspaper, and computer links; educational programs to meet targeted needs; education for the preservation of historic landscapes; urban tree planting programs; and guidance in making the natural environment accessible to all residents regardless of disabilities, incomes, or where they live.

Mission: Sharing knowledge. Empowering Communities.

Vision: To be the Virginia Cooperative Extension volunteer organization extending horticulture and environmental outreach across the Commonwealth.

Core Values:

  • Respect - The environment, each other, and those we serve.
  • Accountability - Wise stewardship of resources. To our organization, our community, and each other.
  • Collaboration - Willing to work with a diverse group to reach a common goal. Actively seeking out partners.

Virginia Extension Master Gardeners are volunteer educators. 

Extension Master Gardeners do not provide free gardening labor--they work to provide research-based horticultural information to Virginia home gardeners.

Want to learn about the projects Master Gardeners do? Check out these spotlighted projects:

  • Strasburg Community Garden Project - Extension Master Gardeners from the Northern Shenandoah unit worked with community stakeholders to help create a community garden in a food desert.
  • Historical Trees & Gardens of Virginia Symposium - Extension Master Gardeners of the Central Rappahannock hosted an educational event highlighting Virginia's historic trees and gardens 
  • Food For Thought - Master Gardeners and Master Food Volunteers work to help middle school students grow and prepare healthy foods
dave close headshot

Dave Close

Consumer Horticulture and Master Gardener Specialist

Contact: dclose@vt.edu

M.S. Southern Illinois University, 1996

B.S. Cumberland College, 1993

Background: Urban Forestry and Forest Ecology

Extension Areas: Dave has worked with the Extension Master Gardener program for more than 11 years. Prior to coming to Virginia, he was the Community Forestry Coordinator for the southern 36 counties in Illinois, a role he filled for nearly seven years. He was also an instructor in the Department of Forestry at Southern Illinois University where he taught classes in tree identification, forest ecology, forest ecosystems, and urban forestry. After leaving Illinois and taking on his role as the State Coordinator for the Extension Master Gardener Program, his interests have evolved into volunteer management and leadership development of volunteers. He also works closely with Extension Agents statewide and the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association.

kathleen holding yellow mums

Kathleen Reed

Master Gardener Program Coordinator

Contact: reedka@vt.edu

M.S. Michigan State University, 2016

B.A. Providence College, 2012

Background: Food system development, community engagement, community education

Extension Areas: Kathleen worked with Virginia Cooperative Extension as an Agriculture & Natural Resources Extension Agent for three years prior to joining the State Office. As part of her role as an Extension Agent, Kathleen also served as the local coordinator for the Master Gardener program in Roanoke. While earning her Master’s in Community Sustainability at Michigan State University (MSU), Kathleen worked for MSU’s Center for Regional Food Systems as a team member of the Good Food Charter. As the State Coordinator, Kathleen will lead volunteer leadership and development efforts, provide administrative and volunteer management support to Extension Agents and Master Gardener Coordinators, and help to promote the Master Gardener Program throughout the Commonwealth.

devon johnson headshot

Devon Johnson

Communications Project Coordinator

Contact: dvj@vt.ed

M.A. Virginia Tech, 2017

M.A. Virginia Tech, 2017

B.A. Virginia Tech, 2014

Background: Professional and technical writing, digital communication

Extension Areas:  As the EMG Communications Project Manager, Devon is responsible for managing the publication process for program-related publications in support of the Extension Master Gardener program in Virginia. She is also responsible for developing and implementing a marketing strategy in support of the EMG program and provides administrative support in the office on an as-needed basis.

sue edwards

Sue Edwards

Program Development

Contact: sueedward@vt.edi

M.S. UNC-Wilmington, 2001

B.S. Penn State University, 1998

Background: Water Quality, Turf, Soil Science, Nutrient Management, Local Master Gardener Program Coordination

Extension Areas: Before joining the State EMG Office, Sue worked for 10 years at the local level with Virginia Cooperative Extension. As an ANR Technician and local EMG Coordinator, Sue became very familiar with the daily ins and outs of the Master Gardener program.  Sue is also a DCR certified nutrient management planner and wrote over 350 nutrient management reports annually for the local VCE turf nutrient management program.  In her current role as Master Gardener Program Developer, Sue works in collaboration with agents across the state and other State EMG staff to create and edit documents and training materials for the Master Gardener program. She also creates and maintains pages for the State EMG website and assists with Master Gardener College preparation.

John McBride

Additional Staff

Student at Virginia Tech

Background: PR

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