Become a Master Gardener

Written by Rhonda Ferree, horticulture educator (retired in 2018)

Master Gardeners are a special group of people who all have a common interest – a love of gardening and nature and the desire to share that knowledge with others. The Master Gardener Volunteer program is a very successful University of Illinois Extension Horticulture program. The program aim is to give intensive horticultural training to individuals who will, in turn, share this training with the public.

Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, says that there are no specific requirements to become a Master Gardener. Homemakers, farmers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, and you can become Master Gardeners.

Master Gardeners receive training on topics ranging from vegetable gardening to tree and small fruits, soils, fertilizers, diseases, insects, trees and shrubs, houseplants, and more. Master Gardeners also receive training to improve volunteer skills.

In return, Master Gardeners volunteer 60 hours back to University of Illinois Extension. The volunteer time can be essentially any type of activity as long as it is about plants and an educational program. Anything is possible. You could develop a demonstration garden, conduct horticultural therapy programs, produce media releases, carry out youth programs, do neighborhood beautification projects, coordinate a question/answer booth, and much more.

For more information about being a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners contact program coordinator Ian Goslin at or 309-347-6614.


Rhonda Ferree was the horticulture educator serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell Counties from 2011 until she retired in 2018. She started her Illinois Extension career in 1988 and held a variety of roles: Illinois Extension specialist in pesticide safety education, Fulton County Extension horticulture and crops educator, Fulton County Extension director, and West Central Illinois Extension associate regional director in Springfield.

She earned B.S. and M.S. degrees from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.