History: A Brief History of the Master Gardener Program

The Master Gardener program began in Washington State in 1972 in response to public demand for practical information related to gardening. Registrants in the program were called Master Gardener Trainees. They received training in horticulture basics and imparted their gardening knowledge to the public through volunteer endeavours in their communities.

The program grew in popularity over the years and today Master Gardener programs are offered throughout North America in 48 states and across Canada (including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and the Atlantic Region). Master Gardener programs are also offered overseas. An International Master Gardener Conference takes place every two years, attracting Master Gardeners from across North America including Master Gardeners from as far away as Britain and Australia.

In Manitoba, the program originated several years ago through the University of Saskatchewan with delivery of core courses in both Winnipeg and selected rural communities. In 2005, however, local delivery of the core courses was halted due to cost cutting measures. Registrants in the program had the option of completing core courses in either Saskatoon or Regina. Many registrants chose to attend the University of Saskatchewan’s annual Hort Week in order to complete the core courses all at one time or to complete any outstanding courses.

Master Gardener communities continued to grow in the various provinces thanks to the availability of the program through educational institutions. In Manitoba, however, the size of the Master Gardener community remained very small in direct response to the lack of a locally delivered program. By 2008, demand was strong enough that a group of Master Gardeners approached educational institutions in the province in the hope that core courses would once again be made available in urban and rural centres. A series of meetings in 2009 with Brandon’s Assiniboine Community College, Brandon, the institution that had previously brokered the program from the University of Saskatchewan, proved promising and the advocacy effort gained support by Master Gardeners living and volunteering in communities around the province. A volunteer committee consisting of Master Gardeners from Winnipeg, Steinbach, Beausejour, Gimli and Brandon was created, pledging its firm commitment to supporting and promoting the Master Gardener program. With this assurance, Assiniboine Community College agreed to commence the process of brokering the program once again from the University of Saskatchewan and to launch it on a trial basis in Winnipeg in October 2010. The initial workshops met with an enthusiastic response and by January 2011, core courses were also available in Brandon.

Continued support of the Master Gardener program in Manitoba is critical to its success. The Manitoba Master Gardener Association is committed to supporting the Master Gardener program and to growing the community of Master Gardeners in Manitoba.

Goals and Objectives:

  • To co-operate with and support the educational activities of our institutional affiliates in order to implement and develop their Manitoba Master Gardener Program
  • To provide a communication network for Manitoba Master Gardeners to exchange ideas, information and issues
  • To support the ongoing training of Manitoba Master Gardeners by providing information for educational opportunities and experiences
  • To provide and encourage the growth of horticultural communities by building connections with like-minded organizations
  • To serve as a source of horticultural information for the general public through postings on our website as well as providing connections to Manitoba Master Gardeners
  • To promote sustainable horticultural practices and environmental stewardship


MG’s Involved in the Community:

This article is an example of Master Gardeners volunteering in the community.

Local businessman Michel Morin wanted to beautify the neighbourhood by planting a butterfly-friendly garden in front of his business.  He accessed nearby Champlain School and with 18 Grade 6 students accomplished his pay-it-forward idea.

North End Students Dig Butterfly Garden


Board of Directors:

Co-Chairs—Colleen Zacharias (Winnipeg) and Diana Dhaliwal (Winnipeg)
Treasurer—Teresa Lopata (Winnipeg)
Secretary— Jane Zoutman (Winnipeg)
Education Standards Director— Elsie Kathler (Steinbach)
Communications (Website) Director—Marilyn N. Dudek (Winnipeg)
Membership Director—Lori Graham (Winnipeg)
Newsletter Editor – Elisabeth Renner (Winnipeg)
Special Events and Fundraising Director – Shelley Walker (Winnipeg)
Volunteer Coordinator (Interim) – Darlene Belton (Winnipeg)
Members-at-Large – Carol Bender (Beausejour) and Glenda MacPhee (Neepawa)

For enquiries for volunteers or speakers please contact:

Colleen Zacharias –   colleenzacharias@mgmanitoba.com

Diana Dhaliwal  –     dianadhaliwal@mgmanitoba.com