The Master Gardener Program is an outgrowth of the Cooperative Extension Service, which is a function of the Land Grant Colleges. In 1862, Congress donated parcels of land to one college in each state, thus the designation "Land Grant College". The proceeds from the sale of this land were to be used by the institutions to expand their offerings beyond traditional academics into more practical pursuits such as agriculture. In 1887, recognizing the lack of science based information, Congress created Experiment Stations at the designated colleges and in 1914 created Cooperative Extension as a partnership between federal, state, and county governments as a vehicle for the colleges to diffuse useful and practical information among the people.
Rutgers University is New Jersey's Land Grant College, and Burlington County's Cooperative Extension is part of a statewide system emanating from Rutgers Cooperative Extension.
Burlington County is one of the most recent of New Jersey's counties to institute a Master Gardener Program.
Over the years, the primary function of the county agencies has been to work with farmers and other commercial growers, providing science based solutions to their problems. At the same time they continued to pursue their mandate to provide useful and practical information to the general public. However, in time, the latter task became burdensome, prompting agents in the state of Washington to propose that a group of knowledgeable volunteers be recruited to assist with that function, and so, in 1972 the Master Gardener Program was born.
Rutgers Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who assist Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) Cooperative Extension in its mission to deliver horticulture programs and information to the general public. Anyone with an interest in gardening and a commitment to volunteer service can become a Rutgers Master Gardener. No previous education or training in horticulture is required.
Burlington County is one of the most recent of New Jersey's counties to institute a Rutgers Master Gardener Program. The Burlington County Board of Freeholders authorized its formation in March 2001. The program is administered through Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Burlington County by the County Agricultural Agent and the Master Gardener Coordinator.
Adapted from an article written by Dr. Tom Cardea, 2002