So it begins:
Laramie County Master Gardeners evolved over many years. In 1981, Master Gardener interns drove to Greeley to take horticultural classes through the Colorado State University Extension Service. Twenty years later, in 2001, the first Master Gardener courses were offered, locally, through the Laramie County Extension Office. In 2003, the format changed with classes offered Monday and Thursday evenings. That year, the program attracted 40 new Master Gardener interns, 33 of which finished all requirements. Every few years, the class format shifts in order to accommodate needs of the community. In 2013, the first advanced Master Gardener class will be offered.
By 2012, Master Gardeners and Master Gardener Interns had volunteered 6434 hours of service to Laramie County. As of October 2012, two-hundred sixty-eight Laramie County residents have taken the training and eighty-one remain current with their Master Gardener requirements. According to the web site “Independent Sector,” 2012 volunteer time in Wyoming is valued at $18.97 per hour, a return of $122,052 to the Laramie County community. Per 2012 log sheets, on average, a Master Gardener volunteers 60.4 hours of time each year, a testament to the commitment and dedication of community participants.
In 1987, the Master Gardeners offered a horticultural newsletter, the “Gardener Pardners.” The newsletter highlighted local gardens, detailing their successes and challenges. The balance of the newsletter served as a trouble shooting guide. The newsletter existed in several forms, under different names. Today, the Master Gardener Newsletter is published by the Laramie County Cooperative Extension Service.
The Garden Walk:
In 1987, when two local garden clubs declined to host the “Garden Tour,” Master Gardeners were given the responsibility. This increasingly popular event is held in July, on a Sunday afternoon. A variety of local gardens are chosen that illustrate the successes possible when gardening in southeastern Wyoming’s challenging climate.
The Annual Plant Sale:
Originally, Master Gardeners and members of other local gardening groups had a plant swap late in the spring. The swap grew and eventually was turned into a plant sale, open to the general public. For many years, the plant sale was hosted by the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. In 2006, the Cheyenne Depot Plaza invited the Laramie County Master Gardeners to participate in the Garden Festival and the event moved downtown. Currently, the plant sale is held in May, the Saturday before Memorial Day weekend. Outside vendors are welcome to participate.
In 1997, the Master Gardeners organized into a formal group, under the umbrella of the University of Wyoming Foundation. By 2005, the University of Wyoming felt the financial portion of the affiliation was no longer appropriate and the Laramie County Master Gardeners split away from the university. Instead, the Master Gardeners became their own not-for-profit organization chartered by the State of Wyoming. Laramie County Master Gardeners continue to function as a community outreach program for the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service.