The URI Master Gardener Program is focused on strengthening local food systems and sharing information amongst community members to help people grow their own food. In 2022 alone, our demonstration gardens collectively donated 151,925 pounds of fresh produce to those in need. Graduates of the URI Master Gardener Core Training serve as grassroots educators, bringing their newfound knowledge to the community through service projects. URI Master Gardener volunteers have a positive impact locally, while continuing to learn through unique classes and field experiences. In-person and virtual volunteer opportunities are available.
What impact do Master Gardener volunteers have in Rhode Island?
- Help Rhode Islanders improve gardening success by sharing research-based advice and ancestral knowledge within the community;
- Strengthen the local food system by growing food for donation, building capacity at gleaning organizations, and connecting youth and adults to food-growing information;
- Enrich the learning experience of local youth by supporting school gardens as outdoor classrooms; and
- Support pollinators and encourage land stewardship through demonstration garden projects around Rhode Island.
How to get Certified
How do I become a URI Master Gardener volunteer?
The road to becoming a URI Master Gardener begins with the core training, is followed by an internship, and continues longterm with continuing education and service. See the steps below for more information.
Step 1: Complete the core training course
The URI Master Gardener Program core training explores the science behind environmentally-sound gardening while honoring ancestral practices. Each class is taught by a different URI faculty, Extension staff member, or community subject matter expert. The course is designed to be flexible for adult learners with busy lives. Each participant receives access to an online class website and a Master Gardener mentor to guide you through the first year. Pre-recorded lectures may be watched at your own convenience. Live webinars allow you to participate in engaging activities, interact with your classmates and instructors, and discover the practical application of course material. By the end of the semester, you’ll be connected to a wide range of garden service projects that benefit the community.
The course runs from late January to the end of April and live webinars are held one evening per week from 6-7:30 pm. Full course details are sent out upon acceptance. Learners from all walks of life with an interest in helping Rhode Islanders grow are encouraged to fill out the form ! Financial awards are available through a simple process embedded within the course application.
Step 2: Complete the volunteer internship
Upon successful completion of the core training, trainees become “Interns” and are required to complete 50 hours of volunteer service on an approved project to earn the title of certified “URI Extension Master Gardener”. This place-based, on-the-job training allows participants to extend their learning by working in teams with other volunteers at project sites throughout Rhode Island. Interns have at least two years to complete their internship hours. Learn more about our statewide volunteer opportunities.
Step 3: Continue learning through our continuing education classes
Certified URI Extension Master Gardeners continue their process of lifelong learning through specially curated continuing education offerings. This includes online classes and in-person field experiences on sustainable gardening and inclusive community engagement. Dig into a topic of interest and build skills to bring back to your garden and community.
1. When are core training applications due?
November 1. The application opens in August. Please note that we do not make exceptions for late applications!
2. What topics are covered in the course? What is the format of the class?
Topics covered include: Plant identification and botany, insects, diagnosing plant problems, soil science and plant nutrition, composting, regenerative landscape design, native and invasive plant species, site assessment, sustainable lawn care, perennials, trees and shrubs, vegetable gardening, inclusive science communication, diversity, equity and social justice, and the gardener’s role in the food system.
The format for the 2024 course is an entirely online course. There are three main elements to the course in 2024:
1. Video lectures from experts in various topics to watch at your own pace.
2. Live webinars held each Weds evening from 6-7:30 pm to give you the chance to ask questions and apply your knowledge. These are held online via zoom.
3. Assignments every other week to try out new resources and skills.
Full details provided upon acceptance!
3. What is the fee for the core training course?
The core training registration fee is $500. That includes all sessions and access to a course website where readings, class recordings, and other electronic resources are found. A paper version of select course readings is available for an additional fee via a local print shop. See below for information regarding financial awards available to assist with the cost of the program.
4. Is financial assistance available to cover the course fee?
Yes. A limited number of financial awards are available to those who complete the application process and are accepted into the core training class. Financial award eligibility is based on financial need and racial/ethnic identity – individuals from underrepresented populations are prioritized. The financial award application is a simple process found within the course application.
5. Are there educational opportunities for individuals who don’t wish to be certified as a URI Master Gardener or do not wish to volunteer?
An alternative to the URI Master Gardener Program core training is available to individuals seeking to further their knowledge of environmentally-sound gardening but are not interested in volunteering or achieving certification as an “Extension Master Gardener”. Learn more about the URI Home Horticulture Certificate.
|URI Extension Master Gardener Core Training
|Home Horticulture Certificate
|Length of class
|Cost of class
|Assistance available for course fee (awards)?
|50 hours on approved projects within 2 years
|Will I have access to a veteran URI Master Gardener mentor to guide me through the volunteering?
|Will I need to complete class quizzes and assignments?
|May I attend future Master Gardener Program continuing education classes?
|Will I be eligible to use the title of URI Extension Master Gardener upon successful completion?
6. How long should my answers on the core training application be?
We are trying to get to know you through your application! Please be descriptive in your responses; bear in mind that the application process is competitive, and we would like to gain insight into your unique goals and interests. Please write enough to effectively and concisely express yourself, and fill in answers to ALL questions.
7. When will I hear back about my application?
You will receive a confirmation email stating that your application was successfully received and processed within a week of your submission. After you receive your submission confirmation and if you are accepted, you will receive email notification by December 1 after all applications have been reviewed. If you do not hear from us by then, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.