While Extension Master Gardener (EMG) College offers EMGs from around the commonwealth the chance to network with one another and expand their education, it also offers a unique opportunity for advanced Master Gardener training.

This year’s Master Gardener College features the chance to become certified as a Tree Steward.

“Tree Steward training is a way for EMGs to increase their level of participation within their community and help assess what their communities’ needs are when it comes to trees,” says Frank Reilly, an EMG in the Central Rappahannock unit, Tree Steward since 2000, and coordinator of this year’s EMG College Tree Steward training.

“Tree Steward training is the opportunity for 30+ hours that will help you understand the needs of trees and forests, as well as how you and your community need trees” says Reilly.

EMGs participating in Tree Steward training at EMG College will arrive to college one day early and will spend Wednesday June 20 and the morning of June 21 in the classroom learning about tree biology, tree health, tree selection, tree identification and trees in your community, among other topics.

Tree Stewards in training will then spend Thursday June 21 on a special tree inventory project as part of an afternoon field trip.

“We’ll be doing a tree inventory at Virginia Tech,” says Reilly. “Tree Stewards will be all set to go home and do their own tree inventory projects in their communities,” he adds, “and it’s a great opportunity for service learning because we’ll be leaving a gift for Virginia Tech.”

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Tree Stewards in training will attend EMG College keynote and concurrent sessions along with their peers; however, Tree Stewards in training must choose all of their concurrent sessions from a list of Tree Steward-approved classes.

“We know that not every EMG has the same interest in trees, so we have a variety of classes available for Tree Stewards to choose from,” says Reilly. A complete list of concurrent sessions is available in the latest edition of In Season (the State Coordinator’s Office newsletter) here. Tree Steward classes are denoted by a tree icon.

master gardener learning in classroom
A Master Gardener takes notes during a lecture at 2017 Master Gardener College

When Tree Stewards in training return to their units, they will complete the final stage of training under the supervision of their local Agent or Unit Coordinator as they work to organize a local tree-related project.

Thanks to the dedicated work of other Tree Steward volunteers, this year’s training program will also feature a newly revised Tree Steward manual.

“There was a real need for information specifically for Virginia EMGs,” says Carol King who helped lead efforts to produce the new Tree Steward manual. “This new manual has information on each region of Virginia and is tailored for EMGs. It includes examples of past unit projects with trees, as well as space for local units to add their own content.” For more information on the new Tree Steward manual, please see “Tree Steward Manual Updated for 2018.”

“Tree Steward training is a portal that gives you a grounding to focus on an important part of our plant world,” says King who became a Tree Steward in 2009. “As an advanced program, it opens the door to expert knowledge and involvement that can make a big difference in a community,” she adds.

“While some units put on their own local advanced training classes, not all units are able to do that,” says Dave Close, the Virginia Extension Master Gardener State Coordinator. “The advanced training at EMG College offers those EMGs the chance for advanced certification.”

For more information on Tree Steward training or on EMG College, please see the latest edition of In Season, available here. Tree Steward training at this year’s EMG College costs $100 in addition to the cost of College registration. Registration for EMG College and the Tree Steward training will be open in the beginning of May. Please ask your local Agent or Unit Coordinator for more information.