The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Improving Lives, Communities and the Economy

Sharing a Passion for Plants

Photo Credit: UA News

Master Gardener Steve McIntyre had an engineering puzzle to solve: Can you take a parking lot that’s bathed in shade for much of the day and turn it into a garden to feed those in need? Yes, you can.
McIntyre and a small army of UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners, turned a parking lot at the Prescott, Ariz. YMCA into a community garden that provided nearly three-quarters of a ton of produce to the needy in 2012.
McIntyre, a retired engineer, is one of 160 active Master Gardeners in Yavapai County. These trained volunteers spread their knowledge of gardening throughout their community. In 2012, volunteers invested 13,725 hours of service, valued at more than $300,000.
For the volunteers, creating gardens, inspiring children to grow things, sharing their expertise and finding solutions to pesky plant problems are part of their calling. Ultimately, they work to help people save money by teaching them how to keep their plants alive and to reduce chemical use.
"The Master Gardeners get projects done, they have fun and they are meeting a mission that is very important to them and the community," said Jeff Schalau, agriculture and natural resources agent with Yavapai County Cooperative Extension.
Master Gardener Sue Smith recently led a team in creating the Yavapai County Native and Naturalized Plant Database. Using her skills as a former eBay programmer, Smith, with help from other volunteers, has photographed and described 407 plants, which are searchable online.
UA Cooperative Extension offers training to community members who would like to become Master Gardeners. As part of the training course, individuals learn, among other things, methods associated with planting, composting and irrigation and also how to present talks and demonstrations about gardens.