bee on flower

Master Gardener volunteers help extend gardening knowledge into the community.

Gazebo at CCE Albany County

The gardens at CCE Albany County

The Master Gardener booth at the Altamont Fair

The Master Gardener booth at the Altamont Fair

Master Gardener Program

MG logo

What is a “Master Gardener?"

A Master Gardener is a volunteer who:

  • assists Cornell Cooperative Extension to provide educational horticulture programs for the public
  • staffs a “question and answer” phone hotline
  • has completed the Master Gardener Training Course offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension in
  • conjunction with Cornell University Master Gardeners assist Extension personnel with soil and diagnostic clinics, demonstrations, exhibits, lectures, and phone inquires from Albany County residents.

    ***Please contact the Master Gardener Volunteer Program Coordinator in the NY county where you reside if interested in applying to the MGV program. To find the contact person for your county search by the County Name along with Cornell Cooperative Extension then look under Gardening tab. For NYC counties contact either West Chester or Nassau County.

    How can I become a Master Gardener?

    **PLEASE NOTE: The next Albany County Master Gardener program training has been postponed until Fall 2021**  (You must apply by June 1, 2021)

    Applicants will be screened in June and interviews will be set up in July. Those accepted will have an orientation in late August and begin weekly training sessions in September, October and November. Instructors from local Cooperative Extension offices will cover a number of horticultural topics to prepare volunteers for their role as Master Gardeners. As part of the training program, volunteers will also attend the Master Gardener monthly staff meetings scheduled for September, October, and November. Additionally, volunteers will complete a total of four hours of Hotline phone training in our Voorheesville office. At the end of the whole training period, volunteers will take a pass/fail, open-book final exam.

    Beginning in the year following training, volunteers will complete 60 hours of volunteer service. Of those 60 hours, 20 will be spent on the phone hotline assisting callers with gardening questions.

    The remaining 40 hours may be met through any of the following:

  • attending monthly meetings
  • doing more phone hotline time
  • assisting staff to host gardening classes for the public (set-up, take registration, assist speaker,
  • clean-up, etc.)
  • staffing question and answer booths at public events (Altamont Fair, Capital District Garden
  •  how)
  • giving lectures at off-site locations about gardening
  • working in one of the five demonstration gardens
  • assisting with other approved projects for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Albany County
  • After volunteers meet all criteria (training, exam, 60 hours of volunteer service) they receive a Master Gardener certificate, and may use the Master Gardener title when attending Cornell Cooperative Extension events. 

    Our goal is to have Master Gardeners remain involved in the program beyond the first year.

    Sixty hours of volunteer time per year is required after the first year in order to remain active in the program. Volunteers who do not meet the 60 hours per year requirement relinquish their right to the Master Gardener title.

    We follow the above procedure because volunteers represent Cornell University, and distribute information to the public. Therefore, volunteers must remain current on horticulture information. We also want to promote the sense of a “gardening family” within the Master Gardener program.

    What is the cost?

    There is a program fee to help defray the cost of Master Gardener training materials and bulletins. Volunteers receive (and keep) Cornell publications about different topics such as: pruning, lawn care, growing fruit, and insect identification. Though the fee varies each year according to materials distributed, it's approximately $300.00.


    Since Master Gardeners represent Cornell University, volunteers may not use the Master Gardener title beyond Cornell Cooperative Extension sponsored events. For example, volunteers may not put “Master Gardener” on business cards, nor may they promote another business by using the Master Gardener title. Master Gardeners may not use the Master Gardener title to earn money for themselves.

    Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a program that emphasizes exploring all options for pest management including: “practicing tolerance,” “practicing prevention,” “using mechanical controls,” and “using chemical controls.” Volunteers in the Master Gardener Program must be able to make suggestions based on Cornell recommendations rather than making suggestions based on “home remedies” or personal preference. 

    If you have not already talked with the 
    Master Gardener Coordinator…

    Call the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Albany County Agriculture Office at 518-765-3516. The Master Gardener Coordinator will explain the volunteer program to you. It takes about 15 minutes to do so. Then you will receive an application in the mail. Complete the application and mail it to: Horticulture, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Voorheesville, NY 12186. Thank you for your interest in promoting education in Horticulture.


    Carole Henry
    Master Gardener Coordinator, Albany County CCE

    Last updated November 5, 2020