The first Master Gardeners came together in Washington State in the early 1970s. The Extension Horticulturist was overwhelmed with questions from residents about gardening, lawns, trees, etc. He thought that it would be great to train some interested volunteer gardeners to help him field these questions, so he developed a training program and the Master Gardeners were born. The Indiana Master Gardener program was started by Purdue University in 1975.
Although the Master Gardeners of Southwestern Indiana sowed its first educational seeds on proper gardening techniques in 1988, the founding group of nine members did not formalize until September 1991 under the name of “Vanderburgh County Master Gardeners Association.” A year later, with the adoption of its bylaws, the group changed its name to the “Southwestern Indiana Master Gardener Association, Inc.” to serve the counties of Vanderburgh, Warrick, Gibson and Posey.
From the initial garden project at Mesker Zoo, SWIMGA has expanded its presence with community gardens blooming from Mt. Vernon to Newburgh, at schools, churches and public spaces. In October 2005, the soil was leveled and seeds were planted on the Evansville State Hospital grounds to create the 1.2 acre Master Gardener Display Garden – its crown jewel of the community gardens, boasting over 20 beautiful and unique gardens including a vegetable plot which annually produces over 10,000 pounds of produce that is donated to the less fortunate of the community.
In addition to caring for gardens, SWIMGA has participated in many community programs over its history – from Arbor Day, Ag Day and Earth Day, to Recycling and Tox-Away projects, Yard and Patio / Home Shows and the 4H Vanderburgh and Gibson County Fairs. SWIMGA continues to assist Habitat for Humanity in landscaping the yards of newly built homes.
With education forefront in its mission statement, SWIMGA educates all age levels, from the youth – through school, Scouting and gardening projects – to the adult through “Demonstration Days” at its Master Gardener Display Garden and the biennial Fall Conferences to educate the public in gardening and horticultural topics. In the alternating years, SWIMGA hosts a Garden Walk “Tour de Fleur” for the public to enjoy and learn about gardening.
The annual Plant Sale continues to blossom in size and quality each year. Starting as a “Geranium Sale,” the annual day-long event now offers the public nearly 15,000 plants including vegetables, perennial and annual flowers, houseplants, etc.
Today, with nearly 400 members, SWIMGA continues to “dig, sow, plant and grow” within the community by educating its members and the general public on horticultural techniques; demonstrating proper gardening, tree and lawn care techniques recommended by Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service; and by encouraging the community to live a healthy lifestyle through gardening.
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2017 LEADERSHIP TEAM
Tony Buccilli, Jr.
Maria Coello Biarnes
Larry Caplan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kay Haller and Linda Stocks
MG Display Garden co-coordinators
Project Gardens coordinator