With shovels in tow, Master Gardeners across Georgia help their communities by conducting special gardening programs, writing news stories and lending their expertise wherever needed. Trained in a variety of horticultural subjects, Master Gardeners help University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agents answer questions and work on local gardening projects. Master Gardeners are a corps of volunteers trained by experts with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Last fall marked the 30th anniversary of the Master Gardener program in Georgia. To honor their service to the state, Gov. Sonny Perdue declared March 20 Master Gardener Day in Georgia. “The training component is essential as the volunteers use their new expertise to help with a variety of gardening-related projects,” said Marco Fonseca, a UGA CAES horticulturist and coordinator of the program. “Master Gardeners complete 40 class hours of training conducted by UGA Extension experts.” Last year, Georgia Master Gardeners logged 217,010 hours of volunteer time in their communities, which equals an estimated value of $4.23 million. “With over 2,500 active members, the Georgia Master Gardener Program is one of the best community volunteer programs in the nation,” Fonseca said. “Master Gardener volunteerism creates a far reaching ripple effect across our state, and once a year we stop to give them a special day of recognition.”To see if your county offers a Master Gardener program, call your local UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1. To learn more about the program, visit www.georgiamastergardener.com .