April 20, 2003 | By: Janet Eaton, Ag. Communications Intern

On Wednesday afternoons a group of chatty and active 8- and 9-year olds come to the University of Kentucky Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Arboretum to participate in a first-of-its-kind program for Kentucky. Each is working to earn a certificate naming them “Junior Master Gardener. “

The Junior Master Gardener program is made possible by a partnership between Fayette County 4-H and the Arboretum. The eight-week youth program, modeled after the successful adult Master Gardener program, was developed at Texas A&M and the Extension 4-H program there offers materials for participants and leader.

“Since the Arboretum is the official botanical garden of Kentucky it seemed the most logical place to offer a junior master gardener program as part of our youth outreach,” said Brenda Franey, education coordinator at the Arboretum. “Implementing this program was a high priority for us.”

Esther Moberly, Cooperative Extension agent for 4-H and Youth Development in Fayette County and a Master Gardener herself, co-teaches the program with Franey.

“The kids love it,” Moberly said. “We have mostly younger kids, mostly 8-year olds and 9-year olds, and they seem to enjoy it. We already have about 10 children on a waiting list for the fall.”

Community service also is a required part of the program.  A recent community service project provided a fresh pasta salad full of fresh vegetables to the Hospital

Hospitality House, a home away from home for families of people who are hospitalized. Each child brought a vegetable or two to chop up and mix with pasta.  The pasta is cooked and brought by members of the adult Fayette County Master Gardener Program who volunteer each week to help with the program. 

Program participants are required to read a chapter in their workbook each week before they come and do two activities at home that reinforce that week’s lessons.  A parent or guardian has to sign the child’s book verifying they completed the assignments. Even with all the work, the children are eager to be part of the group. 

“The participants get a sense of wonder and better understanding of the natural world around us,” Franey said, “The subject matter is not just on gardening but also covers ecology, water, soil, insects, etc. If they actually go home and start their own garden, that's just icing on the cake.”


Esther Moberly  859-257-5582, Brenda Franey 859-257-9339