Image of a sunflower with the master gardener logo on it.

Extension Master Gardener Program Training Course - Ottawa County


We're pleased you are interested in the MSU Extension Master Gardener (EMG) Program and trust it will be a rich and rewarding experience for you. Details for this 14-week training site are:

                Location:     Online (see technology requirements below)                                

                When:          Fridays, 1-5 p.m. EST
                                     March 5 - June 18, 2021
                                     (No class May 28)

                 Course Fee:     $325 - includes: All background check and training course expenses including 1,000-page training manual. There are no other out-of-pocket costs.

                 Payments:   Credit card (preferred) or check.

                 Deadlines:    Application due: Feb. 15, 2021
                                       Payment by check: Feb. 1, 2021
                                       Payment by credit card: Feb. 15, 2021


About the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program Training Course and Volunteer Service

Access to World Class Gardening Knowledge. The MSU Extension Master Gardener (EMG) Program connects gardeners across the state to MSU faculty and resources. Participants have access to information generated at one of the nation's top plant science teaching and research universities and the chance to use this knowledge to improve their communities and enrich lives.

Extension Master Gardener volunteers start by completing a 14-session training course grounded in university research. This training consists of approximately 45 hours of training with classes on plant science, soil science, integrated pest management, diagnostics, annuals and perennials, woody ornamentals, lawns, vegetables, small fruits, tree fruits, household and nuisance pests, indoor plants and gardening practices to protect water resources.

Training Course Format:  This spring 2021 training course will be offered online via Zoom and the MSU learning course management system known as Desire to Learn. Participants will be provided detailed instructions on how to effectively utilize both technologies prior to the first class start date.   

Technology Requirements: Below are recommendations for the optimal interactive online learning experience:
       * A computer, laptop or tablet with latest version of your browser
       * A reliable, internet connection - broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE)
       * Webcam or HD webcam - built-in or USB plug-in
       * Speakers and a microphone - built-in or USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth
       * Latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader

Attendance Commitment:
Participants must commit to attending all the live online training classes. If a schedule conflict occurs, the participant may only miss two online live classes. However, these must be made up by attending a lecture on the same topic offered through another concurrent EMG training course. Upon coordinator approval, viewing available recorded sessions is another make up option but is less engaging for course participants. 

Training Commitment: Participants must commit to completing all open-book testing documents (weekly quizzes and final) with a minimum score of 80% on each quiz and final. 

An Opportunity to Serve: After completing the training, Extension Master Gardener trainees must complete and report 40 hours of pre-approved horticulture-related service within one year of the last class date to earn their MSU Extension Master Gardener certification. Through these volunteer activities, trainees educate others in their local community on the science-based, environmentally sound gardening practices learned during their training. Examples of volunteer projects and service may include: 
  • Working with students to design an elementary school garden.
  • Creating a hands-on horticulture therapy program at a senior center or facility for individuals with cognitive impairments.
  • Helping and educating a neighborhood association create an urban garden.
  • Assisting with the MSU Extension State Lawn and Garden Hotline or Ask an Expert.
  • Developing and supporting educational display gardens.
  • Teaching gardening classes.
  • Providing technical assistance to community members establishing vegetable gardens to meet local nutritional needs.
  • Mentoring teachers in outdoor and indoor classrooms using gardening curricula.
  • Sharing science-based information on environmentally friendly gardening practices at community outreach events.

After the initial certifying year, EMGs are required to annually complete and report 10 education and 20 volunteer hours as well as complete a 3-step re-certification process (which includes a $20 re-certification fee) to maintain certification.    


The Volunteer Selection Process (VSP)

As an MSU Extension Master Gardener, you will be representing Michigan State University. To ensure the safety of our volunteers and public contacts, we require all applicants to complete the MSU Extension Volunteer Selection Process (VSP) in conjunction with the Extension Master Gardener Training Course application. Upon successful completion of the Volunteer Selection Process, EMG Training Course application, and receipt of payment in full, you will then be formally enrolled in the Extension Master Gardener Training Course.

Complete the confidential four-step online Volunteer Selection Process at 

1.)    MSU Volunteer Application - Under Program Areas, click on the Extension Master Gardener Program and complete the application.  Note the specific instructions below. (These steps are very important to ensure your application is correctly processed.)
                  a.  Type of Volunteer: "Gold" 
                  b.  Program: "Extension Master Gardener"
                  c.  Are you currently a re-certified Extension Master Gardener - "No" (you will then be directed to the VSP Extension Master Gardener Program application)  

2.)    References - Within 5 days of submitting the volunteer application, please provide information for five non-family members. While MSU Extension requires only three completed references, requesting references from five individuals may help expedite the process in case one or more of your references are not able to respond promptly. Persons providing references must be 18 years or older and should not include family members, partners, significant others, etc. You will be required to provide:
                  a.  Name of reference
                  b.  Email address
                  c.  Phone number 

3.)    Personal criminal history background check - You will be asked to provide your social security number and date of birth so the following can be completed:
                  a.  National background check
                  b.  State criminal history background check
                  c.  Check against the Sex Offenders Registry

4.)    An interview - Conducted by Extension Staff and will cover your interests, talents as well as your fit with the Extension Master Gardener Program 

The volunteer application, references and personal criminal history background check must be completed by to the registration deadline.
Steps 1 - 3 must be completed within 14 days of your registration.  If you register for the training within 14 days of the registration deadline, steps 1 - 3 must be completed by the registration deadline.

After successful completion of steps 1-3, you will then be contacted by local MSU Extension staff to set up an interview (step 4) about your potential involvement in the Program. Upon successful completion of all four steps of the VSP and receipt of payment in full, you will then be formally enrolled in the Extension Master Gardener training course.  


  • Partial scholarships may be available. No full scholarships are provided.
  • If interested in a partial scholarship, you must complete both the online training course application AND the scholarship application. Each application is a separate process.
  • The Volunteer Selection Process, and the training course and scholarship application processes must be successfully completed for a scholarship application to be considered.
  • To ensure your seat is held during the scholarship application process, you must submit payment for the EMG Training Course.
  • Scholarship applications will be reviewed and decisions made prior to the training course registration deadline.
  • If approved for a partial scholarship, you will be notified of the amount and receive a refund for the scholarship amount.
Applications and Payments:
  • Online applications must be completed by the registration deadline, Feb. 15, 2021 or earlier.
  • In the rare event that an application is accepted after the due date, an additional $25 fee will be assessed to cover the late application processing and the MSU Extension Master Gardener Training Manual shipping costs.
  • Your training course seat is not reserved until payment in full is received and processed by MSU.
  • Your application will be cancelled if payment in full is not received within 10 days of your application submission. You have the option of canceling your MSU Extension Master Gardener training application at any time. Refunds will be issued per the Refund Policy.
    • Check Postmark Due Date:   Feb. 1, 2021
    • Credit Card Due Date:          Feb. 15 2021
Refund Policy:
  • A full refund, less a $35 processing fee will be issued for any application cancelled prior to registration closing. 
  • No refund will be issued for any application cancelled after application closes.
  • No refund will be issued for any application cancelled after the training course has started. The MSU Extension Master Gardener Training Manual is for certified Extension Master Gardeners.  Should you choose to not complete the training course, it is expected that the training manual be returned in good condition.
Training Course Cancellation Policy:
MSU Extension reserves the right to cancel any course if the minimum participant levels are not met.  Registrants will receive a full refund as follows and may re-register for a future class:
  • Credit card payments - a credit will be issued to your credit card for the amount paid.
  • Payment by check - MSU will prepare and mail you a check for the amount paid. This process takes about two weeks after the refund has been requested.

Training Course Manual Pickup:

The EMG Training Course Manual is a comprehensive, 1000+ page manual. To maintain participant registration cost, we are currently asking participants to obtain their manual at a location(s) in Ottawa County through curbside pickup. Location details will be determined at the close of registration and review of participants’ residence. Please contact the staff person below if you have questions or concerns. 

Michigan State University is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services and activities. Accommodations for persons with disabilities may be requested by contacting the event contact two weeks prior to the start of the event. Requests received after this date will be honored whenever possible. Please indicate any accommodation requests within the application.


Michigan State University is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services and activities. Accommodations for persons with disabilities may be requested by contacting the event contact two weeks prior to the start of the event. Requests received after this date will be honored whenever possible.

Contact Information

For more information contact Angela Van Order at