LaGRANGE — Troup County students weren’t the only ones headed back to school this week.
The University of Georgia’s Master Gardener Program, run by the county extension office, kicked off its 10-week session Tuesday and Thursday.
About 20 people are going through the class, which helps train volunteers to work in the local extension office and teach the community about becoming healthier, more financially independent and environmentally responsible.
Once they’re finished with the program, the students take a final examine that covers the topics they’ve learned during the course. Botany, landscaping design, soil and plant nutrition and a litany of other topics are taught during the course, which meets twice a week for about two hours at the Ag Center on Vulcan Materials Road.
Laura Smith, a physical therapist who lives in LaGrange, said she joined the class because she wanted to learn more about cultivating her own produce.
“I came because I was wanting to learn how to grow my own food,” she said during a class break Thursday. “I’ve always had an interest in gardening, but I didn’t have the time. Also, I want to teach my kids about where their food is coming from.”
Smith, like others in the class, admitted the course material was a little “intimidating,” she said, but she was looking forward to learning.
“It’s serious,” Smith said. “They’re not playing around.”
Smith’s right. The class feels more like a college course than a gardening class. The textbook alone is about 2 inches thick and has the weight and feel of a serious college text. Becoming a Master Gardener clearly takes dedication — and studying — but the benefits can pay off.
Once the students pass their finals, they’ll head into the community to teach basic plant biology, help people identify and control insects and grow their own vegetables and plants.
Master Gardeners are also required to do 25 hours of volunteer service each year. That can take the form of answering gardening questions at the local extension office on Church Street, maintaining composting and gardening demonstration sites, and conducting workshops for youth or adults.
The last Master Gardeners class was offered in 2014, and generally the classes are offered every two years, said Brian Maddy, the county’s extension agent.
Anyone looking for more information about becoming a Master Gardener can visit www.GAmastergardener.org or call 800-ASKUGA1. Troup County residents who have questions about gardening can find answers by calling the local extension office at 706-883-1675.
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.