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Your path to become a master gardener

Durango is flush with opportunities to volunteer. With hundreds of nonprofits, fundraisers, charity functions and the like, it’s amazing that some of those volunteers can find the time to perform other tasks – like work or sleep.

As the person charged with running the Colorado Master Gardener program in La Plata County, I know all about volunteers and the effect they can have on your organization. Every year, I typically have about 45 to 60 CMG volunteers who will give more than 2,500 hours of service.

Some of that service is shared with like-minded organizations (Durango Botanical Society and The Garden Project of Southwest Colorado) and with community and school gardens (Durango Public Library Demonstration Garden and Manna, for example). But you may also see CMG volunteers at the Durango Farmers Market or working at local events such as Tour de Farms or Apple Days. And many of them work “behind the scenes,” writing articles for blogs and even The Durango Herald on occasion or as weather station recorders. Check out www.cocorahs.com – there are 56 observers with rain/precipitation gauges scattered all over the county.

So needless to say, I rely heavily on my volunteers. But let’s work back a bit, as I’m putting the cart before the horse (or the volunteer before the class).

The Colorado State University Extension Office released the 2020 applications for the CMG program about a month ago. They can be found – and completed – online at www.laplataextension.org or at our office at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, 2500 Main Ave. If you are not familiar with the program, students will receive training in tree care, vegetables, soils, plant diseases and insects, native plants, water-wise gardening, pruning and much more.

The series starts Jan. 30, 2020, and will take place at the fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays for 11 weeks, as well as offer three weeks of online videos that can be watched from a computer anywhere. The base cost for volunteers is $170, which is a sweet deal.

But what you also get are the relationships created in the class. I’ve done this enough times to know that: you either take the class because you are an all-star gardener or you think you need to green-up your thumb; everyone is pretty cautious to give examples of their successes and failures in the first class; the premise that students are either talkers or listeners holds true for adults; students stop listening to me by week six when I tell them to take their seats because they are too busy discussing what they’re getting ready to plant; and by week 11, students are making plans for the next get-together because they’ll miss each other terribly.

That’s the part that makes the $170 worth it. Not only are we growing plants, we’re growing people. Oh, and we have really good snacks and coffee.

Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at darrin.parmenter@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6464.

Darrin Parmenter

To learn more

To find out more about the Colorado Master Gardener Program, visit


. Applications for the La Plata County program will be accepted through Dec. 31.