MGNA History

A Quick History of the International Master Gardener Program and the Master Gardeners of North Alabama

Link to Interactive List of MG Coordinators

Click the link to an Interactive Page On Master Gardener Programs across the U.S. (Source: American Horticultural Society)

The Master Gardener (MG) volunteer program began in 1972 in King County (Seattle), Washington. Extension Agent David Gibby was being overwhelmed with requests for gardening information. Partially in self-defense, he developed the idea of providing training for avid gardeners who would then share the acquired knowledge with others through community service.

The Master Gardener concept quickly took root, and by 1988 there was a Master Gardener International Program. There are now programs in all 50 states and at least four Canadian provinces. Wherever they are found, Master Gardeners share a common desire to learn more about gardening and to become better stewards of our country’s landscapes and natural resources.

Thousands of individuals, including over 6,000 Alabamians in 42 Alabama counties, have received this much-acclaimed training, and thousands of hours of volunteer service have been given in return.

MGNA 25th Anniversary Reception

Mary Lou McNabb and Gary Murray, two Alabama Master Gardener Program founders. (Photo by M.Kilby)

MGNA Member Mary Lou McNabb brought the Master Gardener concept to Huntsville, Alabama in 1981. She asked Madison County Extension Agent Gary Murray if he would help get a Master Gardener Program started. These two individuals, along with Dr. Caula Beyl and Dr. Govid Sharma of Alabama A&M University, organized the first Alabama Master Gardener training program in Huntsville.

In 1988 The Master Gardeners of North Alabama (MGNA) was organized and began conducting regular meetings and events. It was these energetic volunteers who established many of our outreach and extension support programs that continue today.

MGNA continued to grow and in 2004 it was decided that our all-volunteer organization should formally organize as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Each year we see new Master Gardener Interns join our ranks after taking the Master Gardener Training Course. You are never to young or too old for this program! We continue to serve our greater Huntsville, Alabama communities as an all volunteer organization.

Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who support the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  As an association of Alabama Master Gardeners we also:

  • Offer educational workshops for the public to promote best practices in home gardening.
  • Oversee school horticultural classroom projects in the community.
  • Oversee horticulture therapy activities to individuals with significant cognitive disabilities.
  • Manage a demonstration vegetable garden at the Huntsville Botanical Garden.
  • Outreach to the public at community events, garden centers and speaking engagements.
  • Provide free pH testing to the public at community gardening events.
  • Organize field trips, social gatherings and special events for our active members.