Search for Excellence - Gold Miner Program with the UC Riverside Master Gardeners
As we are gearing up for the 2017 Statewide Master Gardener Conference in Long Beach, we thought we would highlight past winners of the Search For Excellence competition. Every three years the UC Master Gardener Program hosts a Search for Excellence (SFE) competition looking to recognize projects that exemplify the incredible impacts programs are making across the state. If your program is interested in showcasing projects happening in your county, you can find more information about the Search for Excellence competition on the 2017 conference website. The application deadline is May 1, 2017. In 2014, Riverside Master Gardeners took first place for their Gold Miners Program.
There's Gold in them thar hills! Riverside County is a big county, stretching from the Los Angeles metro area to the Colorado River. The main challenge of the UC Master Gardener Program of Riverside County was how to better fulfill their mission of educating their community on sustainable gardening practices. The answer - Gold Miners.
In November, 2010 the Gold Miner program was established with representatives from nine areas of Riverside County:
- Moreno Valley/Perris
- The Pass (Banning Beaumont)
- The Mountain area
- Desert areas
- Hemet/San Jacinto/ Menifee
- South County (Temecula/Murrieta)
- Lake Elsinore
Before this, there was very little Master Gardener activity in any part of the county except the area around the city of Riverside.
There were two goals for the program:
- To provide Master Gardener services to all of Riverside County, including information tables, speakers and docent services for approved organizations, and,
- To provide volunteering opportunities for Master Gardeners all over the county
Each representative of an area is referred to as the Gold Miner, and they are charged with finding the “golden” opportunities to volunteer in their areas.
Right away we realized that the Gold Miner from each area would need to have their own Information box, EZ Up style awing, table cloth, banner, and table so that they did not have to drive to theUCCE Office to set-up an information table each time. It took some time, but the Master Gardener Program has provided most of this to all of the areas over the past six and a half years. Among the responsibilities of each Gold Miner is to house these properties and to refill their information boxes with brochures, etc, for the events in their area. Master Gardeners can pick-up information boxes from the Gold Miner in their area for an event.
The Gold Miners meet monthly from September – June of each year on the fourth Thursday of the month to discuss ideas and concerns and report on their activities. Besides looking for new opportunities for Master Gardeners to volunteer in their areas, they are responsible for finding volunteers for these events and any others that may become available through other sources. Although the most common way to inform and procure volunteers for activities is through VMS, often they will call Master Gardeners in their area to ask for help. The Gold Miner is not responsible for volunteering for activities themselves (unless they want to), but for making sure there are volunteers for approved events. There has been a lot of cooperation between the areas over the last six and a half years to make sure events have the volunteers they need.
I am extremely appreciative of the wonderful Master Gardeners who have volunteered their time these past years to create and grow this project. Because of them we have greatly increased the number and quality of events that are staffed by Riverside County Master Gardeners throughout the county. As an outcome of providing more services to the county, more people found out about the Master Gardener program and wanted to volunteer to be one.