Indiana MG Program History

Master Gardener Milestones in Indiana
A 30-year History of the Master Gardener Program


  • The original concept of the Master Gardener volunteer program is developed by Washington State University because public demand for information about plant problems is so intense that it makes educational programming virtually impossible.


  • Purdue University staff and County Extension Agents (now called Extension Educators) meet to discuss program development of the Master Gardener program.


  • Purdue University, the land-grant college in Indiana, initiates the Master Gardener program.  The first official Master Gardener training programs begin in the state.
  • Four Indiana counties provide training programs the first year and are coordinated by County Extension Agents: Allen County (Paul Hughes), Lake County (John Begeman), Marion County (Dick Crum) and Vanderburgh County (Allen Boger).
  • The programs are taught by Extension Agents and university staff.
  • Almost 100 people are involved in the first year of training.
  • Master Gardener certificates are given to participants who complete the class and pass a written exam with at least 70 percent accuracy (before the volunteer requirement is completed).
  • Program name is Indiana Master Gardener Program.
  • Logo is a round, 3-leaved plant surrounded by an embellished circle.
  • Program motto is “A Way For Us To Grow.”
  • The first Master Gardener State Coordinator is Juliann Chamberlain (1978-early 1983).  The position is a staff assistant to Urban/Consumer Horticulture faculty member John A. Wott, Purdue University Associate Professor of Horticulture.


  • Five additional counties conduct Master Gardener training programs: Tippecanoe, Monroe, Delaware, Madison and Kosciusko.  Delaware and Madison have one training program between the two counties, and Kosciusko conducts a training program under the guidance of Allen County.
  • Some of the Master Gardener programs are discontinued and reestablished at a later date.


  • Grant County starts a Master Gardener program.
  • A total of 248 people participated in Master Gardener training in 9 counties.


  • To be a recipient of a Master Gardener certificate, the requirements are now: 1) completion of class and passing a written exam with at least 70% and 2) completion of volunteer commitment.


  • Mike Dana, Purdue University Professor of Horticulture, replaces John Wott in the consumer/urban horticulture area, but Juliann Chamberlain continues as Master Gardener State Coordinator.


  • Jim Schmidt is hired as Master Gardener State Coordinator, but stays for only about 3 months.  The position stays open for the rest of the year.


  • Counties with a Master Gardener program: 7
  • Rosie Lerner, Extension Specialist in Consumer Horticulture and Coordinator of Purdue Gardens and Master Gardener Coordinator, is hired in January 1984.  She continues as State Coordinator until August 2002.
  • State Master Gardener Program Review Committee is formed to revise state guidelines and standards.  Committee included Allen Boger (Vanderburgh Co.), John Begeman (Lake Co.), Virgil Griffith (Grant Co.), Paul Hughes (Allen Co.), Mike Dana (Horticulture Dept.) and Rosie Lerner (Horticulture Dept.).
  • Program motto is changed to “Helping Others Grow.”
  • Logo is updated (embellished circle is replaced by bold circle, and in some cases, roots are added below circle).
  • Advanced trainings are usually held at least once a year.  They are originally called Master Gardener Field Day but later changed to Advanced Master Gardener Training.  The advanced training usually focused on one subject for the day, but sometimes a variety of topics.


  • Counties with a Master Gardener program: 15
  • Master Gardener State Coordinator position becomes autonomous from the faculty position.
  • First State Master Gardener Advisory Committee is formed.  It includes County Extension Agents and Master Gardeners.


  • Indiana Master Gardeners and Master Gardener State Coordinator attend the first national Master Gardener conference held in Washington, DC, in 1987.  The second Master Gardener national conference is held in Portland, OR, in 1989.


  • Counties with a Master Gardener program: 18


  • Counties with a Master Gardener program: 22
  • Master Gardeners from Ontario and Michigan host the first International Master Gardener Conference in Detroit in 1991.  International Master Gardener Conferences continue to be held every other year: San Antonio, Texas (1993), Saskatoon, Canada (1995), Sacramento, California (1997), San Antonio, Texas (1999), Orlando, Florida (2001), Cincinnati, Ohio/Northern Kentucky (2003), Saskatoon, Canada (2005), and Little Rock, Arkansas (2007).  In 2009 it will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in 2011 Charleston, West Virginia will host the conference.


  • Counties with a Master Gardener program: 25
  • The first Tri-State Master Gardener Conference is held in 1992 at Ohio State University.  The conference location rotates with Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.  This is the predecessor of the Master Gardener State Conference.  Tri-State Conferences are held at Ohio State University (1992), Purdue University (1994), University of Kentucky (1996), Ohio State (1998) and Purdue (2000).
  • The first Master Gardener trip to Europe takes place (England and Holland).


  • Master Gardeners take their first trip to France.


  • Counties with a Master Gardener program: 28
  • The Purdue Consumer Horticulture and Master Gardener websites are launched late in the year.


  • Counties with a Master Gardener program: 38


  • Counties with a Master Gardener program: 41


  • Counties with a Master Gardener program: 58
  • Another trip to England is planned for Master Gardeners.


  • Counties with a Master Gardener program: 69


  • Counties with a Master Gardener program: 71
  • Peggy Sellers assumes full-time Master Gardener State Coordinator position (September 2002-November 2006) while Rosie Lerner has full-time duties as Consumer Horticulture Specialist.
  • Peggy Sellers transfers to the new position from the Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Lab.
  • Peggy Sellers forms a program advisory committee consisting of County Extension Educators.


  • Program name and logo are changed.
  • Official program name is now Purdue Master Gardener Program.
  • New logo is trademarked.
  • The Purdue Master Gardener website is redesigned to reflect the new logo and to have a more upto-date design.


  • Purdue Master Gardener State Conferences begin and are held annually.  The locations for the conferences to date are: Purdue, West Lafayette (June 2004); Lake and Porter Counties, Merrillville (June 2005); Hamilton County, Noblesville (September 2006); SWIMGA, Evansville (September 2007); and Marion County, Indianapolis (September 2008).


  • Master Gardeners participate in a study and travel experience in the gardens of England.  It is repeated in 2006 and 2007.


  • With the loss of the full time State Coordinator position, Rosie Lerner assumes the responsibilities of State Coordinator (December 2006-Present) in addition to Consumer Horticulture Specialist.
  • Mary Welch-Keesey serves as Master Gardener Educational Programming Specialist in addition to Consumer Horticulture Specialist (December 2006-Present)


  • Counties with a Master Gardener program: 77
  • Master Gardeners participate in a 12-day study and travel experience in the gardens of France.
  • Indiana celebrates 30 years of the Master Gardener program.
  • MC MGA and Garfield MGA host MG State Conference


  • MC MGA added Membership Chair position


  • MC MGA added Membership Chair position


  • Extension Office moved to Indiana State Fairgrounds in December 2011; at Intech Park since 2002


  • Assistant Secretary’s positions title was changed to Communications Coordinator