The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

Master Gardener class coming to Seward


On the day I first arrived in Alaska 30 years ago, the road from Fairbanks International Airport rolled past open fields gently inclining to the main campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). The foreground view was Norman Rockwell-esque with a large red barn, grazing livestock, and hooped greenhouses. My daily bike-riding route soon took me past what I soon learned was the agricultural research station for the Cooperative Extension Service (CES). This was just the beginning of a very resourceful educational relationship with an agency I knew little about.

Beginning 150 years ago in 1862, the Morrill Act established land-grant colleges with an original mission “to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanic arts as well as classical studies so members of the working class could obtain a liberal, practical education.” (Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities – 2/2012). President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law in 1862. Over the course of time several other federal acts have broadened the scope of the original Morrill Act as the act met with an increasing demand for technical and agricultural education in the United States. Each U.S. state, territory, and Washington, D.C. have at least one land-grant institution. Alaska has two: University Alaska Fairbanks and Ilisagvik College in Barrow.

Twenty-five years after the original Morrill Act passed into law, the federal government agricultural experiment station programs became a key component of the land-grant system with the passage of the Hatch Act in 1887. The Hatch Act of 1887 was passed in recognition that research was needed to develop agricultural practices through the land-grant institutions. Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plays the lead role in administration of federal funding and activity coordination at the national level. The Cooperative Extension Service of the USDA works cooperatively with each state’s government. State governments also provide funding for research and extension programs. Collaboration between state and federal governments, under the guidelines of several government acts, following the Morrill and Hatch Acts, provide funding to the land-grant institutions and facilitates the sharing of information within the Cooperative Extension Service. Alaska was still a young territory when the Morrill and Hatch Acts were passed.

While the land-grant process was already established and continuing to develop, Alaska had several federal agriculture experiment stations working to establish the viability of farming and gardening in the far north. In the early 1900s, though statehood was still more than a quarter-century in the future, it was judge and congressional delegate James Wickersham who pushed for the creation of a college in Alaska’s Interior. The Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines started classes in 1922. In 1935, the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines became known as University of Alaska. From these humble beginnings, the Cooperative Extension Service began working with Alaskans to initially organize 4-H and home economics clubs.

The UAF Cooperative Extension Service, like the CES of other land-grant institutions offers hundreds of free publications online and at district offices. The Kenai Peninsula district office is in Soldotna. Aside from publications, workshops and practical trainings are available in agriculture and horticulture; health, home and family development; natural resources and community development; and 4-H and youth development.

Master Gardener course offered

Beginning in January 2013, the UAF CES will offer residents of Seward and Soldotna the Alaska Master Gardener course. It’s been several years since our last Master Gardener class. Seward has a budding crop of new gardeners who have eagerly awaited this course.

The Master Gardener training includes 40 hours of intensive horticultural training. The class will be held on Tuesday evenings, from 6 to 9 p.m. The course will run most Tuesday evenings until May. Beyond the classroom training period, anyone interested in becoming certified as a Master Gardener will also need to complete an additional 40 hours of hands-on volunteer gardening service within the community. The entire course costs $150 and payment can be paid the first day of class. A refund of $40 will be given to each individual that gives back 40 hours of volunteer service as a Master Gardener.

Applications are accepted on a first come, first served basis through the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service Office, Kenai Peninsula District website. To request an application, call 907-262.-824 or email Applications need to be submitted to the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Kenai Peninsula District Office (43961 K-Beach Road, Soldotna, AK 99669) by close of business on Dec. 29.


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