Last week, I found myself in a conversation that was out of my element, but I participated with enthusiasm none-the-less. I was standing in the barn at Goranson Farm, talking with the owner Jan and a few farmers, about a vegetable called celeriac. A year ago, I would not have known how to pronounce that word, let alone enter into a discussion about it, but there I was, at 8 in the morning, doing just that. Maybe it was the overalls I was wearing, or the beat-up farm boots, that lent me credence enough to be included in the conversation. I am not exactly a green horn, but admittedly, I have a lot of learn; when the conversation shifted to soil conditions, I had nothing to contribute. However, as luck would have it, later that day I learned about a local horticulture class for beginners, starting this fall.
There are a lot of resources and classes out there for aspiring horticulturists like me (and maybe you!), and most of them can be done virtually, on our own time. The UMaine Cooperative Extension is an excellent place to start, whether you are a novice looking to start your first garden, or an experienced gardener hoping to expand your knowledge. Take a quick visit to extension.umaine.edu/gardening/learn, and you’ll see a list of horticultural trainings that they’re offering. On the website, there are also short videos available for free, with no registration required. The video series on creating your own victory garden is especially useful and relevant. I recommend starting with some of the free video series first; they are easy to find, and easy to watch.
If you’re ready to jump in and take one of their courses this fall, then mark Wednesday, Sept. 28 on your calendar, as that is the day that enrollment opens. There are two courses being offered; the first is the Maine gardener training, for novice and experienced gardeners who want to take their own garden to the next level. Participants can anticipate four to five hours of self-paced content a week, including readings, videos, and activities. Live Q&A sessions with a panel of experts are scheduled to take place on Tuesday evenings.
The second course is geared towards those looking to work in the horticulture industry, and is titled the Maine horticulture apprentice training. High school students exploring careers in horticulture should take note! Parts one and two of the course are self-paced, similar to the Maine gardener training, with weekly Q&A sessions. The third part of the series involves committing to a 200-hour apprenticeship within one year of completing the virtual part of the course. Upon completion, a micro credential is awarded to participants, which can be added to professional resumes.
Both courses are being offered with a very reasonable sliding scale course fee. The cooperative extension strives to make the training accessible and affordable for all Maine residents, and the course fee covers all the expenses like books, supplies, etc. The cooperative extension is also known for a third course called the Maine master gardener volunteers program, but the application process for that has passed us by. However, if you’re interested in getting on the waiting list, or applying for next year, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.