Louisiana Master Gardener Guidelines

Sara Shields  |  7/11/2018 12:28:05 PM


Master Gardeners are members of the local community who take an active interest in their lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers and gardens. They are enthusiastic, willing to learn and help others, and able to communicate with diverse groups of people.

What really sets Master Gardeners apart from other home gardeners is their special training in horticulture. In exchange for their training, people who become Master Gardeners contribute time as volunteers, working through their local Master Gardener Program Coordinator to provide horticulture-related information to their communities.

The Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service has a Policy Statement (LCES PS-23) that provides a framework for volunteerism within the system. In addition to PS-23, the following guidelines specifically address the Louisiana Master Gardener Program and are in place to protect the integrity of Louisiana Master Gardener volunteers, the LMG Program, and the LSU AgCenter.

Note: Guidelines from the Louisiana Master Gardener State Coordinator’s office supersede guidelines and regulations at the program level. Local programs can have stricter guidelines, but not more lenient. If clarification is needed, please contact the Louisiana Master Gardener State Coordinator by emailing LMGCoordinator@agcenter.lsu.edu.

Note: Portions of the guidelines presented here are printed with permission from Texas AgriLife Extension Service's State Master Gardener Coordinator

1. Louisiana Master Gardener Title Defined

The title, Louisiana Master Gardener (LMG), is to be used only and exclusively by individuals trained in the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service's Master Gardener Program. This certification is restrictive in nature in that it is valid only when the individual is participating in the Master Gardener program and for one year only.

The following terms and definitions are provided in one location for convenience and will be used throughout the Louisiana Master Gardener guidelines for consistency.

  • A person in the coursework phase of the training program is a LMG Trainee.1
  • A person who has successfully completed the coursework and examination phase is a LMG Apprentice.1, 3
  • An apprentice who successfully completes the volunteer service requirements in the allotted time is a Certified LMG.2, 3, 4
  • A LMG that meets the annual requirements for recertification is an Active Certified LMG.3, 4
  • A previously certified LMG who fails to meet the annual requirements for recertification is an Inactive LMG.
  • A Certified LMG who is on a Leave of Absence (LOA) is a Certified LMG on LOA.
  • The status LMG Emeritus may be bestowed as an honorific in recognition of “Meritorious Service”.


1 A person who fails to successfully complete the coursework or apprentice phase is not authorized use the title nor to be referred to as a LMG.

2 Certification is valid until the end of the calendar year in which the certification was obtained.

3 Successfully completes includes reporting volunteer service and continuing education hours in the approved LSU AgCenter database; i.e. the LMG Hours Reporting System.

4 Because certification is restricted to a calendar year, each January previously Certified LMGs must be recertified.

2. Louisiana Master Gardener Training

A LMG Trainee must receive a minimum of 40 hours of instruction and pass an examination administered by the local Master Gardener Program Coordinator. A trainee must attend at least 80 percent of the prescribed hours of instruction. Once a trainee completes the instruction and examination phase, the individual gains the title of “Louisiana Master Gardener Apprentice.” From that point, the LMG Apprentice has a maximum of one year to complete a minimum of 40 hours of volunteer service.Once 40 hours of volunteer work are earned, the Apprentice earns the status of “Certified Louisiana Master Gardener” and is issued a certification card.

It is important to note that the State training and volunteer requirements are minimums, as local MG Program Coordinators have the authority to increase these requirements. Documentation requirements and validation of training and volunteer service hours are under the supervision of the local MG Program Coordinator or Volunteer Administrator.

3. Recertification of Louisiana Master Gardeners

Recertification of the LMG title and status is restrictive in nature in that it is valid only when the individual is actively participating in the LMG program and for one year only. In order to retain the LMG title, individuals are required to complete a minimum of 20 volunteer service hours and six continuing education hours each year. All hours must be entered in the LMG Volunteer Hours Reporting Site (commonly referred to as the LMG Reporting Site). Modifying local Master Gardener Association by-laws regarding certification or re-certification does not supersede the LMG Program Guidelines.

Documentation requirements and validation of volunteer service and continuing education hours are under the supervision of the local MG Program Coordinator or Volunteer Administrator. The annual recertification process involves three steps: 1) verification of hours entered into the LMG Reporting Site by the local MG Program Coordinator or volunteer administrator, 2) submission of the “Commitment for Louisiana Master Gardener” form by the individual, and 3) receiving a *certification card from the local coordinator. Certified LMGs in good standing are issued a new certification card each year, but only after the first two steps of the recertification process are satisfactorily met.

If an individual ceases active participation, the certification as LMG becomes void and the ID badge must be returned. New certifications will be issued each year only to those individuals who make a commitment to participate for the coming year. Those not continuing in the program should be aware that if they represent themselves as Louisiana Master Gardeners, they are violating their original commitment to the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service. Please see Section 4. Addressing “Inactive” Master Gardeners and Section 5. Master Gardener Leave of Absence for additional information.

* Certification cards are valid for one year, usually a calendar year.

4. “Inactive” Master Gardeners, including Reinstatement of Lapsed Certification

Certified LMGs not out of the program for more than 23 months can maintain their certification on a year-to-year basis. They must sign a new commitment letter agreeing to volunteer a minimum of 20 hours annually and be issued a new certification card annually. Recertification is not guaranteed. There is not an option to pay dues in lieu of completing the hours; essentially, failure to complete the hours means risking revocation of “Certified Louisiana Master Gardener” status.

If an individual ceases active participation and knows they will not return, the certification as LMG becomes void and the ID badge must be returned. New certifications will be issued each year only to those individuals who make a commitment to participate for the coming year. Those not continuing in the program should be aware that if they represent themselves as LMGs, they are violating their original commitment to the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service.

Reinstatement of Lapsed Certification:

For a period of inactivity greater than 24 months**, Inactive LMGs must pay $45 for the current material and audit the entire class again (cannot miss more than 20% of the class material) in order to be reinstated into the LMG Program.

An Inactive LMG working towards reinstatement should submit a signed copy of the “Commitment for Louisiana Master Gardener” form to their local MG Program Coordinator.

LMGs with lapsed certification should meet with the local LMG coordinator and Volunteer Administrator to ensure the individual has an active username and password for the LMG Reporting Site.

For communication and volunteer opportunities, volunteers should join the local LMG association/group and can begin volunteering with the group. For LSU AgCenter Risk Management purposes, individuals should receive confirmation of reinstatement before volunteering with the group.

** As with everything, there are certainly exceptions to these guidelines. There may be extenuating circumstances (long-term health conditions, taking time to care for an ailing family member, etc.) that need to be taken into account. If this is the case, please inform the local LMG coordinator of the situation. The local LMG Coordinators will work with volunteers to help them maintain their certification. See Section 5. Master Gardener Leave of Absence for additional information.

5. Master Gardener Leave of Absence

On occasion, a LMG Apprentice or LMG is unable to fulfill the requirements to obtain or maintain certification due to illness, illness in the family, or other personal situation. In cases such as these, a “Leave of Absence” can be granted by the local MG Program Coordinator. This decision is generally made with input from the individual and local Master Gardener leadership. The Leave of Absence would be for a specified time period and may have specific training and/or service requirements for the individual to regain full status as a LMG Apprentice or Certified LMG.

Request Leave of Absence Statuspdf

6. When to Use the Louisiana Master Gardener Title

Louisiana Master Gardeners are expected to use the title only when doing unpaid, approved, volunteer educational service in the extension noncommercial horticulture program. LMGs are not to advertise their names or their places of business, nor to be listed on the advertisements of business places as Louisiana Master Gardeners. This is an LSU AgCenter Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service public service program to provide unbiased information. Appearing at a commercial activity, having association with commercial products or giving implied university or Extension Service endorsements of any product or place of business is improper.

Individuals who are not acting on behalf of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service are strongly urged to make every effort to minimize the appearance of being on duty before making any recommendations in the area of horticulture. Speaking “off the record” is your right; however, make sure everyone knows you are speaking for yourself and not the Extension Service.

The training and experience gained by participation in the LMG program are valuable and may rightfully be listed and featured as qualifications when seeking employment. Once employed, and while serving as a paid employee, or if self-employed, Master Gardeners should not display credentials or give the appearance of being a LMG at the place of business (unless the place of business is specifically designated as a Louisiana Master Gardener event by the Extension Service.)

Experienced Louisiana Master Gardeners are likely to receive invitations to speak before groups. LMGs may collect fees or honoraria to cover expenses and operating costs associated with approved service activities, but they are not to profit from these activities. For example, an individual Master Gardener may be reimbursed for supplies used in a service project or be reimbursed for telephone expenses and postage related to Master Gardener programs. Honoraria or other gratuities received for speaking engagements shall be turned over to the local Louisiana Master Gardener association/group. Failure to do so disqualifies the activity as LMG volunteer service. Please do not seek payment for such speaking appearances.

7. Dismissal of a Louisiana Master Gardener Volunteer

A volunteer may be reassigned or dismissed at the sole discretion of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service. Disregard for the policies and guidelines established by LSU AgCenter and LMG Program are grounds for dismissal of a LMG Volunteer. Other examples of conduct which could lead to disciplinary action include, but are not limited to: illegal activity; behavior which compromises the health and safety of volunteers, LSU AgCenter employees, or clientele; being habitually disruptive to the overall program; unwilling or unable to work amicably with local MG Program Coordinators, other LSU AgCenter agents and/or volunteer leaders; conduct which is harmful to the LMG Program’s reputation; or failure to relinquish/rotate leadership roles. The nature and seriousness of the infraction or violation will determine whether the option of reassignment or dismissal should be considered.

Before any official action is taken, the local Master Gardener Program Coordinator and/or immediate Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service supervisor should counsel with a volunteer(s) when reassignment or dismissal is being considered. If dismissal is decided by Extension, communication with the volunteer(s) will be done in confidentiality.

8. Louisiana Master Gardener Associations

The idea of a Louisiana Master Gardener Association may confuse some LMG. Some feel that since they are working for the LSU AgCenter, it is the AgCenter’s role to provide the association. Others feel that an association would separate them from the LSU AgCenter. Local LMG Programs can be managed without an association, yet the strong desire exists among LMGs to meet on a regular basis for purposes of education, fellowship and service. Louisiana Master Gardeners are the ideal group to coordinate these regular meetings and an “association” is often a natural organizational result of these meetings.

Another primary reason for a Louisiana Master Gardener Association is financial independence. A LMG Program does not need a large amount of money to be effective. Generally, the LSU AgCenter is able to provide basic program needs, such as office space, telephone and copying. However, the AgCenter does not have the available funds needed for specific LMG activities and support. In addition, the LSU AgCenter has specific policies regarding extension agents soliciting and handling monies from community organizations, foundations or corporations.

LMG Associations have more freedom to raise money needed through several means. Some examples might include: conducting plant sales, donating unsolicited money received from speaking engagements; or soliciting grant funds or sponsorships for projects. Funds generated or received by LMG Associations provide support for educational projects, computer and office equipment for LMGs and/or agents, horticultural libraries and resources, college scholarships, and educational and recreational activities for the LMGs.

The LSU AgCenter will recognize and register Louisiana Master Gardener Associations, which adhere to the following guidelines: the association consists of Louisiana Master Gardeners who serve as representatives of the LSU AgCenter, thus affiliating closely with the local county Extension office; staff member of the local county extension office serves as advisor to the association leadership; ideally, this individual also serves as the local MG Program Coordinator

Master Gardener trainees, apprentices and certified Louisiana Master Gardeners are encouraged to participate in local Master Gardener associations/groups, the Louisiana Master Gardener State Conference, and Southern Regional Master Gardener Conference.

9. Volunteer Service Hours Defined

Local LMG Program Coordinators employed by the LSU AgCenter make the final determination on what volunteer service hours are accepted to meet requirements for LMG certification and recertification.

To assist in this determination, the following guidelines are provided. Volunteer service hours should be performed during activities that are:

  • Educational in nature, as opposed to service or maintenance-type work.
  • Supportive of Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service’s mission, objectives, and issues.
  • Identified as sponsored (or co-sponsored) by the LSU AgCenter

a. Louisiana Master Gardeners should wear LMG name badges and/or shirts/apparel.

b. Collaborations with other organizations are important, but Extension does not supply other organizations with volunteers to do their work.

c. A Master Gardener’s volunteer hours may be claimed for credited with the LMG program or another organization, but not both.

  • Approved in advance for volunteer hours by the local LMG Program Coordinator.

10. Louisiana Master Gardener “Emeritus” Status

The “Emeritus” Louisiana Master Gardener status is bestowed as an honor in recognition of meritorious service. Criteria for this status are being defined by the State LMG Coordinator and LSU AgCenter Regional Horticulture Coordinators. Individuals receiving this honor will be recognized at the state level.

11. Title IX and the Louisiana Master Gardener Program

Title IX of the educational amendment of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive federal assistance. Although most of the focus on Title IX has been on equity in athletics, universities and colleges must guarantee all students an education and environment free of sexual harassment and violence. Title IX also covers 4-H programs and all volunteer programs offered through the LSU AgCenter.

12. Pesticide Recommendations by Master Gardeners

In making recommendations that include the use of pesticides (insecticides, herbicides and fungicides), Louisiana Master Gardeners must follow published Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service recommendations. Use of other pesticide recommendations is not approved. When reading a recommendation to a client, you must read it in its entirety. No omissions are allowed under any circumstances. Handwritten recommendations are not approved. Questions about commercial production of crops and pest control on such crops are to be referred to the parish extension agent. This includes all areas of the green (landscape) industry.

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