ORONO — University of Maine Cooperative Extension is celebrating the 952 Master Gardener Volunteers who, combined, gave more than 35,000 hours of their time to a variety of educational and food security projects in 2016, according to a news release from the extention.

The team supported 80 community gardens, 86 school gardens, 103 demonstration gardens and 56 programs involving 1,579 youth in horticulture activities this year. Those involved with food security projects distributed 257,426 pounds of food to 142 food distribution agencies and countless neighbors in need as part of the Maine Harvest for Hunger program.

The program provides participants with a minimum of 40 hours of in-depth training in the art and science of horticulture. Trainees receive current, research-based information from UMaine Extension educators and industry experts, and are connected with service projects that match their interests, skill set and availability.

Program coordinators facilitate relationships between Master Gardener Volunteers and community partners; assisting with needs assessment, program planning and problem solving.

“Our program provides opportunities for gardeners with all levels of experience to connect with projects in their community. It’s a very special group of people who share a passion for gardening and a love for helping others. We enjoy blending a great learning experience with meaningful service opportunities,” said Kate Garland, a UMaine Extension horticulturist in Penobscot County, according to the release.

All gardeners are encouraged to join the Master Gardener Volunteers team. Several counties are accepting applications for local training programs starting this winter with application deadlines as early as Jan. 4.

For more information or to request a disability accommodation, call 800-287-0274 or visit extension.umaine.edu.

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