The Gyeonggi-do Agriculture Research and Extension Services served as the host site for an International Master Gardener Conference from Sept. 23-27. The conference involved more than 200 attendees from Germany, Japan, South Korea and the United States. While the majority of attendees were Master Gardeners from South Korea, 25 attendees represented several states from the U.S. Our conference host and liaison was Lee Wonsuk, a research scientist at GARES. He was the key organizer for the conference and was assisted by leaders from the Korean Master Gardener Association.
Cooperative Extension was introduced in Korea in the late 1940s through the 4-H program. As a matter of fact, a monument in front of the research center pays tribute to the introduction of 4-H to their country. In more recent history, two Extension Master Gardener programs have been established and are actively working to meet the consumer horticulture needs in two South Korean provinces: Gyeonggi and Jeju Island.
The opening ceremony of the conference included a welcome from the Governor of Gyeonggi Province. The conference included several keynote sessions with concurrent breakouts as well. Our very own Debbie Dillion, ANR Extension Agent in Horticulture from Culpeper, gave a presentation on Building and Maintaining an Effective Master Gardener Program during one of the concurrent sessions.
While we were there, we were able to visit several community gardens throughout the city as well as the private gardens of two South Korean Master Gardeners. The hospitality was unsurpassed by anyone’s standards. Our hosts were absolutely gracious the entire time we were there and their attention to every detail was impeccable. The cultural experience was irreplaceable. It was interesting to note that despite some language and cultural differences, the opportunities, barriers, and challenges faced by their Extension Master Gardener program are very similar to what we experience here in the United States. Likewise, the Extension Master Gardener program is alive and growing there the same as it is here. Agriculture, and specifically horticulture, truly is a universal and equalizing art and discipline.
— Dave Close
Consumer Horticulture and Master Gardener Specialist