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Washington State University

Pierce County Master Gardener Program

Master Gardeners are Community Connectors

Cultivating Plants, People, and Communities since 1973


It all began at Washington State University. A grassroots, sociologic movement that started at Washington State University in 1973 and was emulated across the United States and into Canada and South Korea, the Master Gardener Program is WSU Extension’s flagship volunteer program. Please join us as we celebrate 50 years of the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program around Washington State!

The WSU Extension Master Gardener (MG) Program trains volunteers to empower people and communities to find research-based, innovative solutions that address current challenges. We answer societal questions and directly address inequities in communities by connecting with underrepresented populations and by engaging at the local level via shared passions like growing food and protecting our natural resources. As the first Master Gardener Program in the state, nation and world, Pierce County Master Gardeners continue their commitment to solving global problems by teaching research-based horticulture and environmental stewardship practices to build healthy and resilient communities that are knowledgeable, dynamic, responsive and resilient. Cultivating plants, people and communities in Pierce County, Washington since 1973, the MG Program has since been emulated across the U.S. and into other countries around the world. 

The WSU Extension Master Gardener Program focuses on nine important sociologic and environmental issues to help mitigate challenges and sustain healthy and resilient communities: Wildfire Preparedness, Water Conservation, Soil Health, Pollinators, Plant Biodiversity, Nearby Nature, Local Food, Climate Change and Clean Water. We know that everyone has a right to food security, clean water, healthy green spaces and protection from the devastating effects of Wildfires and Climate Change.

WSU Extension Pierce County Master Gardeners recognize that people of color, indigenous communities, low income people, immigrants and refugees are disproportionately impacted by environmental upsets. These communities have higher exposure to air and water pollution, less access to local fresh foods, greater impacts of climate change, lack of nearby nature and accessible environments that promote healthy lives. We are committed to serving all people of Pierce County through co-designing inclusive programming and to speaking more openly about how our program priorities intersect with both social and environmental issues.

Our Vision

Highly recognized, diverse and fully supported, WSU Master Gardener volunteers are the go-to resource for communities seeking research-based, innovative solutions for their ever-changing horticulture and environmental stewardship needs.

Our Mission

Engaging university-trained volunteers to empower and sustain diverse communities with relevant, unbiased, research-based horticulture and environmental stewardship education.

Our Values

  • We foster and benefit from an atmosphere of diversity and inclusivity because our differences inspire creative thinking and innovative solutions.
  • We act with integrity because trust, truthfulness and respect create a healthy and positive culture.
  • We are committed to stewardship and sustainability, serving as ethical and responsible agents of our natural resources, human resources, and University resources.
  • We collaborate because together we empower healthy and resilient communities.
  • We are a dynamic and responsive program where knowledge inspires change.

Our Land

WSU Extension Pierce County Master Gardeners acknowledge that our programming takes place on the homelands of Native peoples, who have lived in this region from time immemorial. Pierce County includes 1,806 square miles of ceded lands of four Federally recognized Tribes: the Puyallup Tribe, the Nisqually Tribe, the Muckleshoot Tribe, and the Squaxin Island Tribe. As a land grant institution, WSU also recognizes that the Morrill Act of 1862 established land-grant institutions by providing each state with “public” and federal lands. We acknowledge that most Indigenous lands were taken by coercive and violent acts, and disregard for legal treaties. Please read more about WSU Acknowledgement of America’s First Peoples.

Our Strategic Plan

WSU Extension Pierce County Master Gardeners recognized the need to better adapt to the needs of our community, especially considering the disruptions and new challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Engaging our membership, community partners, and those we serve in the Strategic Planning process positioned us to fulfill our Mission better and provide relevant support to our community. The continued updating and refinement of this Strategic Plan sets us up for success now and in the future. We invite you to read the entire plan here.

Our Goals for 2021-2024
  • Outdoor Classrooms: To utilize the Gig Harbor, Puyallup and Community Demonstration Gardens as outdoor classrooms for valuable teaching and learning experiences.
  • Educational Outreach: To build sustainable relationships with our community through our educational outreach programs like Garden Talks, Plant Clinics and Youth Programming.
  • Community Connectors: To provide access to horticulture resources and information that is accessible and inclusive to all of the Pierce County community.

Our Eight Guiding Principals for a more Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Program

  1. We must feel dissatisfied with the status quo.
  2. We must have a commitment to diversity that includes time and resources.
  3. We must have a vision of where we want to be in the future and a process for how to get there.
  4. We must develop intercultural competency skills and engage in work on personal attitudes based on our societal identities.
  5. We must begin to understand how our programs and delivery methods have been designed from a dominant cultural perspective, which does not work for most of our under-represented cultural groups.
  6. We must become a learning organization that is continually recreating itself in partnership with culturally diverse community groups.
  7. We must bring our traditional audiences along with us as we also learn about how to serve new audiences.
  8. We must see this work as everyone’s responsibility. It is not just up to our leaders, but each of us, within our sphere of influence.  We must be bold, learn more, and take new risks.

Our Community Partners

Pierce County Master Gardener Podcast

“Gardening Advice from a Master Gardener” hosted and produced by our Pierce County Master Gardener Karen Fischer. Listen to a variety of gardening advice for homeowners, from small space gardening to using natural pesticides.

Where to listen:

Breaker Logo  Google Podcasts Logo  RadioPublic Logo  Spotify Logo  Anchor FM link

WSU Extension Pierce County Master Gardener Program Staff

Jaala Smith (she/they),  Program Coordinator 

Jim Kropf (he/him),  WSU Extension Interim Director 

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Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Extension office. Reasonable accommodations will be made for persons with disabilities and special needs who contact Jim Kropf, WSU Pierce County Interim Director, at or (253) 445-4526 at least two weeks prior to the event.