University of Maryland Extension (UME) is a statewide, non-formal education system within the college of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
UME educational programs and problem-solving assistance are available to citizens and are based on the research and experience of land grant universities such as the University of Maryland, College Park.
In Maryland, UME employs approximately 200 faculty and approximately 200 support staff and contractual employees located at the University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland Eastern Shore; 23 counties; Baltimore City; and four research and education centers. Many UME faculty members located on the College Park and Eastern Shore campuses have joint appointments with research and academic programs. These joint appointments promote the exchange of knowledge between the universities and among academic specialties.
Economic recession and concern for food safety in Maryland created an overwhelming public demand for food gardening information in 2008 and 2009. University of Maryland Extension responded with a comprehensive statewide interdisciplinary campaign, Grow It Eat It (GIEI), to connect people with fresh produce.
In a coordinated effort, Master Gardener volunteers educate the public through classes, workshops, demonstration gardens, and displays. The Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC) supports new gardeners by providing a comprehensive website (growit.umd.edu) complete with social media tools, how-to videos, and basic information on starting a garden. HGIC supports the Master Gardeners and the public by answering plant problem and pest questions 24/7 via individual phone consultations and its website (hgic.umd.edu).
GIEI's goals are to: 1) increase the number and productivity of MD food gardens and gardeners; 2) teach sustainable garden practices; 3) create an engaging, interactive network of food gardeners using social media tools; 4) answer plant and pest questions; and 5) reach new audiences (especially young people, non-whites, and low-income communities). In 2010, GIEI earned the Northeast Extension Director's Award of Excellence.