Nature at Home EMG Volunteers Recognized With NACo Award & Statewide Learn-Grow-Share Webinar for EMG Volunteers

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Between 2010 and 2020, New Hanover County witnessed an 11.3% increase in its population, while neighboring Brunswick County experienced a 27% growth during the same period. Although New Hanover, Pender, and Brunswick counties constituted only 4% of the state’s population in 2020, they contributed to over 11.5% of the state’s growth between 2020 and 2022. This rapid expansion has strained wildlife habitats, prompting residents to seek ways to support wildlife through the creation of outdoor spaces that cater to both human and wildlife needs.

Many residents, especially those new to the area, are eager to enhance their gardening practices but lack guidance on where to start and are unfamiliar with the local biodiversity. In its second year as an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (EMGV) initiative, Nature at Home successfully connected people with the benefits of gardening, focusing on Pollinator & Wildlife Habitat. The program also aimed to provide ecosystem services, such as cleaner air, water, soil, stormwater infiltration, and resilient landscapes.

brochure featuring information about nature at home

Initiated in 2022 by Extension Master Gardener volunteers in collaboration with the Cape Fear Audubon Society, the program has evolved and been refined based on lessons learned. Residents applying for Nature at Home receive a site visit from trained EMG volunteers serving as Nature at Home Ambassadors. Following the visit, EMG volunteers provide a site report with resources to help residents enhance their wildlife habitat and adopt more environmentally friendly gardening practices.

The National Association of Counties (NACo) recognized the Nature at Home program with a 2023 NACo award in the Volunteer category. In 2023, 32 yards were visited, with 16 receiving certification. Twenty-three different EMG volunteers participated as Nature at Home Ambassadors, visiting residents’ yards. On November 29th, the Nature at Home program was invited to share its success in the Learn-Grow-Share showcase webinar series, attended by 175 Extension Master Gardener volunteers and Extension professionals. The hope is that by sharing their experience, other Extension Master Gardener groups will be inspired to develop similar programs, positively impacting communities by educating others to protect ecosystems for the well-being of current and future generations.