Thurston County’s Hidden Sector

The dirt about mermaids and master gardeners


Sunday marked the first day of Spring. Already I am anxious to get dirt under my fingernails; however, I am being careful not to make the same mistake as I did when we first moved here. (I planted strawberry plants, and it snowed that night!)

For those who might not know, the last frost date for most of us is May 4. While I do not want to infringe too much on Jill Severn’s Gardening Column's territory, if you are into gardening, there are ways to cultivate (tee-hee) your volunteer efforts while engaging in your passion for gardening.

WSU Master Gardener Volunteers

The WSU Master Gardener program has been cultivating plants, people, and communities since 1973. Thurston County’s program is part of the statewide WSU Extension Master Gardener program which combines horticulture training and public service. According to their website, WSU Master Gardener volunteers provide professional, unbiased, researched-based home gardening and horticulture information to the public through various educational programs and community service projects, including:

  • Children’s Garden Program
  • Demonstration Gardens
  • Gardening/Composting/Recycling (more on that later) 

Do you have what it takes to be a Master Gardener?

Becoming a WSU Master Gardener volunteer (emphasis on Master) is no small feat. It’s more than just taking a course:  certification requires completing several steps over a two-year period. To become a Master Gardener, a volunteer must attend more than 100 hours of training, pass an exam, and then give back more than 60 hours of volunteer service to the community. If this is something of interest to you, go to their website for details. 

Are you really into compost?

If you prefer a more environmentally sustainable volunteer effort, the Master Recycler Composters of Thurston County is a county-based volunteer service program managed through the WSU Thurston County Extension office in Olympia.

Master Recycler Composter (MRC) volunteers in Thurston County work to increase public awareness of opportunities to prevent waste, recycle and compost. According to their website, MRC volunteers serve with local organizations, community members, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, or at events encouraging waste prevention, recycling, and composting. Like the WSU Master Gardener program, Master Recycler Composter volunteers must first complete the volunteer training and agree to give a minimum of 25 hours of yearly service to put their knowledge to use in our community and to maintain volunteer certification. For more details on this program visit their website.

Have a Gardening Question but don’t want to get your Masters?

Thurston County WSU Master Gardener and Master Recycler Composter volunteers are also available to answer your questions via email! Just send your questions to

Keep in mind that there are a lot of us asking questions and their volunteers are receiving a larger than normal volume of questions.

International Mermaid Festival

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, the International Mermaid Museum -- halfway between Aberdeen and Westport -- is holding its annual Mermaid Festival from Saturday, March 26 through Sunday, April 3 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

During this weeklong event, there is no charge for admission to the museum. According to its website, in addition to the museum’s educational and enchanting exhibits, there are a series of special attractions for visitors of all ages during this celebration of the sea.

Why am writing about this event?

The International Mermaid Museum is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to teaching ocean ecology from seashore to seafloor immersed in mermaid mythology uniting world oceanic cultures. For more details go to

Soliciting your ideas

If you know of a nonprofit that is doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers, or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) celebrates nonprofits! 

Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here