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A Conversation About: Mastering Stuff

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 6/7/24 | 6/7/24

By Jean Thomas

“To master” something is a common goal among us humans. To become a master of some endeavor is worthy of respect. In academia, it’s pretty cut-and-dried: a scholar has “mastered” a particular set of achievements following a particular set of rules, and been awarded an official MA or MS degree. I admire those who hold such advanced educational rank. But mastery is an achievement that crosses all strata of accomplishment. It signifies a depth of understanding well beyond a casual interest. I will never grasp, nor do I desire to, the finer points of fly fishing or forensic science. But my respect for those who have mastered such fields is total.  This is where I remind myself of the mantra that “Everybody on the planet is better than me at something and I am better than every single person on the planet at something.” In a nutshell, it is my humble opinion that we are all masters of something to novices in the same field.

 Let’s look at some specifics, because, of course, there’s always something that inspires my topic. This past week I was invited to the graduation of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties 2024 Class of Master Gardener Volunteers. On the same day the Master Gardeners of Albany County hosted their open house and plant sale, famous among gardeners throughout the entire Capital District. These people don’t just sign up and volunteer and receive a title and a name badge. Mastery must be earned. After an interview with CCE staff, the volunteers undergo a twelve week training consisting of classroom training, often with professionals from Cornell, on-line instruction, and road trips. This all culminates with the preparation and presentation of an individual research project. Once graduated, the individual is free to share this new expertise with the public in many ways. CCE provides a Master Gardeners hot line for problem solving by phone and on line, a speakers bureau for civic and school groups, and the possibility to pursue projects individually. I’m attaching links to a pair of episodes from the “Nature Calls” podcast; one is an interview with the head of the state wide MGV program, and the other an interview with an actual Albany County MGV trainee. There is a Cornell office in every county, so if you’re interested in learning more, call or email them.

Cornell, being a land grant university, has offerings beyond gardening. There are comparable trainings available for those of us who want to “master” more specific fields. At this time, it is possible (once you’re approved for the training) to become a Master at Forestry, Beekeeping, Food Preservation, Naturalist training, and even Composting. I’m sure I left some out, but this training is top notch and has provided the public with a corps of volunteer experts across the state, ready to educate their neighbors.   We aren’t all geared to become educators or spend hours doing volunteer work, but we are all capable of “mastering” something. You are probably already a master at something, whether you are aware of it or not. Ask your family and friends. I did, and was delighted to learn that I’m known as a master B.S. Artist. I was flattered until I realized it didn’t refer to my musical or painterly skills. You might be a Master Mechanic or Fly Tie-er or Cook or Carpenter or Babysitter. Think about it. 

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