As the situation with coronavirus develops and institutions adopt changes to protect communities, Master Gardener volunteers are wondering about what this means for our events and programs. We’ll try and answer this in some FAQs below, that are specific to the Linn and Benton Master Gardener Program. -Elizabeth & Brooke (updated 5/26)

5/26/2020 Update from the Statewide Master Gardener Program to our program partners (this includes BCMGA and LCMGA)

Dear Friends and Partners of the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program:

The OSU Extension Master Gardener Program partners with numerous organizations across the state, in support of our mission to make sustainable gardening information and educational opportunities open to all Oregonians. Our partnerships include local Recreation and Parks offices, Food Banks and Food Pantries, School Districts, Correctional Facilities, Gardening Non-Profits, Public Housing Authorities, Local Governments, and the Oregon Master Gardener Association and its non-profit chapters. I value our partnerships beyond measure, and recognize that our outreach efforts and our organization are elevated as a result of our collaborations.

I wanted to share an update on the current status of OSU Extension Master Gardener activities, in the context of the Phase 1 reopening of Oregon counties that began on May 15th. As a state agency and an institution of higher education, OSU Extension is under different guidance than Oregon businesses. For example, Executive Orders 20-17 and 20-09 suspend in-person instructional activities at Oregon Higher Education Institutions through June 13th.

In short, I am still in a holding pattern and awaiting direction from OSU and OSU Extension, related to face-to-face activities, events, and instruction. I have drafted, and am awaiting administrative feedback on a plan to resume limited face-to-face Master Gardener activities that adheres to state, university, and OSU Extension guidance. OSU expects to receive guidance from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, later this week. OSU and OSU Extension expect to update their respective resumption plans, shortly thereafter. I am hopeful that the Master Gardener resumption plan might be reviewed, edited as needed, and approved shortly thereafter.

At this time, I would ask that we continue collaborative partnership by:

  • Keeping lines of communication open: sharing (as possible) resumption plans, and thinking about how we can jointly meet any mandated requirements for face-to-face activities.
  • Recognizing that we are bound by OSU guidance: and unable to resume face-to-face instructional activities until at least June 13th.
  • Presenting clear and united communications to volunteers and to the public that we serve: until the Master Gardener program gets the green light for face-to-face activities from OSU, we are not able to resume face-to-face activities.

    I look forward to continued and fruitful partnerships. Most of all, I look forward to the day that we can again partner to promote a love of and success with gardening, via hands-on, face-to-face, and fun activities.

    I hope that you continue to stay safe and be well!! Should you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your local Master Gardener coordinator and/or to me.

    Sincerely,

    Gail Langellotto
    Statewide Extension Master Gardener Program Coordinator
    Oregon State University

5/15/2020 Update: Re-opening and the Master Gardener Program
To watch this message on Youtube, CLICK HERE.

From Brooke Edmunds
Oregon State University Extension Community Horticulturist


Hi everyone, 
 
First I want to express my deep gratitude to all of you for volunteering with the Master Gardener Program. Many of your committees and teams have made a quick pivot to continue to offer programming in ways that are brand new to many of us. Your efforts to offer quality gardening education across our counties have turned out amazing. And to all who are working in a virtual Plant Clinic Dashboard-thank you for trying something new! The gardening public is so appreciative to have you all as a resources. 
 
I have been fielding several questions about Master Gardener activities now that Benton and Linn Counties have moved into Phase 1 re-opening. The Master Gardener Program (under the umbrella of OSU) will have a very different re-opening process than either county’s Phase 1 and Phase 2 re-openings.  This is because Master Gardeners is a program of a higher education institution so we are functioning under different guidance from the Governor and OSU. There is an higher education specific Executive Order in place which limits all face-to-face Master Gardener Program activities through June 13th.
 
I have not received guidance specific to re-opening the Master Gardener program yet but we have received basic guidance on what a general OSU Extension re-opening could look like. Follow along with the overall OSU Extension reopening plan here https://extension.oregonstate.edu/covid-19-reopening-status When you look over the plan, you will notice a few things. One, it’s very vague because things are so uncertain right now. What I share today may be changed by OSU or the Governor tomorrow. The other thing you’ll notice is that there is very little specific language for OSU Extension volunteers and their activities in support of OSU. Additional conversations are in the works between the statewide Master Gardener Program coordinator, Gail Langellotto, and OSU Extension’s COVID-19 response team. Specifically they will be discussing any opportunities to reopen volunteer opportunities in our demonstration gardens. I do not have a timeline on when this meeting will occur or a when decision will be made at this time. 
 
As we transition as an organization through OSU’s reopening stages, I will do my best to communicate clearly and often with Master Gardener volunteers.  
 
Truthfully, I have a feeling that we are all going to need a lot of patience to navigate this unprecedented situation. I will do my very best to be as transparent as possible.
 
If you have questions there are a couple of ways to get in touch. Call me at 541-791-6617, email brooke.edmunds@oregonstate.edu or join me during my online office hours every Thursday at 3pm from May 21-June 18.
 
You can join these office hours from your computer: https://oregonstate.zoom.us/j/91376928268?pwd=WXpkcTE3eUdJSDFWZDQ0N0pzamtFdz09 Password: 543888 OR you can call in to the session at 971-247-1195 password: 543888.

Thank you so much for everything that you do as an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer! 
 
P.S. ON 5/18/20 Statewide Coordinator Gail Langellotto shared a similar message about the status of re-opening and the MG program. To read the message please CLICK HERE.

4/28/20 – Update from OSU about Stay Home Save Lives:

Gov. Brown’s executive order 20-17 extends remote teaching to June 13, unless extended or terminated earlier. This applies to all OSU teaching, including our Extension and noncredit education.

This applies to OSU volunteers also. Volunteers should be only doing those activities that can be done from home and without face-to-face contact. This means no face-to-face classes, events, meetings or outreach activities. Our program has been meeting the burgeoning need for gardening information with virtual events and soon will offer an online plant clinic platform that volunteers can use to collaborate and respond to inquiries.

The purpose of the executive order and this guidance is to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon, to protect the health and lives of Oregonians, particularly those at highest risk, and to help avoid overwhelming local and regional healthcare capacity. Oregon State University fully supports the governor’s executive order and encourages its community members to stay at home (updated 4/28/20).


FAQ Updates:

Q: What about maintaining Master Gardener plants and demonstration gardens in the context of Stay Home – Save Lives? (UPDATED 3/25/20)

A: In keeping with the Governor’s latest order to stay at home, OSU calls on faculty, staff and volunteers to observe this order and avoid activities that are out-and-about or face-to-face, including maintaining plants or gardens outside their personal homes. Here are some excerpts from the latest updates from the Statewide Master Gardener program, and what they mean specifically for our County programs (in bold). Find the entire document by CLICKING HERE.

  • We must honor the policies in place of our community partners. Many fairgrounds, recreation and parks units, and schools have closed their facilities to the public.
    • What does this mean for Benton MGs?
      • Philomath High School is closed at this time per their website.
      • Benton County Fairgrounds is being used for emergency management and closed at this time to non-essential activities.
    • What does this mean for Linn MGs?
      • Linn County Fairgrounds is closed at this time per their website.
    • Community gardens, partner organizations and other locations are pretty much all hitting pause right now to comply with the Governor’s order.
  • Under the current directives of Executive Order 20-12, Master Gardener volunteers are not authorized to care for greenhouse plants or gardens on behalf of OSU or in their role as a Master Gardener volunteer.
    • What does this mean for MGs?
      • According to OSU, volunteers are not authorized to go to locations away from home to tend plants or gardens.
      • If feasible, volunteers and members of their households can personally tend any plants that are currently located at their own homes.
      • Individuals should refer to Executive Order 20-12, particularly section 22, which dictates that “individuals are directed to minimize travel, other than essential travel to or from a home, residence or workplace; for obtaining or providing food, shelter, essential consumer needs, education, health care, or emergency services . . .”

Q: What about donating or selling plants that were originally destined to be sold at Master Gardener Association plant sales? (UPDATED 3/25/20)
A: For plant materials that are owned by Master Gardener Chapters or Associations and not by OSU: the Oregon Master Gardener Program is exploring whether or not the plants can be sold or donated to partner agencies while using the Master Gardener name. If we proceed, we aim to work with partner agencies that already have distribution channels in place rather than creating our own distribution network. Stand by for more information soon!

Q: What about scheduling, or rescheduling, plant sales and other large events? (UPDATED 4/28/2020)
A: All face-to-face activities, events, meetings ~ no matter how many people may attend ~ are suspended to June 13, unless extended or terminated earlier.
This suspension aligns with the guidance given by OSU Extension on March 13th. For full details please CLICK HERE.

Q: Has anyone in our Master Gardener community been exposed to COVID-19? (UPDATED 4/28/2020)
A: In light of recent news about positive coronavirus tests at the Oregon Veterans Home (OVH) in Lebanon, we wanted to let you know that members of the Master Gardener community have connections with this facility. The virus is also moving through our counties via community spread. Sadly, at least one community member has lost a loved one to this illness. Please follow the precautions recommended by CDC and OHA.

Q: How can I stay connected with the Master Gardener volunteer community even when we can’t meet in person? (UPDATED 5/26/2020))

A: There are lots of good ways to communicate while staying safe. Here are some virtual tools that OSU or Master Gardener volunteers are currently using. This doesn’t constitute an endorsement of specific products, just several options that have worked for folks in our community.

Did you know? You can log 1 hour of continuing education for learning how to use and trying out a new tool for distance communication. When entering your continuing education hours, please include a description of what you learned and how you will use the tool.

  • Zoom – lets two or more people see and talk to each other at once. Phone-in option for those without a computer or the internet. The free option has many features. LEARN MORE.
  • Box – share and edit files together without getting multiple versions mixed up. The free option is enough for basic sharing and editing of written documents. LEARN MORE.
  • Google – offers tools for sharing and editing files, making forms, managing calendars, video chats, instant messaging and more. Check out what trial editions of these tools are available with any Google account you may already have. The apps/tools are found by clicking the square of dots in the upper right when a Google account is displayed on a desktop computer.
  • Have Facebook? Chat with Facebook friends on the desktop app, or with Facebook Messanger on a smart phone.
  • Know Master Gardeners who aren’t online? Please phone and let them know that if they’d like to be part of a phone tree and be in regular contact with a couple of other participants to share about essential updates and group calls, they can call Elizabeth at (541) 937-5295.‬

Q: Where can I find out more about coronavirus? 
A: Check out the Center For Disease Control website for the latest information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#protect

Q: What is OSU and Extension doing to respond to coronavirus? (updated 5/26/20)
A: Learn about their latest policies here: 
OSU: https://leadership.oregonstate.edu/coronavirus
OSU Extension resumption plans: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/covid-19-reopening-status

Q: What is the Statewide Master Gardener Program doing to respond to coronavirus? (UPDATED 5/26/2020)
A. Please read the latest guidance here: http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/mgcoordinators/2020/05/26/letter-to-mg-program-partners/

Q: Can county Master Gardener Association business activities go on as usual? (UPDATED 4/28/2020)
A: All face-to-face activities, events, meetings ~ no matter how many people may attend ~ are suspended pending further notice. This suspension aligns with the guidance given by OSU Extension on March 13th. For full details please CLICK HERE. Your local program is carrying on events and meetings via Zoom, please check your eNewsletter for details and to join events.

Q. Can county Master Gardener Association educational activities (classes, events, talks, etc.) go on as usual? (UPDATED 4/28/2020)
A. No, at this time, we are following OSU recommendations and are suspending all face-to face work in Plant Clinic, Master Gardener meetings and other non-essential Master Gardener volunteer work, through June 13, unless extended or terminated earlier.

Q: What’s happening with Master Gardener Plant Clinics? (UPDATED 5/18/2020)
A: Currently program staff and faculty are responding to phone and email inquiries or delegating them to Master Gardeners. Clients may also submit their questions to the Ask an Expert virtual Q&A (https://extension.oregonstate.edu/ask-expert). Currently we are trying out a virtual plant clinic dashboard for volunteers to collaborate and communicate with clients online.

Q: What is happening with 2020 Master Gardener training class? (UPDATED 5/18/2020)
A: We want new trainees to stay happy and healthy while achieving their goals with the program. Master Gardener in-person classes moved entirely online, with students having the option to defer enrollment to 2020. A majority of trainees stayed with the program and completed their courses. Trainees are also being offered online courses in volunteering skills and using plant clinic dashboard.

Q: What about meeting and working with mentors & mentees? (UPDATED 5/18/2020)
A: Mentors and trainees can meet over Zoom via a link in Plant Clinic Dashboard. Mentors and trainees are also connecting informally via Plant Problem Show and Tell Zooms (see your eNewsletter for details). If needed we may offer alternate or extended volunteering plans allowing folks to stay healthy and still be certified as Master Gardener volunteers. Stand by for more details soon.

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