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 3/25)
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak and in accordance with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-12 (Stay Home. Save Lives), Master Gardener Programs are to continue with the suspension of face-to-face programming. This means no face-to-face Master Gardener classes, events, meetings or outreach activities.
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 3/25/20).
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.
- What does this mean for Benton MGs?
- 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 . . .”
- What does this mean for MGs?
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 3/16/2020)
A: According to the Centers for Disease Control, large gatherings of 50 or more people should be canceled or postponed until after May 10th. The Oregon Master Gardener Program is adopting this guidance. All face-to-face Master Gardener 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.
Q: Has anyone in our Master Gardener community been exposed to COVID-19? (updated 3/25/20)
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. 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? (NEW 3/16/2020)
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?
A: Learn about their latest policies here: https://leadership.oregonstate.edu/coronavirus
Q: What is the Statewide Master Gardener Program doing to respond to coronavirus? (UPDATED 3/16/2020)
A. Please read the latest guidance here: http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/mgcoordinators/2020/03/12/updated-guidance-for-master-gardener-training-classes-and-guidance-for-large-events-ongoing-master-gardener-activities-in-the-context-of-covid-19/
Q: Can county Master Gardener Association business activities go on as usual? (UPDATED 3/16/2020)
A: All face-to-face Master Gardener 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.
Q. Can county Master Gardener Association educational activities (classes, events, talks, etc.) go on as usual? (UPDATED 3/16/2020)
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 the end of April.
Q: What’s happening with Master Gardener Plant Clinics? (UPDATED 3/16/2020)
A: Volunteer shifts in the Extension office and public plant clinics for the month of April are canceled. We will not be accepting physical samples (plant or soil) at this time. Our clients will be directed to submit their questions to the Ask an Expert virtual Q&A (https://extension.oregonstate.edu/ask-expert). Are you available to answer plant clinic questions from home? Contact us for details! The goal is to keep people safe and healthy while still supporting gardeners.
Q: What is happening with 2020 Master Gardener training class? (UPDATED 3/16/2020)
A: We want new trainees to stay happy and healthy while achieving their goals with the program. Master Gardener in-person classes scheduled now through April 2nd will be moved entirely online. We’re working on an updated syllabus with additional details to share with students as soon as possible.
Q: What about meeting and working with mentors & mentees?
A: Soon we’ll be offering ideas for working virtually and hope that in due time, everyone can meet face to face again. 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.