Best Management Practices for Master Gardener Plant Sales

Since mid-August, an advisory group consisting of myself, OSU Extension faculty (Brooke Edmunds), OSU MG volunteers (Linda Coakley and Ruth Estrada), and ODA Invasive Pest Professionals (Beth Myers-Shenai and Chris Hedstrom) have been working on developing guidance for best management practices for MG plant sales. This effort emerged as a result of increased awareness of how plant sales and plant swaps might serve as venues for invasive pest introduction or spread. Given the focus of the Master Gardener Program, we wanted to work together to do our part to stem the introduction spread of invasives, while delivering high quality plants to MG Plant sale customers.

THIS DOCUMENT is what our group has developed. As questions related to this document arise, I will start developing an associated FAQ list. Please let me emphasize, however, that the intention is not to police plant sales, but to provide guidance on how we can all work together to truly practice sustainable gardening.

FAQs (new questions and answers will be added, as soon as possible)

Q: How quickly must Master Gardeners adopt the best management practices?

A: Of the three recommendations, only the first (‘Apply for and receive a temporary nursery license from the Oregon Department of Agriculture’) is a legal requirement to host a short-term plant sale in Oregon. That recommendation must be adhered to, immediately (and should have been adhered to, in the past).

The other two recommendations (‘Only sell plants that are free from pests’; ‘Only sell plants that are properly identified, cross-checked against state and local noxious wee lists, and tagged’) should be adopted as soon as is practical for 2019 plant sales, but should become standard practice for plant sales in 2020, and beyond. For example, if a large part of your 2019 plant sale inventory consists of donated plants dug from home gardens, or another similar source, you are not expected to dispose of those plants. But, for plant sales in 2020 and beyond, Master Gardener groups should be proactively planning for a different approach to procuring plant materials for sale.

Q: How will these best management practices be enforced?

A: It is not my intention to act as the plant sale police. If I hear of reports of Master Gardener groups using practices that contradict the plant sale best management practices, I will reach out to the key organizers in an effort to raise awareness of the issue, and to strategize on how to remedy the situation.

Q: Can we take stem cuttings from plants grown in garden soil, if the plant is healthy and pest-free?

A: Yes.  As long as a cutting is from the above-ground portion of a healthy plant (inspected to be disease and pest free), then risk of invasive pest introduction and spread is minimized. Movement of soil poses the greatest risk, and thus root cuttings should not be taken.

2018 Master Gardener Program Reporting

The link for 2018 Master Gardener Program Reporting is now live. Please visit the link, and submit your local data, by Friday, December 21st.

REPORTING LINK: https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bk3rLoeDe9337Yp

For your planning and reference, A paper copy of the reporting survey can be found HERE. However, please do not submit a hard-copy of your local data. Doing so requires me to type in everything, by hand. Please use the REPORTING LINK, above.

Home Horticulture Working Group Retreat

The Home Horticulture Working Group received an OSU Extension Innovation Grant, to support a 2-day retreat for our group. The intention of the retreat is to:

 . . . create the time and space for deep conversations on future iterations of Oregon’s EMG program. We will review Oregon’s EMG program with an eye towards identifying structural changes that could be made to improve the experience for both coordinators running the program, and current and future EMG volunteers. An anticipated end result of this work is the development of a shared vision of inclusivity for the program, specific action items to make Oregon’s EMG program relevant and useful to a broader audience, and a potential redesign of the course, better suited for both coordinators and participants.

You can access the entire proposal, with full details, here.

The first step in planning our retreat is to choose a time and location for the retreat. Please note that we think we have enough funding to pay for lodging for about 20 rooms. If we get more than 20 folks who need lodging, We have two options that we are considering:

Please visit THIS SURVEY to let the planning committee know if you will be able to participate in the retreat, and then rank your preference for date and location. Please also let us know if you will need a hotel room.

Updated Volunteer Code of Conduct

Please note the Master Gardener Code of Conduct has been updated to include a provision prohibiting workplace violence. This statement has been reviewed and approved by OSU General Counsel and OSU Risk.

Workplace violence prohibited

The safety and wellbeing of OSU Extension employees, clients, volunteers, students and visitors is of utmost importance. Threatening behavior, both verbal and physical, and acts of violence at OSU Extension offices, at OSU Extension events, or by electronic means will not be tolerated. Any person who engages in this behavior may be removed from the premises and may be dismissed from the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program.

If you experience workplace violence while serving as an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, please communicate with your Extension Master Gardener Coordinator as quickly as possible so the matter can be addressed.

This addition to our code of conduct is meant to clearly spell out that behavior including but not limited to, yelling/screaming, grabbing, pushing, or other violent and threatening behaviors that occur while someone is serving as a Master Gardener volunteer is grounds for dismissal from the program. In the past, we have always relied upon the first bullet point of our code of conduct to lay out what types of behaviors are expected:

  • Represent OSU Extension, the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program and my individual county or local program with professionalism, dignity and pride, and be responsible for conducting myself with courtesy and appropriate behavior.

The statement prohibiting workplace violence is meant to clearly spell out what types of behaviors will not be tolerated.

You can access the updated Code of Conduct on the FORMS page of this website.

Glyphosate Questions & Answers

Several Master Gardeners and members of the general public have called on Extension to provide guidance on glyphosate use. Kaci Buhl (OSU Statewide Pesticide Safety Education) and Chip Bubl (OSU Extension Horticulture/General Agriculture) collaborated to develop a list of Q&As that might be helpful to you and your MGs, when you receive glyphosate-related questions. I have copied and pasted their document, below.

*****************

Glyphosate Questions & Answers

Kaci Buhl, Chip Bubl

Oregon State University Extension

What is glyphosate?

It’s a weed-killing chemical found in Roundup and many other weed killers. Like other herbicides, it is usually combined with one or many other ingredients to make the final product.

Does OSU have an official position for or against using glyphosate?

No. It is our mission to educate, not to legislate. We’re happy to answer questions and help find solutions using any legal, effective methods, while considering the risks.

Does glyphosate cause cancer in humans?

Maybe, at high enough doses. If it caused cancer at realistic exposure levels from using weed-killers, then farmers and other applicators would be the first to show this effect. The largest study ever published, looking at farmers and other applicators, found no association between glyphosate and solid tumors, including Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL).

That study found a potential association between glyphosate exposure and a certain type of blood cancer that was not statistically significant. Another study suggested that using fertilizers could account for this risk.

Why do regulators disagree about this?

They don’t. Not really.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), determined in 2015 that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. That determination was surprising to many. IARC responded to critics by clarifying its intent – to identify potential hazards. They asked, “Can it cause cancer under any circumstances?” They group hazards based on the strength of evidence, not the potency of the carcinogen(s). They defer to national and international bodies to take the next step, which is risk-assessment. Risk assessment is based on expected levels of exposure and background cancer rates.

Many governments have published risk assessments about glyphosate, finding it is unlikely to cause cancer in humans when used according to the label directions as required.

To put the IARC determination in context, they put the following items in the same category as glyphosate, Group 2A “Probable human carcinogens.”

  • Red meat
  • Indoor emissions from burning wood
  • High-temperature frying
  • Late-night work shifts

The following items were placed in a stronger-evidence category, “Known human carcinogens.”

  • Processed meats
  • All alcoholic beverages
  • Sunlight
  • Engine exhaust
  • Outdoor air pollution

The work of hazard identification is important, but it’s only the first step in understanding risk.

What about the other ingredients in Roundup?

Researchers reviewed the scientific literature on glyphosate, its major metabolite AMPA, formulated Roundup® products manufactured by Monsanto, and the surfactant POEA. They concluded that none of the components caused cancer. However, POEA can be harmful to a variety of aquatic wildlife (i.e. minnows, frogs, micro-organisms).

It can be difficult to determine the risks associated with other ingredients in pesticide formulations, including Roundup. This is because manufacturers are not currently required to identify “other ingredients” on product labels.

How have the courts ruled?

Courts have ruled in different ways on this issue. A California jury found Monsanto liable in August 2018 for causing a man’s cancer. The man used glyphosate weed-killers for years. The case has been appealed. In contrast, a federal judge in California ruled in June 2018 against the state’s case for placing warning labels on containers of glyphosate under Proposition 65. It would have required warnings about the potential for glyphosate to cause cancer. The judge cited a “heavy weight of evidence” that the risk was very low. The courts will likely evaluate more cases in the future.

Are foods with glyphosate residue safe to eat?

A tiny amount of glyphosate is not likely to cause harm, even if we eat those foods daily. There are residue limits for glyphosate on many fruits, vegetables, corn, grains, milk, and eggs. The FDA monitors the level of glyphosate on foods in the marketplace. So far, they have not found foods with too much residue, based on risk assessments. The dose makes the poison.

How can I reduce my risk?

If you choose to avoid glyphosate exposure altogether, seek out organic foods with the official logo from USDA. Glyphosate is not allowed to be used in organic settings. Use alternative methods of weed control. Talk with your local master gardeners about what’s working for them..

If you choose to use glyphosate weed-killers, make sure to follow the product label carefully. The label is the law. While glyphosate is poorly absorbed through the skin, some parts of the body are more absorptive than others. Minimize your exposure, and keep others away until sprays have dried. Talk with your neighbors about any concerns they might have, and take steps to accommodate their needs.

October 2018 Update

Updates from the Statewide Master Gardener Program

  1. MG Instructor Database: for those of you searching for instructors for your 2019 MG classes, please remember that the list of MG instructors is annually updated, and housed in the ‘Master Gardener Program’ on Box. If you need access to this folder, please let me know. Specifically, the Excel file with the list of MG Instructors is in the sub-folder called ‘MG Basic Training Resources’, which can be accessed via https://oregonstate.box.com/s/alop5gv86az1q5zjscomgghds1v4y2mn
  2. MG Core Courses: Signe Danler recently sent out a information on how to access online Master Gardener modules, to supplement your in-person MG trainings. The required classes for MG training (Oregon MG Program, Botany Basics, Understanding Pesticides) are FREE for use. Other modules are available on a sliding scale ($50-$150 per module). If the sliding scale is out of your range, but you are interested in using an online module, please let us know. We charge a modest price to help cover basic program costs, but want to be flexible for counties without resources.
  3. MG Re-certification Stickers: I have 2019 Re-certification Stickers to send out for veteran MGs who have completed at least 10 hours of continuing education and 20 hours of approved volunteer service. If you have not already done so, please let Gail know (via email) how many stickers you need for your Master Gardener Program. They will go out in next week’s mail.
  4. Best Management Practices for MG Plant Sales: I have received feedback on our first draft from our task force. My goal is to synthesize all comments into a revised draft, by the end of this week (October 12th).
  5. 2018 CHAP Update: The 2018 Consumer Hort Advisory Panel came up with three recommendations to make annual MG trainings more fun, interactive, and accessible. These recommendations were to: a) move towards active learning in MG training classes; b) consider ways to keep costs low for MG trainings (scholarships, payment plans); c) lower the minimum number of required volunteer service hours for new MG trainees, to 55 or fewer hours. You can see the full description of recommendations on the hypertext entitled CHAP DRAFT Recommendations April 2018 on this page. At our working group meeting in July, recommendations 1 and 2 were adopted. Recommendation #3 received majority support, but there was still a lot of concern related to this recommendation. We are thus tabling this third recommendation, for the moment.
  6. Working Group Innovation Grant Funded:  Several Home Hort working group members advanced a proposal for a two-day retreat, to carefully consider what changes are needed to build a more inclusive EMG Program, but also how to implement change. Our Innovation Proposal for the Home Hort Working Group was funded!!! We are targeting May or June for the actual two-day retreat. Keep an eye out for the first step in this effort ~ a survey of MG coordinators.
  7. Fall OMGA Newsletter: The fall issue of the Gardener’s Pen Newsletter has been published and posted online. Please make sure that your Master Gardener volunteers have access to this statewide MG newsletter.
  8. 2019 International Master Gardener Conference (IMGC): If you will be attending the 2019 IMGC (June 16-21, 2019 in Pennsylvania), the room block is now open for reservations. Registration is not yet open, but the full slate of speakers and tours has been posted.
  9. Professional Development Opportunity, “Achieving the Extension Mission through Volunteers“: an instructor-led, online course offered by the University of Minnesota. This course has received positive reviews from other Extension Master Gardener coordinators. The cost is reasonable ($250), but the timing coincides with Oregon’s Master Gardener training. Topics include ‘Identifying and Recruiting Volunteers’, ‘Selecting and Matching Volunteers’, ‘Supporting Volunteers’, and ‘Communicating Public Value’. If you are interested in taking this course, but cost is an issue, please let Gail know.

2019 International Master Gardener Conference Updates

The 2019 International Master Gardener Conference (IMGC) will be held June 16-21, in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Unlike the Extension Master Gardener (EMG) Coordinators Conference (held even years), the IMGC is targeted more towards EMG volunteers, rather than EMG coordinators. However, it is still a wonderful way to learn from and visit with EMG coordinators from the across the United States.

Room blocks are now open for reservations, and the speaker lineup and class sessions have been announced.

Visit the conference website for the latest information, and to make your room reservation: https://www.internationalmastergardener.com/

Also, please note that I (Gail) will be away on vacation, September 20th-October 3rd.

National Extension Master Gardener Coordinators’ Conference

Oregon sent a fairly large contingent of Extension professionals to the 2018 Extension Master Gardener Coordinators’ Conference, which was hosted by the University of Wisconsin.

A lot of the conference content has been posted for viewing, if you were not able to make the event, or if you’re wanting to revisit the conference. Of special interest to Oregon’s MG Coordinators are two presentations.

  1. Michelle Sager’s talk on ‘Dissecting Controversial Issues in Master Gardener Training. (12 minutes and 52 seconds)
  2. The Oregon group’s take-home messages from the conference, and their 2020 vision for Oregon’s Master Gardener Program. (about 10 minutes)

Both presentations are well worth the time!

Plant Clinic Procedures for Master Gardeners

Master Gardeners provide research-based recommendations for the home gardeners, community gardeners and others who grow for fun, relaxation or other non-commercial reasons.

Plant Clinic Procedures:

In most counties, Master Gardeners staff Plant Clinic phone lines and desks at county Extension offices.  Many counties also offer Plant Clinics in their communities, (i.e. at farmers’ markets, fairs or garden retail outlets).  Plant Clinics are a valuable service to the community, where Oregonians can ask questions about their home or community garden.  Those who utilize the services of a Master Gardener Plant Clinic are often referred to as our ‘clients’.  To ensure high quality answers to questions received at Master Gardener Plant Clinics, it is important that volunteers are trained to recognize and utilize appropriate resources and to consult with OSU Extension faculty and/or expert Master Gardeners, as needed.

Appropriate resources include the Pacific Northwest Weed, Insect and Disease Management Handbooks; peer-reviewed journal articles, OSU Extension publications, brochures and hand-outs; eXtension and/or university Extension websites; online materials produces by eXtension and/or university Extension Services; and other resources that contain validated, research-based content.  In addition, to utilizing county Extension faculty and expert Master Gardeners, on campus resources (e.g. OSU Plant Clinic; OSU Herbarium, Oregon State Arthropod Collection), Extension specialists, and other OSU faculty should be consulted when needed.

Master Gardener volunteers should utilize these resources to provide research-based information to those seeking information or advice on home and/or community gardening.  Master Gardener volunteers are not permitted to answer questions for commercial growers, or questions related to commercial production.

Master Gardener Plant Clinics accept plant (live, dead or preserved), arthropod (dead or preserved) and soil specimens for assessment.  Safety of the volunteers is paramount.  For this reason, the Master Gardener Plant Clinics will not accept swabs, tissues, hair or other specimens of human or animal origin; articles of clothing, bedding or towels; personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes, hairbrushes or any other items that may be contaminated with human or animal pathogens, parasites or secretions.  Clients with questions about possible human or animal health need to direct those inquiries to the appropriate public health or veterinary experts in the community.

Occasionally, a client may submit a sample to or seek advice from the Master Gardener Plant Clinic that could have implications for human health.  Examples include:  bed bugs, spiders, suspected arthropod-caused skin lesions, pesticide poisoning, poisonous plants, etc.  If this is the case, it is important to remember that Master Gardener volunteers are not permitted to offer medical evaluations, diagnoses or advice on treatment.  Instead, the client should be referred to a trained professional for these services.  Master Gardener volunteers are permitted to utilize appropriate resources to identify a plant or arthropod sample (e.g. bed bugs, poison ivy) – but not lesions, rashes or other symptoms that may have been caused by a plant or an arthropod (e.g. the bite marks or rash that could be caused by bed bugs or poison ivy).  OSU Extension faculty staff and volunteers should refer all clients seeking advice on managing any potential life/safety situations to medical or other trained professionals.

Often, the samples that are submitted to Plant Clinic make it difficult to confidently arrive at an accurate identification.  For example, the client may submit only a small portion plant foliage, or may submit a crushed arthropod sample between two pieces of tape.  If this is the case, and especially for those cases where the identity of the plant or arthropod could have implications to human health (i.e. a doctor would treat a patient who ingested a non-poisonous plant different than they would a patient who ingested a poisonous plant), it is important to use appropriate language when communicating findings to a client.  An example of appropriate language is:  “Based upon the information provided to OSU Extension and from the research conducted, it appears that this plant is a XXXXXX plant, which is listed as not poisonous.”

Master Gardener volunteers working in the Plant Clinic should be provided with continuing education and support, to ensure that they are current on information, understand appropriate resource use, recognize when they should seek additional help or support, and know that it is more important to accurately say ‘we can’t answer that question’ (for whatever reason – not enough plant material, sample to crushed to identify, no research based resources on the topic) than to provide an incorrect answer.


OSU policy for Master Gardener recommendations to clients:

  • Use appropriate research-based resources when providing recommendations.  Examples of research-based resources include the PNW Handbooks, OSU Extension Publications, other Extension publications, peer-reviewed journal articles.
  • MGs are not allowed to suggest homemade pesticides to clients. In addition to poor efficacy and potential plant injury, many homemade pesticides violate federal law. There are two laws that address this issue, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) Section 408. More information on this issue can be found here:
  • Master Gardeners are objective in their recommendations, and thus inform the client of all research-supported options:  Cultural, biological, and chemical (synthetic and organic).  Even if you do not use synthetic chemicals in your own garden, you should not exclude this option – so long as it is research-based – when making recommendations to the client.
  • Refer commercial clients to an appropriate extension agent


OSU Extension Master Gardener Program Stance on Select Gardening Topics:

As research on sustainable gardening practices continues to grow, we are learning more and more about those practices that methodologies that are backed by objective research.  Below you will find links to topics that have been reviewed by OSU faculty against the current published literature on the topic, and our current stance on what constitutes a research-based recommendation for that topic.

  • Compost Tea Policy: Research suggests that compost teas are equivalent to composts and inorganic fertilizers, as a source of plant nutrients and in their effect on plant growth. However, we are not able to make a clear recommendation on the use of compost teas as a disease suppressant.
  • Marijuana Policy:  Oregon State University and the Oregon State University Extension Master Gardener program are recipients of federal funding.  Oregon State University and the Oregon State University Extension Master Gardener program are also governed by the federal Controlled Substances Act, the Drug-Free Workplace Act and the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act.  Thus, to guard against risk of losing Federal funding and to adhere to the federal laws that govern our activities, OSU Extension Faculty, Staff and Volunteers do not provide advice or referrals on the culture, care and/or use of marijuana.

August 2018 Statewide MG Program Update and Helpful Hints

Developing Best Management Practices for Master Gardener Plant Sales

The Master Gardener Best management practices task force met via conference call, last week. Our task force include Master Gardener volunteers who coordinate their Master Gardener Association plant sale, and have also operated a commercial nursery. The task force also includes the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s invasive species response coordinator, myself (as statewide Master Gardener Program coordinator), and Brooke Edmunds (as county MG faculty). Prior to working for OSU, Brooke worked with the Oregon Department Plant Health group, where part of her work involved certification of nursery plants. Thus, we have a lot of expertise in the group.

We will soon be surveying plant sale coordinators, to find out:

  • do you apply for an ODA temporary nursery license?
  • where do you get your plants for MG plant sales?
  • how and where are they propagated?
  • what are your concerns regarding changes to plant sale guidelines?

The goal of the survey is to get a general sense of what Master Gardener Associations are currently doing, to identify key areas of risk for invasive species introduction, and to provide guidance on how to transition to lower risk activities. Please keep an eye out for the survey, and share with your plant sale coordinators, when available.

We are also developing a draft list of best management practices for Master Gardener Plant sales, in cooperation with our Extension colleagues, volunteers, and nursery industry professionals. In the next 4-6 weeks, we expect to share this list of practices, as well as case studies of Master Gardener Associations that have successfully transitioned from higher risk to lower risk plant sale activities.

Please stay tuned!

Food Safety for Master Gardener Tasting Events (i.e. Tomato Tasting)

A question recently came in about how to approach an event such as a tomato tasting, to ensure safe food handling and food safety. I consulted with Jeanne Brandt, statewide coordinator of the OSU Extension Master Food Preserver Program, to get her feedback. Below is her response (edited for brevity).

My understanding is that sharing samples is part of educational programming, not food service, so that site or event licenses and food handler’s permits are not required.  Those come into play when any products are sold.  Providing samples for educational purposes is included in liability coverage offered by OSU, as long as best practices are used to prepare them. We put out a sign that says  “Products made/prepared by volunteers in our classroom or home kitchens.”  This makes booth visitors aware of where the products came from and that they are not commercial, so they can choose to sample or not.  

This resource has guidance for handling produce samples at public events:

https://www.fcs.uga.edu/docs/13_Keeping_Food_Safe_at_Market.pdf

Page 3 has some good guidelines for preparing samples.

Best practices are good hygiene, clean produce, and protection from contamination by the customers. That’s not as easy as it sounds,  since we are often places without handwashing stations.  Setting up individual samples so that customers can’t handle more than their own sample is ideal. 

Clients with Biting Bug Infestations, Without an Apparent Cause

Every now and then, a client comes into the Extension office, wanting advice for how to deal with insects that are biting them, or that have infested their house. After some conversation, or time to examine the sample that the client has brought into the office, you may determine that the client might be feeling a sensation on their skin, but that it is not due to an insect or mite issue. How do you help these clients? The cases are often heartbreaking: a client desperate for relief, with no apparent cause or solution in sight. Colleagues in extension published an excellent article on this topic, a few years ago, that includes a long list of recommendations for working with clients who believe their body and/or environment is infested with insects or mites, despite evidence to the contrary. Please read, and share with your Master Gardener volunteers, as needed.

Kerr et al. 2014. Recommendations for extension professionals and volunteers regarding individuals with delusional infestation. Journal of the NACAA 7(2).