To: Master Gardener coordinators (Extension faculty)
From: Gail Langellotto, (Professor of Horticulture, Statewide Coordinator, Extension Master Gardener Program)
Date: March 12, 2020, 11:57am PST
As you are aware, OSU and OSU Extension are actively engaged in continuity planning as we prepare for a localized outbreak of COVID-19 in the university community and communities we serve. The guidance from Oregon State University is rapidly evolving. The latest guidance can be found on OSU’s COVID-19 webpage.
Given that older adults are both a vulnerable population and an abundant group in the Master Gardener Program, we are recommending that local Master Gardener coordinators carefully consider the guidance provided for upcoming large events (such as conferences and plant sales) and ongoing Master Gardener activities (such as plant clinics and demonstration garden work).
At this time, we are suspending face-to-face Master Gardener activities immediately, and through at least March 30th. Specific guidance for large Master Gardener events and meetings, as well as work in demonstration gardens or plant clinics, can be found below. There is also updated guidance on completing Master Gardener training classes.
Guidance on Options for Large Master Gardener Events
Large events pose a particular risk for the transmission of COVID-19. Master Gardener conferences and plant sales can easily draw 50 or more individuals, and often draw hundreds of people to a site.
On March 11, 2020, OSU has stated that non-essential, OSU-sponsored events of more than 50 attendees will not be permitted, between March 30th and at least April 30th.
Note that even though OSU is not planning to limit OSU-sponsored gatherings of more than 50 attendees until March 30th, the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program is instituting this policy, immediately. All large Master Gardener events (i.e. those that draw more than 50 attendees) that are scheduled between now and the end of April, including those planned and managed by the Oregon Master Gardener Association and its chapters, should be cancelled or postponed until at least May.
Updated Guidance on Options for Completing Master Gardener Training Classes. At this time, no matter the number of attendees you have in Master Gardener training classes, we are requiring that you suspend face-to-face Master Gardener training classes, and pursue option(s) 2 (postpone and reschedule classes), 3 (use the online modules to complete your Master Gardener training, or 4 (end your 2020 training classes, if you have met minimum national and state standards for Master Gardener classes). These options were outlined in earlier guidance.
Guidance on Options for Other Ongoing Master Gardener Activities
Other ongoing Master Gardener activities, such as plant clinic and work in the demonstration garden, typically bring fewer than 50 people to a site.
At this time, we 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 March. We are instituting restrictions on work in Demonstration Gardens through the end of March, and only if work is needed to prevent the loss of plant materials or to address emergencies at demonstration garden facilities (such as an irrigation line break). If Master Gardeners come to the Extension office to volunteer, observe best practices for limiting the spread of the virus.
Plant Clinic: March is a relatively slow time for many Master Gardener plant clinics. Suspending Master Gardener plant clinics through the end of March should not have too large of an impact on local Master Gardener programs. In lieu of walk-in plant clinics, questions may be redirected to OSU’s Ask an Expert service. If you have volunteers who you would like to sign up for Ask an Expert, you can sign them up online. Only volunteers who are well-practiced in plant clinic procedures, are comfortable working in an online environment, and have a strong understanding of how to craft a research-based and appropriate response to plant clinic questions should be signed up. A brief overview for how to view and answer questions in Ask an Expert can be found here. In addition, a dedicated email to receive questions/images could be set up, if needed, by the local Master Gardener coordinator to expand options for meeting the needs of the community.
Master Gardener volunteers who are seeking certification options, during this down time, may want to catch up on their continuing education credits by reading approved publications, or by participating in the upcoming Advanced Training Webinar Series for Master Gardeners.
Coordinators may want to relax plant clinic and other volunteer service hour requirements, in lieu of this disruption to our programming.
For Care of Plants and Facilities at Master Gardener Demonstration and Community Gardens: keep the number of individuals working in each demonstration garden to an absolute minimum. Observe maximum social distancing. Practice frequent handwashing. Use Approved Environmental Cleaners for shared surfaces, such as tools, hose spigots, or hose handles. Take care to reduce environmental exposure to these cleaners.
Master Gardener Chapter Meetings: The OSU Extension Master Gardener Program has a collaborative relationship with the Oregon Master Gardener Association and its chapters. These organizations are separate 501(c)3’s from Oregon State University. However, when using the term “Master Gardener” in association with Association meetings or events, the Extension Master Gardener Program can require that Oregon State University provided guidance and policies be adopted.
- Inform your Master Gardener Association and Chapter, that face-to-face meetings should be suspended, at least through the end of March.
- Face-to-face meetings that might draw 50 or more people are not allowed, at least through April 30th.
- Where possible, assist your Master Gardener Association or Chapter with remote meetings, when the meetings are necessary. Assistance could include setting up access to Zoom meetings, or conference call lines.
Please contact your regional director and me with any questions or concerns.
Updates specific to the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program will be sent out via the OSU Master Gardener Coordinator listserv, the OMGA chapter and executive committee listservs, and on the OSU Master Gardener Coordinator blog.