Renewed Mission and Vision for the Extension Master Gardener Program

Short and Sweet Version of this Post

The OSU Extension Master Gardener Program has an updated mission statement and an updated vision statement, as of June 11, 2020.

Our Mission: Cultivating resilient and healthy communities throughout Oregon through sustainable horticulture education and gardening projects that are rooted in science and that are supported by OSU Extension volunteers.

Our Vision: We provide accessible and equitable education programs that nurture life-long learners and volunteers who can expand the reach and impact of science-based sustainable gardening practices to benefit all Oregonians. 

The Full Story

When I first came to OSU in 2007, our organization didn’t have a formalized mission statement. At least, there was no formal mission statement that I could find. Thus, in 2008, the Home Horticulture working group (which includes every OSU faculty and staff member that has a position description that includes the Master Gardener Program) set out to create the very first mission statement for our then 32 year old organization.

Our First Mission Statement, Circa 2008 – June 10, 2020: We educate people about sustainable gardening in the Pacific Northwest, via annual Master Gardener trainings, educational opportunities for the general public, and recommendations and advice delivered by trained volunteers.

A few years later, I (Gail) decided that our organization also needed a Vision Statement. I came up with one, on my own.

Our First Vision Statement, Circa 2010-ish – June 10, 2020: We endeavor to establish OSU Extension as an authoritative and first choice for people seeking research-based and objective information and education on sustainable gardening in the Pacific Northwest.

For some reason, I was in a very competitive mood when I came up with that vision statement. I think I may have been feeling threatened by the ubiquity of internet information searches. Would the Master Gardener Program no longer be needed? Whatever the reason, almost everyone who read that vision statement hated it. It was time for a change.

Thus, in the winter of 2019, a small group of us took advantage of funds provided by the College of Agricultural Sciences at OSU, to dig deep into our programmatic mission, vision, and priorities. We hosted two-day, program-wide retreat in May of 2019, for Master Gardener faculty and staff. Every county with a Master Gardener Program was in attendance. Representatives from the Oregon Master Gardener Association also joined us for this work.

Facilitators Susan Sahnow and Norie Dimeo-Edigar helped lead us through two days of self-examination. They helped us understand that a mission statement is a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual. Crafting a mission statement requires us to ask:

  • What do we do?
  • Whom do we serve?
  • How do we serve them?

They talked us through the process of drafting a vision statement. A vision statement requires us to ask:

  • What are our hopes and dreams?
  • What problem are we solving for the greater good?
  • Who and what are we inspiring to change?

We left the meeting with four draft mission statements, and one draft vision statement that needed a bit of wordsmithing. A committee of us (Gail Langellotto, Sam Clayburn, Nicole Sanchez, Michelle Sager, Pami Monnette, Eric Bosler, Sue Nesbitt) worked to wordsmith each statement, and to identify the mission statements that we wanted to advance to the entire working group for consideration. These edits and recommendations were presented to the Home Hort Working Group in December 2019. The final mission and vision statements were selected and approved on the MG Coordinators Zoom Call on June 11, 2020. As noted at the start of this post, the new statements are:

Our Mission: Cultivating resilient and healthy communities throughout Oregon through sustainable horticulture education and gardening projects that are rooted in science and that are supported by OSU Extension volunteers.

Our Vision: We provide accessible and equitable education programs that nurture life-long learners and volunteers who can expand the reach and impact of science-based sustainable gardening practices to benefit all Oregonians. 

What changed with these statements?

For the mission statement:

  • We removed the word ‘trained’ (a volunteer commented that it made it sound as if MGs were circus animals).
  • We removed reference to the PNW region, since our focus is in Oregon.
  • We broadened our focus beyond plant clinic trainings and volunteerism, to also include gardening projects.
  • We added in the word ‘science’, since a core feature of the Master Gardener Program is that we provide recommendations and educational opportunities that are grounded in science.
  • We identified who we are serving through the program: our communities.

For the vision statement:

  • We removed my obnoxious competitiveness.
  • We added in our intention to bring equity and accessibility to the forefront of our work.
  • We added in our ‘why’ ~ that we want to nuture and support our communities.
  • We added in our commitment to science, as a core component of the Master Gardener Program, and note that we want the benefits of science-based information to be available, for the benefit of ALL Oregonians.

We hope that these renewed mission and vision statements will help to guide our work for the next decade. If they truly are guiding stars for our activities and efforts, we should be able to identify how our programs have improved communities. We should be able to identify improvements in equity and access. We should be able to identify new audiences who have access to our programs, as a result of our efforts.

Founded in 1976, Oregon’s Master Gardener Program is on the precipice of a big anniversary. In six short years, we will be 50 years old!!! (As an aside, in about 6 short months, I will personally be 50 years old). Approaching half a century tends to make one reflective. Where have we been? Where do we want to go?

When we gather in 6 short years from now, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Master Gardener Program in Oregon ~ I hope that we can also celebrate progress towards our vision of offering accessible and equitable programs that expand the impact of science-based gardening programs to benefit us all.

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