Racial and Social Justice in Oregon’s Master Gardener Program: How to Respond to Critical Comments

It’s been three weeks since we published our first post, calling for increased attention to racial and social justice in Oregon’s Master Gardener Program. In that time, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. For every critical comment that I have received, I have received 10-15 encouraging comments.

Thank you. Every Master Gardener who steps forward to say that they value this work makes it easier to weather the criticism. Every Master Gardener who reaches out to say ‘FINALLY! This is what I have been wanting to see from the program!’ grows our collective commitment to this work.

But what do you do, if you speak up for racial and social justice within the Master Gardener Program, and you are personally criticized? How might you respond? Where can you turn for support?

Below, we offer a suggestions for responding to colleagues or constituents who might question or criticize the relevance of incorporating racial equity work into the Master Gardener Program.

  1. Remember that one person’s comment is only one.
  2. Give yourself time to reflect and respond thoughtfully, and officially. As a Master Gardener coordinator or volunteer, your words are the voice of the program.
  3. If you are confronted, criticized, or questioned on the spot, look for allies who can help echo key talking points, if you are at a loss for words.
  4. Consistently refer to OSU’s stated responsibility to diversity, equity and inclusion, pointing specifically to OSU’s stated commiment to inclusiveness.
    • As a university community, we must join together to ensure that all members of the OSU community — students, faculty, staff and visitors — not only feel welcomed and safe, but experience our community as a place to thrive. Each and every member of our community must know they are valued, that they belong here, and that we celebrate the rich diversity that they bring to Oregon State University. We should not tolerate anything less.“ — OSU President Ed Ray, in a statement delivered May 31, 2020
  5. Make it clear that this is not a political statement or strategy. Instead, we are working to do a better job at what has long been an explicit and stated part of our job as Master Gardener Coordinators and Volunteers.
  6. As long as you feel comfortable, stay in the conversation. Do not shut down dialogue among participants, unless they fall into particular categories. I have been encouraged to find that some of the people who harshly criticized our initial statement ended up being open-minded, willing to listen and discuss concerns, and sometimes came away agreeing that racial justice work *is* important.
  7. Nonetheless, there may be times when the conversation needs to be shut down, whether it be in person, on social media, or on another medium. These inlcude:
    • Hate Speech, which is defined as abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation.
    • Intimidation of Threats of violence.
    • Either of these warrant immediately reporting the incident to your supervisor, the Statewide Master Gardener Program Office, OSU Extension administration, and potentially to local authories.
  8. If you do not feel comfortable responding to critical comments or questions, please reach out to Gail or LeAnn for assistance.

If you are sharing racial justice or diversity, equity, and inclusion posts locally, you may want to include a statement of the OSU Master Gardener Program’s ongoing commitment to racial equity. If relevant conversations are occurring locally, you may want to refernece those, as well.

If you’re not comfortable sharing racial justice or diversity and equity updates in your local communities, you don’t have to. If that is the case, we hope that you will continue engaging with this work in other ways.

We will continue to share learning resources that support racial and social justice within the Master Gardener Program. On an individual level, one of the easiest and most accessible things you can do is to take the time to learn more, so that when it comes time to do more, we can do so from an informed perspective.

I wanted to end this post on a positive note. The Multnomah County Master Gardener Association, on their own accord and with no formal input from the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program, developed a statement of commitment to racial justice within their own work. This statement of purpose is the first from a Master Gardener chapter. I look forward to working with them ~ and anyone who wants to join us ~ to fulfill our shared responsibility of working towards racial and social justice within the Master Gardener Program.

The Multnomah County Master Gardeners™ recognizes that silence at this time perpetuates violence and oppression.

We condemn racism and the systemic oppression of Black people created and perpetuated by white individuals and institutions in this country. We recognize that all white people and institutions are complicit in this oppression of Black people.


We stand in solidarity with our Black neighbors and all People of Color in demanding justice: for those who have been killed and harmed by police violence, and for their families and communities.

We affirm that Black Lives Matter.

Our mission calls for “Growing, Educating and Connecting Communities.”


We acknowledge that we have not been living up to our mission, especially with our Black neighbors and communities of color. We recognize that we are coming late to this critical issue and we know that we will make mistakes as we do the work we must do to catch up.

We nonetheless commit to doing the work: to engage in critical self-reflection, to make our community antiracist, and to use the resources available to us to transform our organization into one where our Black neighbors, and all People of Color feel welcome, supported, and seen.

Now for the work of moving beyond words into new actions.

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.

Resuming MG Activities: Now What?

June 13th has been the date that we have been waiting for! Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-09 suspended higher education instructional activities (including non-credit instruction through Extension). Executive Order 20-17 extended this moratorium on instruction until June 13th.

So, what happens on June 14th? On June 12th, the Governor issued Executive Order 20-28. This Executive Order notes that in person instruction will be subject to restrictions, including the adoption of minimum standards for face coverings, physical distancing, and sanitizing. Because we are a program within Oregon State University, we are obligated to follow OSU’s resumption plan (and in fact, the links I have above for face coverings and physical distancing are OSU recent guidance on those subjects).

We are now entering what OSU Extension has been referring to as the ‘restricted operations’ phase, where we can cautiously resume some MG Program activities. This doesn’t mean that we can rapidly return to business as normal (I wish!). Instead, we’re working to resume work in ways that limit risk of illness to volunteers, faculty, staff, and our communities.

OSU faculty and staff developed guidance for resuming work within the MG Program, and this guidance was reviewed and approved by OSU Extension administration. Briefly, work in MG gardens is approved under OSU Extension’s restricted operations phase. MG Coordinators have been submitting requests (through DocuSign) to resume work in specific gardens. Several requests have been approved, today.

As noted in the guidelines, other Master Gardener activities, including plant clinics, classes, workshops, and meetings have been approved for the modified or full operations phases of OSU Extension’s resumption plan. According to OSU’s resumption plant (pages 19 and 30), OSU will remain under restricted operations until at least July 13th.

To all of the MG Coordinators, volunteers, and friends: I thank you for your patience as we work through a new way of doing business in the midst of a global pandemic. I thank you and SALUTE you for all **ALL** that you’ve done to support gardening education and outreach in your communities. Your work has helped to blaze new trails for the Master Gardener program in Oregon, and has helped to engage many new learners and clients with OSU Extension. Your resilience is paying off in the form of building stronger local food systems, reducing unnecessary pesticide use, and promoting an overall love for plants and the beneficial insects that associate with them.

So, what now? How are we going to restart our on-the-ground work in MG gardens? Here are a few of the steps that need to happen.

  • MG coordinator should develop a sign-up and/or sign-in system for garden work. This will help to limit the number of people who are working the garden at one time. This system will also aid in contact tracing, should there be a documented risk of COVID-19 exposure at a garden.
  • Volunteers will need to complete OSU Extension’s COVID-19 awareness training before returning to work in the gardens. You can sign up for and complete the training online, at this link: https://envisionextension.thinkific.com/enrollments
  • There is a checklist that we are asking gardeners to review and sign, before returning to work in the gardens. The checklist is on the last page of the ‘Guidelines’ file that is shared in this post.
  • MG Coordinators should complete the template for resuming work in gardens, and route through DocuSign for necessary signatures.
  • MG Coordinators will also be working to set up a communications plan, that may include posting signage at the garden.

Although it is surely disappointing to not be able to jump back into business as normal, I hope that a return to work in the gardens provides some light that we are moving towards happier days. I also know that the time away from the garden may find you greeted by weeds that were demanding attention months ago. I tried to find an inspirational garden quote about weeds, and stumbled upon one from Robert Michael Pyle, who was scheduled to be our keynote speaker for 2020’s Mini-College (which had to be postponed, due to COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings).

But make no mistake:  the weeds will win; nature bats last.  ~Robert M. Pyle

Not exactly the inspirational ‘get out into the garden’ quote that you might have been looking for. But I still love this quote, because it suggests a degree of needing to let go, rather than raging against the indomitable nature of . . . nature.

Happy gardening to all.

Master Gardeners’ Recommend Readings to Support Social and Racial Justice

It has been one short week since LeAnn Locher and I published a call to work for racial justice within the Master Gardener Program. In the interim, I have been touched and heartened by the many notes of support. In fact, of the 49 personal responses that I received about that post, only four were negative. The majority were overwhelmingly positive. Folks shared that they welcome the challenge, and look forward to continued efforts to make the benefits and resources of the Master Gardener Program available to all gardeners.

Many of us (including me!) are nervous about speaking out in a crowd about race. What I have learned over the past week is that there are many Master Gardener volunteers have been desperately hoping, waiting, and wanting a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Master Gardener Program. For many of us, however, the conversations are uncomfortable, and we don’t know where or how to start. The more we talk about diversity and equity work in the Master Gardener Program, the easier these conversations will become. As we practice applying an equity lens to our volunteerism, we will be able to more easily recognize the voices that are missing from our conversations and the actions we can take to build a better world ~ for everyone ~ through gardening.

I am 10,000% committed to this work, and hope that you will join me. Whether you are volunteering in the city, the suburbs, or in a rural area, there are actions big and small that we can take. Last week, we challenged you to be open to difficult conversations, to talk about social and racial justice issues in your Master Gardener groups, and to read and learn from the stories and perspectives of black people and people of color. We asked you what you were reading, and several of you shared your book and video recommendations. Your list includes a lot of non-fiction, some non-fiction, and recommendations for a TED Talk and a movie, including:

From a friend of the Wasco County Master Gardener Program

From Master Gardeners in Linn and Benton Counties

From a Master Gardener in Yamhill County

From a Clackamas County Master Gardener

In the coming weeks and months, we will continue talking about social and racial justice in the context of our Extension Master Gardener Program. We’ll also continue talking about and teaching gardening. But peppered in with talks of tomatoes, and native plants, and pollinators, and peonies, we will be developing and discussing a plan of action for diversity, equity, and inclusion work within our program.

At this moment in the time, here are my initial ideas. I welcome your feedback. What am I missing? What do YOU want to see in your Master Gardener Program?

  1. Grow the confidence and capacity of allies to diversity, equity, and inclusion work in the Master Gardener Program. Basically, I don’t want folks to be afraid to speak up about social and racial justice issues in Master Gardener meetings. Having allies in place will help all of us be more courageous.
  2. Continue our efforts to remove systemic barriers to participation in the Master Gardener Program. Our volunteer program is structured in a way that makes participation difficult, if not impossible for all but a narrow demographic. Our annual training classes are often costly (average of $182 and maximum of $495 in 2019). Our service hour requirement is high (average of 52 hours in 2019, which is a 12% decrease from recent years, but is also 30% higher than the minimum national standard). Our classes are mostly held during the workday, which would require someone to take between 80-96 hours off of work (and for someone making $11 per hour, that’s the loss of $880 to $1,056 in income). Challenging Master Gardener faculty, staff, and volunteers to ask ‘Who’s in the room? Who’s missing?’ is ultimately a challenge to identify actionable steps that we can take to make our program more accessible to all. Many Master Gardener Programs have made specific and concerted efforts to remove or reduce these barriers, and should be applauded. More work remains. Let’s keep going.
  3. Adopt an equity lens, in our work within the Master Gardener Program. There are many models for doing this, including the work of Portland Public Parks. One of the things they do is physically map all of their park assets. They use that map to decide where new community gardens should go, and where the next tree planting program should be held. The Parks Department then works in partnership with individuals and families within those communities, to help ensure the long-term success of the initiative. We have the beginnings of a map of where Master Gardener programming occurs, although it does need a few updates. When you look at the map for your neighborhood, are you able to see areas where we could or should be working? Are there opportunities to expand our work into new areas that could benefit from access to gardening and gardening education? How can we reach out to new neighborhoods and communities in ways that build trust and center the voices of those living and working in those communities?

One last note, regarding the few negative responses that I received on our first post. A few folks thought that the post was too political.

My attention to social and racial justice within the Master Gardener program is not political. It is literally part of my job. A “commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion” is included in every OSU Extension faculty member’s position description. A demonstrated “commitment to diversity and to ensuring equal opportunity for those wishing to benefit from OSU Extension programs and services” is also included in every OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer’s position description. Thus, working towards social and racial justice within our program is our collective work and responsibility.

The other negative feedback that I heard was from one person who noted that they had tried to participate in the Master Gardener Program in the past, but did not feel welcomed. They felt that the Program was focused on older folks and housewives, and that they did not belong. I appreciated them sharing their experience, which further challenges me . . . . further challenges all of us . . . to continue working towards an Extension Master Gardener Program where everyone feels welcomed and is able to thrive.

Racial Justice + Master Gardeners: Biodiversity in the garden means the people too

By Gail Langellotto and LeAnn Locher

We are in the middle of a major shift and many changes in our country. For some, it’s incredibly painful. For some, it’s incredibly needed. But what we know for sure: what’s worked in the past – old systems, limitations, and hierarchies won’t work in the future. This is the same for Oregon’s Extension Master Gardener Program.

Right now, we have a great opportunity to look at who we are and why we exist. In this shifting landscape, if we hold tight to what once was we risk losing relevance and credibility with our communities. But we can flex. We can dig deep. We can shine a light on our core values and realign ourselves to meeting the needs of our communities. We need to stand for racial justice in all corners of our lives, including gardening. We know this work. Decades of ecological research tell us that gardens are stronger with more biodiversity.

We’re going to ask a lot of questions—and do a lot of listening. Who deeply needs our services that we’re not reaching? Where can we make a bigger impact on growing future gardeners in Oregon? Who are the faces among us that are missing and who do we need to make sure we’re standing shoulder to shoulder with as we dig into this great work?

The fact is, our program is predominantly white, older, and female. But gardening, itself, is such a multi-faceted activity that affords opportunities for participation from many angles. Gardening and garden plants provide food, beauty, and shade. Gardens can engage bird watchers, insect enthusiasts and other wildlife caretakers. Perhaps you love gardening because you are drawn to the sweet smell of healthy soil or the magic that occurs during composting. Gardening offers an opportunity to grow, and touch, and smell, and taste the foods that were part of our youth, but that can be hard to find in the stores: heirloom varieties or cultural favorites. A garden can be the common ground that brings diverse perspectives, experiences, hopes, and desires together in one place.

There are many ways and many reasons for people to engage with gardening. If our goal is to reach all budding Oregon gardeners, are we only in conversation with each other? What is the need and what resources do we have to give and share? Who’s not in our garden and at our tables?

Why does this matter?

As Oregon State University President Ed Ray recently wrote:

As a university community, we must join together to ensure that all members of the OSU community — students, faculty, staff and visitors — not only feel welcomed and safe, but experience our community as a place to thrive. Each and every member of our community must know they are valued, that they belong here, and that we celebrate the rich diversity that they bring to Oregon State University. We should not tolerate anything less. “

Working for racial justice and equity is not only part of OSU’s core values. For Gail, it’s also personal.

From Gail:

As a mixed-race person (Filipino and White), I developed the ability to blend in with the dominant culture at an early age, and it has benefited me throughout my career. This is a form of privilege that black and brown people do not have.

Even so, I was once pulled over for making a wide left turn. It was summer, and I was tan after months of working in New Jersey salt marshes for my M.S. thesis. On a break, I was helping a friend move to Arizona, driving a moving truck with trailer hitched to the back. I was not used to driving something so big and I made a wide turn. I was pulled over by the police, told my license was suspended (it was not), handcuffed and sat on hot asphalt, while the officer (and backup) went through the moving truck. It was painfully hot and humiliating, and thinking about that incident, today, makes me tear up. Still, I have only experienced something like this, once in my entire life. I am able to shed my tan. It is a form of privilege that racial profiling is not part of my daily life.

Everyone belongs here as Master Gardeners: it’s imperative we acknowledge and hold space for fellow gardeners of color.

What can we do now? Be open even if it feels scary. Get comfortable with discomfort. Talk about issues in your neighborhood, community, and Master Gardener meetings. Listen to the hard conversations. And read! We’re reading a lot. Here are some suggestions:

Let us know what you’re reading and what podcasts you’re listening to. What questions are you asking? What have you heard that resonates with and challenges you?

I know that some Master Gardener groups and individual Master Gardener volunteers have worked hard to fulfill our mission of serving all Oregonians. You have shared your successes, and we have learned from them. You have shared your disappointments when the best of plans and intentions did not work out as you had hoped. Even if you carry concern that a focus on racial justice and equity has not worked, or will not work within our program ~ this is not the time to stop. This is exactly the time we need to step up our game, listen, learn, and grow our work to be more equitable and inclusive of our many communities, particularly our communities of color. We look forward to growing together, and to working towards racial justice and equity in the Master Gardener Program.

Gail Langellotto is a Professor of Horticulture and an Urban and Community Horticulture Extension Specialist with Oregon State University.

LeAnn Locher is the Outreach Program Coordinator for Oregon State University’s Extension Master Gardener Program.

OSU Extension Service hires Master Gardener outreach coordinator

LeAnn Locher, a marketing and communications strategist, has been named Master Gardener outreach program coordinator for Oregon State University Extension Service.

LeAnn Locher is the new outreach program coordinator for OSU Extension’s Master Gardener Program.

Locher will join Gail Langellotto, statewide coordinator of the Master Gardener program, in a new position that will oversee diversity initiatives, branding and marketing, website management and social media. The award-winning strategist founded LeAnn Locher & Associates in 2006 providing creative and strategic communication services to national and local nonprofit organizations and public sector clients, including Metro Master Gardeners, establishing and launching their first website and social media tools, including the campaign Get the Real Dirt.

“Our program is so lucky to be working with someone who has LeAnn’s credentials, skillset and love of horticulture,” Langellotto said. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in the Master Gardener program has skyrocketed: Over 40,000 people enrolled in an online Master Gardener short course and our social media following has more than tripled to over 20,000 followers. The pandemic has focused attention on the importance of gardening to food security and strong community food systems. Hiring a Master Gardener program outreach coordinator right now is timely, and will allow OSU to better serve the needs of the gardening public.”

Locher first became a Master Gardener in 2009, and has been a garden columnist, blogger, podcaster and photographer. As a communication strategist and designer, she has managed staff, budgets and work plans for major events, openings, brand launches, media events, equity initiatives and fundraising campaigns. Her clients have included the National Academies of Science, National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, City of Portland, state of Oregon, University Innovation Alliance and National Crittenton.

Locher holds a bachelor’s degree in information and communication studies, instructional technology, from California State University, Chico.

“Now more than ever, Master Gardeners are needed to reach deeper into and better reflect our communities to help more people grow their skills in gardening, for food and for spirit,” Locher said. “Public understanding of what Master Gardeners do, how the public can access the incredible amount of information and support online and connect with real people to answer their questions: These are all things I’m looking forward to and to working with the amazing team of Master Gardeners across the state.”

Letter to MG Program Partners

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

Insect Agroecology Lectures

When the pandemic first started, I shared the lectures that I’m creating for ENT/HORT 444/544 (Insect Agroecology) for Master Gardeners who might be interested. The purpose of the course is to examine hypotheses and theory in insect ecology, and translate these to the management of agricultural systems. The course is set up so that students work through lectures on their own time. Every Friday, we meet and discuss two scientific papers that are related to the week’s topic.

After sharing the first two lectures, I stopped sharing course content. Truthfully, I thought (and still think) that most folks will be bored by the content. It’s a little geeky, and doesn’t directly apply to gardens. But today, someone asked me if I had more to share. So, I decided to post them all here.

Some lectures are posted as a single, long lecture. If I had a lot of material to present in a week, I broke the lectures up into smaller chunks, which the students seemed to prefer.

Audio and video quality are consistent with that of a luddite professor, working hard to deliver two classes in a new way, while also dealing with a lot of other COVID-19 pressures. Please be kind in your assessment of each video.

On a desktop or laptop computer: you can minimize my talking head and maximize the slides, by clicking the arrows that are near the top right of each video.

On a mobile device: you can switch between a view of me and a view of the slides by clicking on the small screen with (with the ‘play’ symbol) near the bottom of the screen. Two options will pop up from that small icon. Toggle between the two to view the slides.

Week 1: Insect Diversity and Abundance (35:35)

Week 2: Bottom Up Control of Insect Herbivores: Plant Nutrition (54:11)

Week 3: Bottom Up Control of Insect Herbivores: Plant Defense

Week 4: Top Down Control of Insect Herbivores (51:27)

Week 5: Competition and Food Webs

Week 6: Pest Management: Insecticides

Week 7: Pest Management: Biotechnologies

Week 8: Pollinators in Agroecosystems

Week 9: Climate Change

Happy National Volunteer Week! (plus COVID-19 program update)

This year, April 19-25th is National Volunteer Week, and an important time to stop and consider all of the goodness that Master Gardener volunteers bring to this world. The 2019 Annual Report provides an overview of the incredible work that Master Gardener volunteers do across the state of Oregon: 52.5 tons of food donated to food pantries and food banks; support of 29 school gardens, 46 community gardens, and 23 educational gardens; over 200,000 hours volunteered and over 139,000 Oregonians served!

In 2020, and despite the pandemic, Master Gardener volunteers continue to do good things in their communities. Many are individually participating in the Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign by allocating space in their personal garden to grow food for local food banks or soup kitchens. Master Gardeners in Polk and Lincoln Counties have turned the disappointment of cancelled plant sales as an opportunity to donate fresh veggie starts to those in need in the community. The Benton and Linn County Master Gardeners have been teaching Seed to Supper beginning vegetable gardening classes using distance learning. The online Master Gardener short course made their vegetable garden course free, and more than 29,000 have enrolled in less than a month (currently, the number enrolled is passing 31,000). This year, these efforts are needed more than ever, as we’re experiencing disruptions to global food distribution chains, demand is rising at local food banks, and the collective efforts of Master Gardeners to grow food as a group has been upended by the Governor’s Stay Home Save Lives executive order.

I want to take the time to recognize the great work being done by nearly 3,000 Master Gardener volunteers across the state, while also recognizing the incredible hardships that individual volunteers and Master Gardener chapters may be suffering. In February, as I was travelling the state to teach Master Gardener classes, I met so many people who told me how important their volunteer colleagues were to their daily life. In some cases, the Master Gardener shared that they had suffered a huge loss in their life, and how their volunteer colleagues were the ones who were helping them get through a very difficult time. I worry so much about the Master Gardeners who benefit from or depend on the social interactions of our volunteer Program. I encourage Master Gardener volunteers to continue checking on their colleagues and friends from the Program via phone, social media, email, or another safe method that maintains recommended social distancing.

The Oregon Master Gardener Association and its chapters, our 501(c)3 friends, are also grappling with losses. Multiple Master Gardener plant sales, garden fairs, educational events, and other spring gatherings have been cancelled. These events are seen as a harbinger of spring and the unofficial kick-off of the spring gardening season. The funds raised from these events help to fund the many Master Gardener scholarships, grants, and educational outreach programs that are offered across Oregon. It remains to be seen how these losses will affect the philanthropy and outreach of the Oregon Master Gardener Association and its affiliate chapters.

The good news is that I have yet to hear of a Master Gardener volunteer, faculty member, or staff member who has suffered serious illness as a result of COVID-19. I hope that is indeed the case, and that you all are staying healthy and safe.

The other good news is that our Governor has shared a plan to reopen Oregon, that includes several benchmarks she would like to see met.

On the flip side, the bad news is that the Master Gardener Program remains in a holding pattern: continuing our suspension of face-to-face activities, meetings, and events until the Governor lifts of modifies EO 20-12. I know that this is disappointing to many, including me. But, the Master Gardener Program is aligned with Oregon State University, and as a state agency, OSU is strongly encouraging everyone to Stay Home, Save Lives.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the Stay Home, Save Lives order for many Master Gardener volunteers is what this has meant for plant care in Master Gardener-tended gardens and greenhouses. We are working with Master Gardener faculty and staff to try and ensure that watering is provided to plants on OSU property. For gardens and greenhouses that are not OSU property, such as at county fairgrounds or on community college property, OSU is adhering to the current policies of our partner organizations. And in many cases, our partners have closed their facilities to the public and have severely restricted who can visit or work on their property. Even if the property might be open, we are still unable to greenlight face-to-face Master Gardener program volunteer activities, until EO 20-12 is modified or lifted.

I truly am grateful for all of the great work that Master Gardener volunteers do across the state, and I’m PROUD of the way that Master Gardener volunteers have responded to hardship with generous, ingenious, and creative ways to give back to their community during this pandemic.

I hope that one small silver lining might be that you have more time to work on your personal garden or to tend to your houseplants. And, if you don’t have a personal garden or houseplants to tend, I hope that you have been able to get out into the beautiful Oregon weather that we have been having, to enjoy the sunshine and the beauty of local trees, shrubs, and birds. Most of all, I hope that you stay safe and healthy, and that I get to see all of my Master Gardener friends in person, very, very soon.

Take care,

Gail Langellotto, OSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinator

My own garden is definitely getting more attention this year, compared to most. Happy gardening to all!

FAQs Related to MG Plant Care

Since sharing the document outline OSU’s requirements for the Care of Plants in Master Gardener Greenhouses and Demonstration Gardens, I have fielded many questions. So, I thought it would be useful to compile some FAQs, here.

Question: Why is OSU telling the Master Gardener Chapters to donate their plant sale plants?

Answer: OSU is NOT suggesting, requesting, requiring, or even asking Master Gardener Chapters to donate their plants. The guidance on plant sale donations came to be, because I received questions from four separate Master Gardener chapters about whether or not they might be able to donate plants that had otherwise been destined for a plant sale. If you are part of a Master Gardener chapter that would like to donate plants to a local food bank or food pantry, wonderful! If not, that’s fine, too!

Question: Why are Plant Sale Donations Allowed, but Plant Sales are Not Allowed?

Answer: The Master Gardener program does not currently have permission to allow for plant sales conducted under the Master Gardener name. Some key points:

  • OSU is observing the Governor’s Stay Home | Save Lives order, and is encouraging everyone to stay home. 
  • The plant donations was an exception, granted after review by the OSU attorney in charge of making sure OSU is in compliance with the Governor’s Executive order (Julie Penry), OSU’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator (Dan Larson), and the interim head of OSU Extension (Anita Azarenko). The exception was granted because it was made clear that donations would only occur if we were able to leverage another organization’s distribution network, rather than set up our manage our own. The exception was given for one-time, bulk donations, rather than limited, frequent, and dispersed distribution.
  • An exception has NOT been granted for Master Gardener plant sales, and I doubt that one would be granted. A donation can occur as a bulk, one-time transfer of plants, whereas a sale would occur over time, bring multiple volunteers and customers to a common point (even with social distancing), and would require folks to travel (in violation of the Governor’s Executive order to stay home and minimize travel).

Question: But why are nurseries allowed to sell plants, and Master Gardener Chapters are not?

Answer: In short, Master Gardener Programs are not commercial nurseries. We want our volunteers and our employees to be safe. Staying home a critical part of the Stay Home Save Lives Executive order.

Nurseries are open and are selling plants. But, as a business, they’re also subject to being reported for violating the 6 foot distance rule for employees, promoting unsafe conditions for employees and customers.

Question: But Master Gardener chapters are separate 501(c)3’s from Oregon State University? Why are we subject to OSU rules?

Answer: Our partner Master Gardener chapters are separate 501(c)3’s from OSU. The separation allows the OMGA and Master Gardener chapters to raise funds in ways (such as by holding a plant sale) that greatly enhance OSU programming. But, the Master Gardener Program and the Master Gardener name are service marked by OSU. The Master Gardener Program in Oregon is overseen by OSU. If a program or event is being advertised in the state of Oregon, using the name ‘Master Gardener’, OSU policies, procedures, and guidance must be followed.

Question: Does my local Master Gardener coordinator have flexibility to allow us to continue our local face-to-face events and activities?

Answer: No.

Question: Why is my Master Gardener coordinator allowed to water plants in our greenhouse, but another Master Gardener coordinator is not allowed to water plants for their Master Gardeners?

Answer: OSU has placed strict rules on employee travel. Any travel to a location that is not that employee’s normal work-duty station (such as the Extension Office) must be approve by their Director or Dean. If the plants are in a greenhouse or garden that is on OSU owned or leased land that is also that employee’s normal work-duty station, your Master Gardener coordinator would not have to submit a travel request for approval ~ and could thus be designated as the point person to water plants. If the plants are in a greenhouse or garden that is not on OSU owned or leased land, that person would need to submit a travel request to their Director or Dean for permission to travel and care for those plants. These types of requests are unlikely to be approved at this time, unless they are deemed an essential or critical activity.