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?
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.