How’s the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work going?

It’s been three months since we first posted here with a call for diversity, equity and inclusion in the Master Gardener program. Here is an update and what we’ve being doing since then.

We are approaching the work in three ways:

  • Ourselves: our own work. Looking at our own stories and history including the history of racism in Oregon and the founding stories of land grant institutions. We are looking deep into our field of work including colonization even in the naming of plants. We are learning to acknowledge this has been happening for years and before our time. This work improves our critical consciousness so we’re aware of inequities.
  • How and who Master Gardeners serve in the community: We’re asking questions like how do we as Master Gardeners serve our communities and neighbors? How far are we reaching into our communities, and who are we missing? Who needs gardening advice, support and education? What do we know and not know?
  • Systemic within the Master Gardener program: What does it mean to be a Master Gardener and who is the training program designed for? What are the barriers to the program and how can we remove them?

To this end:

  • We’ve convened a working group of Master Gardener coordinators from different parts of the state to participate in and lead this work;
  • I’ve had a series of conversations about our work with coordinators across the state in every county where there’s an active Master Gardener program, as well as with coordinators and program leaders in California and Minnesota;
  • 25+ Master Gardener coordinators recently participated in a 3–hour training on equitable leadership;
  • We are examining and planning ways to include diversity, equity and inclusion in training for all Master Gardener volunteers;
  • Enacting a series of feedback surveys for Master Gardener volunteers to ensure voices are heard. This includes surveys for feedback on our program’s priorities and values, and upcoming trainings for 2021.

“So with all of this we’ll be done, right?”  I think about the best answer for this is in a gardening analogy. A few years back my partner asked me, clearly exhausted, “Aren’t we done with the garden yet?” As I stood there with eyes wide open, I pondered how I was going to break it to her. As gardeners we all know that a garden is never done. It’s an ongoing journey of discovery, setbacks, and amazing results. And a lot of soil building. And so it is with doing the work of diversity, equity and inclusion. We’re in it for the long haul.


Recent podcasts you might enjoy listening to:

Botany, Geography, History & Power: at the Heart of the Garden, Jamaica Kincaid on Cultivating Place

Robin Wall Kimmerer, The Intelligence of Plants (original airdate of 2016 but just as great today as it was then)  on On Being with Krista Tippett

 ‘Make Farmers Black Again’: African Americans Fight Discrimination To Own Farmland on NPR

How Running’s White Origins Led to the Dangers of ‘Running While Black’ (Yes, this is about running, but there are similar things to think about with gardening, and includes a connection to Oregon) on Code Switch

Stories of race, culture, place, and people surround us, even in the garden. We must face them.

Photo by @blcksmth – Quote by James Baldwin

What are the stories we tell about our lives, our history, our gardens, our favorite flowers? I’ve been thinking about these things, and how we can personalize what’s happening in the world. How we bring issues of justice and equity into our lives as gardeners.

What can we do? How do we start? Why haven’t we done this earlier? What does this have to do with gardening?

These are all questions I’m hearing from Master Gardener leaders and volunteers throughout the state. Via Zoom, phone and email, I’ve been doing a lot of listening in my new role as statewide outreach coordinator, and asking questions.

And in the way of the world right now, I’m incredibly thankful to be learning so much, even as I’m unlearning stories I thought I knew. For example, while I have sentimental childhood memories of visiting Mt. Rushmore on a classic family road trip across the country, I know now that project defiled sacred Lakota land and that the creator, Gutzon Borglum, was deeply involved in the Ku Klux Klan.

I wonder why I never learned in school about what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, or the important significance of June 19th.

Facing our need as Master Gardeners to better serve our community through a lens of equity, diversity and inclusion means uncovering the truth, questioning our stories, and checking our own assumptions. It’s why I’m turning to the words of James Baldwin right now: Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Let’s start with the plants themselves.

Me with a favorite ajisai (hydrangea) as big as my head.

Take hydrangea, one of my favorite plants. But it wasn’t always called hydrangea. Known and revered for centuries in Japan as ajisai, the flower was caught in the colonization sweeps of Joseph Banks. When it was presented at Kew Gardens in England, the “newly discovered” plant was renamed hydrangea, effectively erasing its Japanese cultural history and lineage.

And then there’s the dahlia….

A cocoxochitl in my garden last week, also known as a collarette dahlia named Pooh from Swan Island Dahlias in Canby.

Named for Swedish botanist Anders Dahl, the dahlia was brought to Europe by the Spanish after the conquest of Mexico. Grown in the beautiful and sophisticated gardens of Montezuma, the Aztecs called this flower cocoxochitl, where it was grown for its grandeur, function and as a food crop. The tree dahlias grown here could grow to thirty feet tall and with hollow stems three inches in diameter, they were used for transporting water. All of this rich, Mexican, cultural history vanished when it was claimed and named by Europeans.

“This naming of things is so crucial to possession—a spiritual padlock with the key thrown irretrievably away—that it is a murder, an erasing, and it is not surprising that when people have felt themselves prey to it (conquest), among their first acts of liberation is to change their names (Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, LeRoi Jones to Amiri Baraka). That the great misery and much smaller joy of existence remain unchanged no matter what anything is called never checks the impulse to reach back and reclaim a loss, to try and make what happened look as if it had not happened at all.”

—Jamaica Kincaid, My Garden (Story)

The author Jennifer Jewell writes about her interview with Jamaica Kincaid:

In my conversations with Jamaica Kincaid … she said this: “The thing we have liked the most about gardens is the love of a flower from somewhere else. Most people don’t know that the marigold and dahlia were part of Montezuma’s gardens. If we could just honor one another, it wouldn’t feel so badly to have taken them. Honoring one another is one way perhaps that we redeem ourselves; I am very interested in redemption,” she told me. Redemption. An interesting word – Jamaica talks about how we as people can work to honor one another – work to re-find and retell and re- share histories which were hidden – stolen – histories that some strove to erase. But they are still there those histories – embodied in the plants and the seeds and the art and the myth and the lived history of peoples and places.

I have two stories to leave you with. One is a tiny example of what can happen when we begin to ask questions and see things with a new eye. I recently noticed the description for Trachelospermum jasminoides on a favorite plant resourcing site. Common names listed were star jasmine and confederate jasmine. Do we really need to celebrate the confederacy with one of my favorite plants? Probably not. I mentioned it to the website owner and within ten minutes, the name confederate jasmine was gone.

But then there’s the story the woman riding her bike by our garden told herself a few weeks ago. My partner and I were gardening in our front garden, and the bicyclist pulled a u-turn when she saw our giant stand of romneya coulteri. Approaching my partner she asked about the flower, first inquiring if she was the landscaper. My partner is Mexican-American, had a bandana holding back her hair, and earbuds in her ears. The woman repeated the question, this time overpronouncing with the assumption she might not speak English. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. I’ve never been assumed to be the landscaper in our front garden. And that was my white privilege.

Romneya coulteri

We all have stories to unlearn and we’re in a special moment where we can use new eyes in the way we see and move through the world. And we can act. Even in our gardens.

Resources mentioned in this essay:

By LeAnn Locher, Statewide Master Gardener Outreach Coordinator

Options for completing annual Master Gardener training classes in context of COVID-19

To: Master Gardener coordinators (Extension faculty)

From: Gail Langellotto, (Professor of Horticulture, Statewide Coordinator, Extension Master Gardener Program)

Date: March 11, 2020, 12:41pm PST

Coordinators,

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.

Thank you for your efforts during this rapidly changing situation, and for the care and compassion you are showing for each other and your program participants.

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 available options for completing the 2020 Master Gardener training season.

We are developing additional guidance for large events such as conferences and plant sales, and ongoing volunteer activities such as plant clinics.

Here are four three options to consider.

Option 1: Continue with classes, but observe recommended practices for personal wellness and minimizing spread of illness.

****This option was removed as a possibility on March 12, 2020, when updated guidance for OSU Extension Master Gardener Programs was issued.**** Note that the recommended practices for personal wellness and minimizing the spread of illness is still recommened, for personal use.

These include:

  • No mandatory attendance: Do not penalize students who opt not to attend classes, provide options for making up missed work.
  • Stay home if sick: Speakers, employees, volunteers, or students who are sick or have a household member who is sick should stay home.
  • Observe social distancing: Seat students so they are not apt to touch each other or touch a shared desk space. Remind students to refrain from shaking hands, hugging, or otherwise touching other class members. If your meeting space is limited and you cannot meet this requirement, it might be better to consider a different option for completing classes.
  • Practice frequent handwashing: Build handwashing breaks into the training day. Have hand sanitizers on hand.
  • NO shared food or potlucks: Temporarily halt the tradition of shared food or potlucks for meals or snacks. Ask students to bring their own food and drinks. Do not share food or food utensils.
  • Use Approved Environmental Cleaners for Classroom Surfaces. Take care to reduce environmental exposure to these cleaners.

Option 2: Postpone and reschedule classes (i.e., after the state of emergency has passed or has been revoked). The ability to do this may depend on whether or not you will have access to the training site at a later date, and if students and instructors can accommodate a schedule change.

Option 3: Consider using the online modules to complete your 2020 training schedule.

Option 4: If you have met the minimum national and state standards for Master Gardener trainings, you can suspend classes for 2020. If you have questions about the standards, please contact me.

Keep in mind that decisions may differ among coordinators depending on local circumstances. Extension decisions made locally should be coordinated through supervisors and leadership at the appropriate level. Please contact your regional director and me with any questions or concerns.

No matter which options you chose, please prioritize your personal health and wellness. Take the time to regularly review updates from the CDC and OHA websites, as well as OSU’s COVID-19 webpage.

Thank you,

Gail

National Extension Master Gardener Report 2018

The Extension Master Gardener National Committee compiles a report of Master Gardener activity, every few years. Recently, they released the report for 2018, with all but three states reporting (Massachusetts does not have an Extension Master Gardener Program).

You can download a PDF copy of the report, below:

If you would like to compare the 2018 numbers with past reports, you can access the 2016, 2014, and 2009 reports, here: https://articles.extension.org/pages/27284/extension-master-gardener-public-value-reports .