Care of Plants and Gardens in the Context of EO 20-12 (Stay Home. Save Lives)

March 25, 2020

To: OSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinators, Faculty, and Staff

From: Gail Langellotto, Statewide Master Gardener Program Coordinator

Subject: Guidance on Master Gardener Activities and Plant Care, in the Context of Executive Order 20-12

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak and in accordance with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-12 (Stay Home. Save Lives), Master Gardener Programs are to continue with the suspension of face-to-face programming. This means no face-to-face Master Gardener classes, events, meetings or outreach activities.

The purpose of the executive order and this guidance is to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon, to protect the health and lives of Oregonians, particularly those at highest risk, and to help avoid overwhelming local and regional healthcare capacity. Oregon State University fully supports the governor’s executive order and encourages its community members to stay at home.

Plant Care in Greenhouses or Gardens

In terms of plant care in greenhouses or gardens (whether they are school, community, or educational gardens), I offer the following guidance:

If the greenhouse and/or garden is on OSU-owned or OSU-leased land:

  • Only OSU employees will be allowed access to maintain plant materials or gardens. Limiting on-campus and onsite operations is required under EO 20-09. Volunteers are not to be permitted to access OSU Extension-owned or leased property for any reason, including plant care or garden care.
  • A single OSU employee should be identified (as per Anita Azarenko’s March 23rd email noting that ‘regional directors will identify one individual per off campus location to monitor building security, receive mail, and perform other critical functions determined by the university’.
  • Maintenance of plant materials or gardens by a designated OSU employee will be performed on an ‘as available’ basis. Employees should only include plant or garden maintenance in their short-term Plan of Work if they have the capacity, ability and willingness to do so.
  • Carefully consider whether or not plant care or garden care represents a critical function at this time. Supervisors will help employees to determine what qualifies as a critical function. If plant care or garden care is deemed critical, think of the steps that you can take to minimize plant care or garden care needs. For example, can the greenhouse temperature be lowered to reduce watering needs and slow plant growth? In parts of Western Oregon, many perennials can survive without supplemental water well into June. Note that many common gardening maintenance activities, such as weeding, pruning or plant propagation, are not critical activities.
  • Worm bin or compost pile maintenance is not considered a critical function.

If the greenhouse and/or garden is on land that is NOT owned or leased by OSU:

  • We must honor the policies in place of our community partners. Many fairgrounds, recreation and parks units, and schools have closed their facilities to the public.
  • Individuals should refer to Executive Order 20-12, particularly section 22, which dictates that “individuals are directed to minimize travel, other than essential travel to or from a home, residence or workplace; for obtaining or providing food, shelter, essential consumer needs, education, health care, or emergency services . . .”
  • Under the current directives of Executive Order 20-12, Master Gardener volunteers are not authorized to care for greenhouse plants or gardens on behalf of OSU or in their role as a Master Gardener volunteer.

Donating or Selling Plants

Many of you have asked about the possibility of selling or donating plants that were originally destined to be sold at Master Gardener Association plant sales.

For plant materials that are owned by Master Gardener Chapters or Associations and not by OSU:

  • We are exploring whether or not the plants can be sold or donated to partner agencies, while using the Master Gardener name. If we proceed, we aim to work with partner agencies that already have distribution channels in place rather than creating our own distribution network.

For plant materials that are owned by OSU:

  • We would have to work through the university’s surplus system, before donating or selling excess plants.  

These guidelines, like Executive Order 20-12, are in place immediately and until further notice.

I hold the important work that we do in the Master Gardener program in such high regard. I especially value and appreciate the joy that gardening and plant care brings to our lives and to the lives of Master Gardener volunteers, and the friendships that are formed through the Master Gardener Program. 

But during this public health crisis, the best thing that we can do to ensure the health and safety of our volunteers ~ many of whom are in groups that are at higher risk for serious illness if they are exposed to COVID-19 ~  is to encourage them stay home. Those of us in positions where attendance on campus or at the Extension office is not essential or critical should also be staying home. By doing so, each of us will reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19 locally and across Oregon.

Image result for stay home save lives oregon

CDC Issues New Guidance that Affects MG Outreach, Plant Sales, and Events, through May 10th

On March 15th, the CDC issued new guidance for large events and mass gatherings. This guidance recommends that, for the next eight weeks (which would take us to May 10th, or Mother’s Day) that events which can draw 50 or more people, in person, be cancelled or postponed.

This recommendation takes us out further on the calendar than the state of Oregon’s March 7th Executive Order banning face-to-face gatherings of 250 or more people for 60 days (which would take us to May 6th). It also takes us further on the calendar that Oregon State University’s policy banning face-to-face gatherings of 50 or more people, through April 30th.

Given the updated CDC guidance, I am updating the previous guidance given to Master Gardener groups (on 3/12), to adhere to CDC guidelines. Through at least May 10th, any face-to-face Master Gardener classes, meetings, outreach activities, and events, including Master Gardener Conferences and plant sales that can draw 50 or more people, should be cancelled or postponed.

All face-to-face Master Gardener activities, events, meetings ~ no matter how many people may attend ~ are suspended pending further notice. This suspension aligns with the guidance given by OSU Extension on March 13th.

As someone who has planned several large events, I know that this is heartbreaking news that will have negative impact on affected Master Gardener chapters. I truly feel bad for the many Master Gardeners who have tirelessly and enthusiastically worked for a year or more, only to have their event cancelled or postponed. But, the health of our volunteers, faculty, staff, and community is paramount, and should be put ahead of other concerns.

Wiley Thompson, the Regional Director for the OSU Extension on the coast, has said something like: ‘this is the year that a lot of things won’t happen: NCAA basketball tournaments, PAC-12 Spring Sports, and so much more’.

But, I’m also seeing many instances of ingenuity, in the face of these challenges.

Master Gardeners are holding meetings via Zoom. If you are able, and if your Master Gardeners are wanting and needing to meet, please help them by setting up a Zoom meeting.

The Benton County Master Gardeners are planning to offer Seed to Supper via Zoom!

Don’t forget that the Advanced Training Master Gardener webinars start tomorrow (3/17). Once again, they will be offered via Zoom! It’s not too late to sign up for one or more classes.

Hang in there! We will get through this!

Updated Guidance for Master Gardener Training Classes and Guidance for Large Events, Ongoing Master Gardener Activities in the Context of COVID-19

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

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. 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.

Please continue to 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.

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.

Thank you,

Gail

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

2019 Annual Report

I am proud to share the 2019 Annual Report of the Oregon State University Extension Master Gardener Program.

*****You can access the entire report HERE. ****

It has been a stellar year of accomplishments across the state, due to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers, faculty, and staff associated with the program. I am particularly proud of the work we have done over the past year, focused on equity and accessibility, as well as food justice. In 2019, Master Gardeners donated 52.5 tons of fresh, healthy produce to local food banks and food pantries across the state. Much of this food was grown in the 121 gardens where Master Gardeners volunteer as garden mentors, coaches, and educators. But, a lot of this food came from the personal gardens of Master Gardeners who participate in the Plant a Row for the Hungry program that was started by the Garden Writers of America (now Garden Communicators International).

In terms of our work to advance equity and accessibility in the program there are four items I would like to highlight:

  • The Oregon Master Gardener Association dedicated the first leadership day of 2019 to advancing diversity and cross-cultural understanding. They hosted a full day training, led by Gilda Montenegro-Fix of ‘Celebrate Diversity’. The training was attended b about 40 volunteers from across the state, and was extremely well-received.
  • The Portland Metro Master Gardener Program hosted a half day training on diversity, at their annual Fall Recertification event. The training, entitled ‘A Diverse Garden is a Healthy Garden – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in your role as an OSU Master Gardener volunteer’, was led by the City of Portland Office of Equity and Human Rights. More than 300 volunteers participated in the training, which elicited strong feelings (mostly positive) from many in attendance. I was lucky enough to attend, and look forward to sharing my experience in a future blog post.
  • In 2019, many Master Gardener coordinators made the decision to reduce the minimum number of volunteer service hours needed to become a Master Gardener volunteer, in an effort to remove structural barriers to participation in our program. The national minimum for required service hours is 40 hours. However, Oregon’s average requirement for volunteer service hours was between 60-65 hours. With the reduction in required hours, we now have an average requirement of 50-55 hours.
  • Since 2009, we have collaborated with Lettuce Grow (now a program of Growing Gardens) to offer sustainable gardening programs in 14 adult and two youth correctional facilities across Oregon. Over 780 students have graduated from this program. Of those who have been released, the recidivism (return to prison) rate is around 4%. This is substantially less than the statewide average recidivism of 31%.

There have also been challenges in 2019, particularly in terms of faculty and staff turnover and coverage in three regions of the state. At the end of 2019, the program lacked faculty coverage in the North Coast (Clatsop and Tillamook), Central Gorge (Hood River and Wasco), and Eastern Oregon (Union and Baker) regions. However, I am happy to report that the staffing outlook has improved at the start of 2020. We have receive approval to hire a Professor of Practice for the North Coast Counties. And, there are plans to hire a Professional Faculty to oversee the Master Gardener Program in Wasco County. This still leaves Hood River, Union, and Baker Counties without faculty leadership. But, one step at a time, and I am grateful to pause and celebrate the victories with staffing in three counties with more than 200 active volunteers.

I am also thrilled to share that I have received permission and financial support to hire a 0.60 FTE Outreach Program Coordinator to support work in the Statewide Master Gardener Program. This person will work in three main areas to support Master Gardener Program Coordinators in Oregon:

  • OSU Extension Community Horticulture Web Content Development and Maintenance
  • Statewide Master Gardener Program Administration
  • University Compliance for Master Gardener Coordinators and Volunteers

So, after a long drought, in terms of University support for the Master Gardener Program, we are starting to see real and meaningful investments in the Program, at the county and state levels. Over the past year, there have also been investments to increase the FTE of three Master Gardener Program coordinators across the state. These investments have helped to better align the position descriptions and compensation of these coordinators, with the work that they actually do. Ultimately, I am hoping that these investments help to promote long-term stability in staffing within the Master Gardener Program, in ways that will ultimately benefit the volunteers and general public that we serve.

If you are a Master Gardener faculty or staff member, and have questions about your position description, position expectations, workload, or other factors, please feel free to reach out to me. I do not control budgets, and can not immediately fix an issue, should it exist. But, I can be an advocate on your behalf, or can be a sounding board for options that might help to prioritize or manage workload. There are also many senior Master Gardener coordinators who you might want to reach out to for their input and perspective. I know that we all want to see each other succeed. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

Customer Service Skills for Master Gardener Volunteers

Yesterday, I received a disturbing phone call. A former colleague, who I have great respect for, let me know that he has heard multiple, independent, negative reports about the Master Gardener Program in his community. In one case, he heard of a Master Gardener yelling at a community member. In other cases, Master Gardeners were seen as rude or demeaning.

This is a difficult call to respond to. My colleague heard this information second-hand. Thus, it is hard to judge the veracity of these second hand reports. My colleague also didn’t have names to share. Thus, it is difficult to go to the source of the issue, and to address this matter, directly.

Unfortunately, in my 12-years of experience as Oregon’s Statewide Master Gardener Program Coordinator, I have occassionally (very rarely) seen a volunteer behave in a way that is not in line with the Volunteer Code of Conduct.

The first line of the Volunteer Code of Conduct reads:

“When volunteering as an Oregon State University Extension Master Gardener, I will:

  • Represent OSU Extension, the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program and my individual county or local program with professionalism, dignity and pride, and be responsible for conducting myself with courtesy and appropriate behavior.”

Those words: professionalism, dignity, pride, and courtesy all suggest the type of behavior that we expect and require of Master Gardener volunteers. But, these words can have very different meanings to different people. Some of our volunteers may not have participated in the professional workforce, or they may be retired from work for quite some time. Some of our volunteers may have been high level supervisors when they were working, and are unaccustomed to serving in role that requires well-developed customer service skills. And in some cases, long-time and excellent volunteers may be going through a significant life change that impacts their ability to provide stellar service to the gardening public. This Journal of Extension article provides options for working with volunteers who might be experience medical issues that impact their ability to volunteer (see scenario #3).

Four Customer Service Skills for Master Gardeners

Let’s set the stage by what we mean by the words professionalism, dignity, pride, and courtesy.

First, it should be clear that yelling or other aggressive or belittling behavior will NEVER be tolerated in the Master Gardener Program: towards the gardening public, other volunteers, or Extension faculty and staff. Volunteers who behave in this way should be removed from the situation. Suspension or expulsion may be warranted, depending upon the severity of the situation. In other cases, the volunteer may simply need the time and space to collect themselves and to calm down. If you would like advice on how best to handle a difficult volunteer situation, please consult trusted colleagues who are Master Gardener coordinators. As the statewide Extension Master Gardener coordinator, I unfortunately have extensive experience in dealing with these types of situations, and can provide a list of options that would be appropriate for your situation.

Master Gardeners are volunteers who support the general public’s efforts to learn or improve their sustainable gardening skills. Basic customer service skills are crucial to helping others.

If you think it could be useful for your group, you may want to give your Master Gardener volunteers one hour of continuing education credits for reading this post (included embedded links) and watching the customer service videos.

Customer service skills for Master Gardeners include:

  • Patience: People who reach out to the Master Gardener Program for advice or support are often confused and frustrated. They may have tried their hand at gardening for the very first time, and failed. Or, a plant that they truly value may be in decline. Being listened to and handled with patience goes a long way in helping others feel at ease, and to have confidence that you can help alleviate their current frustrations. Your attitude will help to set and guide the tone for others, and can help steer interactions towards a more positive path.
This UM Extension video discusses the importance of keeping a positive attitude, when working with the public.

2. Attentiveness: The ability to truly listen is crucial to providing great service for a number of reasons. Not only is it important to pay attention to individual gardeners’ experiences, but it’s also important to be mindful and attentive to the feedback that you receive. Listening is a skill that can be developed with practice.

This UM Extension Video discusses the importance of listening, for successful customer service.

3. Curiosity: In many ways, being a Master Gardener is like being a plant detective. The gardener who is asking for help will give clues as to what could be wrong, if the volunteer asks the right questions and listens carefully to their responses. Cultivate a sense of curiosity in Master Gardener work, rather than the sense that Master Gardeners should immediately know the answer(s). Another great thing about fostering a sense of curiosity is that it breaks down barriers between Master Gardener volunteers and the gardening public. Master Gardeners who assume an air of authority or expertise limit conversations to a one way transmission of knowledge. Assuming an air of authority can also come off as being rude and dismissive. Curious Master Gardeners, on the other hand, invite the gardening public into a dynamic conversation, and put people at ease.

This oldie but goodie video from the Metro Area Master Gardener Program demonstrates the right way and the wrong way to work with gardeners who phone the plant clinic desk.
In this video, the Metro Area Master Gardeners demonstrate the importance of asking questions and getting more information, so that the volunteer can research the issue. A good answer, and not a quick answer, is what Master Gardeners should work towards.

More on Curiosity and Attentiveness: In 2019, I took the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science intensive workshop. It was a life-changing experience for me, that I wrote about in another blog post. During the workshop, I learned how to begin to listen deeply to others, and especially to those that I did not agree with. The skills of curiosity and attentiveness can be learned, are not easy to maintain, and get better with practice. These skills are directly transferable to all walks of life, including work in the Master Gardener Program. [I wish I could send everyone to the Alan Alda workshop! I truly felt that I was learning from a Master . . . because I was.]

In this PBS News Hour video clip, Alan Alda discusses the importance of curiosity and attentiveness to effective communication.

4. Collaboration: Collaboration is essential to the success of the Extension Master Gardener Program. We receive too many queries, and reach so many people, that no single Master Gardener can do it all. Master Gardeners who eschew collaboration, and instead take a dictatorial approach to their volunteer shifts, can come off as bossy. Often, other volunteers may request not to work with that individual. Tips on how to work with a ‘bossy’ volunteer can be found in Scenario #2 of this Journal of Extension article.

This Metro Master Gardener video does a great job of demonstrating how to make new volunteers feel welcome, and how to work together as a team on the plant clinic desk.

A Note on the Master Gardener Dress Code

One of the things I love most about working in a College of Agricultural Sciences is that the dress code is decidely relaxed. But, there can be cases when volunteers are a bit too relaxed with their attire, when working as a Master Gardener volunteer. Volunteers should dress in an appropriate and professional manner suitable for the activity or location.

  • “Office casual” is appropriate for speaking engagements, indoor plant clinics, and schools.
  • Gardening work clothes are appropriate for working in demonstration gardens and some outdoor events.
  • Always wear your Master Gardener badge (or intern badge) when working as a Master Gardener volunteer.

Tips for 2019 Master Gardener Program Reporting

2019 MG Annual Report

It is once again time to submit your 2019 Annual Report for your local Master Gardener Program. Reports are due by December 22, 2019.

If you would like to preview the 2019 reporting fields, please check your email for October 29, 2019 (10:57am) for the more instructions, and for a pdf entitled ‘2019 MG Annual Reporting Questions Preview’.

Each year, I ask Master Gardener Program Coordinators to provide 1-2 paragraphs describing the accomplishments of your Master Gardener Program and 1-2 paragraphs describing the challenges your program faced in 2019. Here are a few tips for submitting a compelling report that will help to showcase the positive impacts of the Extension Master Gardener Program around the state.

  • This year, I would like you to pay particular attention to calling out any accomplishments or challenges associated with broadening the participation of under-represented groups in your local Master Gardener Program. The last time that we took a census of Master Gardener volunteer demographics (Langellotto-Rhodaback and MIller 2012), the majority of our volunteers were Caucasian (95.2%), female (73%), and between the ages of 56 and 85 (74%). Thus, groups that have historically been under-represented in our program include other racial or ethnic groups, men, and younger participants.
  • When completing these sections of your report (accomplishments and challenges), please focus on the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program in your area, and not on the Master Gardener Association that supports your efforts. You can highlight notable collaborations that have helped to broaden your Extension Program’s outreach and impact. But, try not to focus on activities and accomplishments that are entirely (or nearly so) an Association activity, such as a Master Gardener Plant sale.
  • Do not spend time reporting the number of new Master Gardeners that were trained or the number of perennial Master Gardeners that recertified. You report these numbers in other parts of the Program report survey. There is no need to report them again, when you are detailing your program accomplishments and challenges.
  • If you evaluated program impacts over the past year, to assess potential changes in knowledge, perspectives, or behavior, as a result of your Master Gardener training, or another educational program, make sure to include this important data.
  • Other items that you might want to consider reporting include:
    • a new approach to Master Gardener training or educational programs, to make the offerings more dynamic and hands-on
    • novel or advanced training opportunities that were offered in your area
    • key partnerships with community organizations in your region

Key challenges don’t always make it into the report, but they are helpful for long-term strategies to improve the Extension Master Gardener Program in Oregon.

If you would like to see how your data has been used in past reports, you can visit the Quick Stats Page on the OSU Extension Master Gardener website.

New Option for Continuing Education Credit

In order to make more continuing education (CE) opportunities available to Master Gardener Volunteers we are now officially approving CE credit for reading approved research-based publications that relate to sustainable gardening. These publications will provide in-depth information on a variety of gardening topics that volunteers can draw on when working in the plant clinic or providing community education. In addition this process will encourage volunteers to read OSU and other research-based publications with the added benefit of familiarizing volunteers with up-to-date resources that can be shared with clients.

Each publication will qualify for one hour of CE.

Some publications may take more or less time to read but 60 minutes is a good average.

How to determine if a publication qualifies for CE.

Publications from the following sources are generally deemed appropriate: OSU Extension Catalog, other Extension Services, governmental organizations (i.e. Department of Agriculture, USDA, etc.).

Where possible, OSU publications should be given preference. Publications should relate to sustainable gardening, home horticulture, or backyard and local food production. Coordinators may want to provide a list of suggested and approved reading with web links. This will make it easy for volunteers to access the publications and should prevent them from finding out of date publications that have been archived.

Example of a suggested reading list for August from the OSU Extension Catalog

How to receive credit for reading research-based publications.

We want to ensure that you carefully and comprehensively read each publication, so that you are able to incorporate your new-found knowledge in your volunteer activities, as well as in your own garden. For each publication that you read, please report the following information in the Volunteer Reporting System (VRS), or turn in the following information to your Master Gardener coordinator.

  1. Author. Year. Title. Publication Number or other identifying information.
  2. Where you found or accessed the Publication
  3. What is the overall goal of the publication?
  4. List three things that you learned from reading this publication.
  5. List two ways you can use this information in your volunteer service and/or your own garden.
  6. Report 1 hour of CE per publication, in the VRS system (or the reporting system used in your county).

Example:

  1. Jones and Sells. 2004. Rufous hummingbird. EC 1570.
  2. I found it on the OSU Extension Catalog site. The direct link is https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/ec1570.pdf
  3. This publication teaches people about rufous hummingbird life history, behavior, and habitat.
  4. I learned:
    • Rufous hummingbirds migrate to warmer climates in the fall, because there is no nectar in northern climates in fall and winter. In fact, they follow manzanita blooms as they migrate. I had thought that they migrate because they can’t tolerate cold weather (which is probably also true, but I had not considered the nectar connection).
    • Rufous hummingbirds use spider webs to ‘glue’ together their nest materials. So cool!
    • Hummingbirds can live up to 5+ years. I had thought that their small size and high metabolism would promote a shorter lifespan.
  5. I will use this information to:
    • Tell people what to plant for hummingbirds:  bleeding hearts, red-flowering currant, salmonberry, columbine, fushias, orange honeysuckle.
    • Encourage people to consider how their cat might be impacting hummingbird populations.

Selecting Prospective Master Gardener Volunteers

It’s volunteer recruitment season!

Every fall, most Extension Master Gardener Programs in Oregon open applications for their new class of volunteers. This might be a good time to take a look at the resources for Recruiting and Selecting new volunteers, on the national Extension Master Gardener Coordinators website.

In general, many Extension Master Gardener Coordinators report increased success with a training class, when they build in time to talk with or interview prospective volunteers. Taking the time to meet with and talk to prospective volunteers provides an opportunity to make sure that each individual understands the volunteer commitment part of the program, and also the general structure and goals of the program.

Our group has developed a list of suggested questions that you may want to ask prospective volunteers. Master Gardener Coordinators can also find the interview questions in the MG Recruitment Folder on Box.

If you have more applicants that you can accept into the program, you may find it helpful to rank each applicant’s answer.  This may help you choose among multiple applicants. 

The questions on the interview sheet are merely suggestions. You may modify these questions to meet the specific needs in your county. You may also want to ask prospective trainees to elaborate on their response to a particular question.

IMPORTANT:  You must not ask age, marital status, children, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Avoid any personal questions other than those on the interview sheet that are pertinent to the candidate’s gardening experience and ability to participate in the program.

If you are conducting group interviews, with multiple Master Gardener interviewers and multiple Master Gardener applicants, a warm-up activity may help to break the ice.  A few ideas for the warm-up:

  • Have the new people take five minutes by themselves and find three things they all have in common and one thing about each of them that’s unique. Similarities can be simple things like the same color hair, all wearing corrective lenses, or have dogs as pets, etc. They don’t have to be garden related. After five minutes have the group share what they found out about each other. While they are doing the activity, take the five minutes to discuss how your group will handle the interviews, such as who will go first, rotation of questions, etc.
  • Ask participants to share their first garden memory? (Grandmother’s flowers, first vegetable garden, etc.)

Wishing you the best for the 2020 training season!

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 .