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

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.

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