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

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4 Replies to “How’s the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work going?”

  1. I’d add to the book list to include Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, a wonderful and delightful folding together of heritage, family, community, and science, seasoned with a passion for nature and life. I think of this writing as a theological primer of master gardening.

  2. Master Gardeners was started to have ALL community members get an opportunity to be trained to have knowledge to help the Horticultural Agents in each county. It is a science-based training. If your programs in the urban areas have not been inclusive, blame the coordinators in that county. Don’t make this program about politics! Master gardeners in the rural areas don’t like the direction you are headed.

    1. Hi KD. Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts with us. As we have replied, in the past, the focus on serving communities that have been historically underserved by OSU Extension and the Master Gardener Program is not political. It is an expectation that has been part of the position description of horticulture agents and Master Gardener volunteers ~ in rural and urban communities across Oregon. Our program continues to be data-driven. Our data shows that we have not been meeting the mission of OSU Extension and the expectations of our position descriptions. It is not a charge ONLY given to urban agents and volunteers ~ but to all of us. The wonderful thing about gardening is that it can mean and be so many different things to so many people. For some, gardening is physical and emotional therapy. For others, it is a way to directly control their food supply. Some garden to protect wildlife or water. Others garden as a way to connect with their culture, or with cultures around the world. Even if gardening does not represent a cultural connection to some, it is important to note that it does, for others. We need to provide a space and place for everyone to grow and thrive, and I look forward to working with you and others who towards that goal. Also, I think it is very important to note that there are many Master Gardeners in rural areas who are excited about this work. The wonderful thing about my position is that I have a statewide view and hear feedback from Master Gardeners across Oregon. While a few, such as yourself, express trepidation and concern about a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, many, many, many more . . . including those in rural areas . . . are saying ‘It’s about time’.

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