This is the fifth and final in a series of posts sharing the work of the first cohort of the Master Gardener Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Taskforce. See overview for general information and background.
In cohort I of the Master Gardener Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force, the curriculum subcommittee was tasked with “growing the breadth of the Master Gardener curriculum to incorporate cultural practices and multicultural competencies within the program.” This was a huge endeavor and one that will obviously take more time and resources to fully address than was available to the small group of ~15 people that were part of the curriculum workgroup. Nonetheless, this small but mighty group made amazing process across their year of work and study.
The accomplishments of the curriculum subgroup can be broken down into four categories:
- Suggestions related to the redesign of specific classes that are part of the Master Gardener curriculum to include a focus on equity, inclusion, and cultural appreciation.
- Assembling a list of educators who might be invited guest speakers for Master Gardener classes, conferences, or seminar series.
- Assembling a library of resources that can inform culturally-specific gardening instruction and education.
- Developing a community agreement that enables us to do our best work, achieve our common vision, and serve our community well.
Currently, the resources that the curriculum subgroup developed and assembled are not publically accessible. As we are starting to think about where cohort II of this task force will spend time and energy, one opportunity might be to format and annotate these curricular resources, and posting them on a publicly accessible website, with instructions or suggestions for how to best adopt, adapt, and integrate these resources into Master Gardener classes. In the meantime, we can provide a glimpse into the type of work that the curriculum subgroup completed, across each of the four categories.
Suggestions related to the redesign of specific classes that are part of the Master Gardener curriculum, to include a focus on equity, inclusion and cultural appreciation.
Group members selected a Master Gardener class topic that they remember, from their own time as a Master Gardener trainee. They made suggestions about different ways that a multi-cultural perspective could be incorporated into the class, and also offered ideas for relevant hands-on activities or field trips.
For example, one task force member suggested that Climate Change should be an integral part of Master Gardener training and that this class could include information that grows an appreciation for how land and resources were managed, before activities of a more populous civilization contributed to global warming. Another opportunity for incorporating concepts of equity into a climate change class would be to include information on the disproportionate impacts that climate change has on marginalized communities, and the role that landscaping plays in reducing risk and harm.
Another task force member suggested re-envisioning the Master Gardener ‘container gardening’ class to instead focus on Gardening in Small Spaces. The class would specifically address the broader group of people who may not think of themselves as gardeners, but nonetheless appreciate and engage with plants. This course would also dispel the myth about needing land to garden.
A third task force member suggested we incorporate excerpts from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ into a class on Native Plants. Field trips or work parties could focus on native plant conservation and an understanding of the importance of native plants that are gathered during seasonal rounds, to the Northern Paiute people that are now part of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Other ideas included broadening the Vegetable Gardening class to include instruction on cultural growing practices that may be outside of the peer-reviewed literature.
How Cohort II Could Continue This Work:
One potential task for Cohort II task force members would be to select one or two of these ideas, and formulate them into a lesson plan, that could be adopted and adapted by local counties.
Assembling a list of educators, who might be invited guest speakers for Master Gardener classes, conferences, or seminar series.
Task force members created a list of speakers that are recognized experts in their field, who could broaden our understanding of indigenous seed and food sovereignty, issues and challenges faced by black farmers and naturalists, and the history of plant biology and horticulture through a socio-cultural lens. This is part of an overall effort to diversify the voices and perspectives that we learn from, and that can inform sustainable gardening practices. This effort has been taken up by members of the 2022 Growing Oregon Gardeners: Level Up Webinar Series. For example, Todd Anderson will be part of the series later this year, and will be teaching us about specialty and culturally relevant vegetables, fruits, and herbs, and how to grow them in Oregon.
How Cohort II Could Continue This Work: Cohort II task force members might continue to grow this list of potential speakers. Also needed are specific guidelines and recommendations related to fair compensation for speakers’ time, knowledge, and talents.
Assembling a library of resources to inform culturally-specific gardening instruction and education.
Cohort I task force members created a repository to archive resources that could help to inform our work to advance culturally-specific gardening instruction and education. Thus far, the most populated resource list is for Indigenous and Native American culture. Resources include a story on Indigenous Crops and Food Traditions, the Confluence Project Library (which contains an amazing richness of resources about Oregon’s Tribes and Tribal Members), a story and interview about Pueblo Farming Methods, and a Michigan State University Extension resource on Native American Vegetables. There is also one article that features Russian vegetable gardening methods.
How Cohort II Could Continue This Work: Cohort II task force members might continue to grow and annotate this list of resources, with an eye on how to make them publically accessible to the other Master Gardener coordinators and volunteers.
Developing a community agreement that enables us to do our best work, achieve our common vision, and serve our community well.
Finally, the curriculum subcommittee developed a community agreement that was an important first step in moving forward with their work. A community agreement is what every person in a group needs from each other and commits to each other in order to feel safe, supported, open, productive and trusting, so that all can do their best work, achieve a common vision, and serve the community well. When thinking about a community agreement, it is important to contrast agreements with the norms and rules that also influence our work.
- Agreements are an aspiration, or collective vision, for how we want to be in relationship with one another. They are explicitly developed and enforced by the group, not by an external authority, and as such must represent a consensus.
- Norms are the ways in which we behave and are currently in relationship to each other, whether consciously and explicitly or not.
- Rules are mandated and enforced by an authority, and do not necessarily reflect the will or buy-in of the group.
Here are the community agreements developed by a working group of the DEI Taskforce in cohort 1. They suggest that we adopt these agreements for our work in cohort 2 of the taskforce. By participating in this work group, all members agree to the following:
- I speak for myself: use “I” statements, and do not assume others in the group ascribe to your identity or experience.
- Intent vs impact: before sharing, consider how what you say will affect others in the group.
- One speaker at a time: when one person talks, everyone listens. Let people know when you are finished talking.
- Community wisdom: nobody knows everything, but together we know a lot.
- Take space and give space: be mindful of how much you’re participating. If you have been quiet, speak up. If you have dominated the conversation, make space for others to participate.
- Confidentiality: details shared in this space stay here, but what’s learned goes with you.
- Active participation: it’s better to be open and imperfect than to not participate.
- Embrace discomfort and expect non-closure. Learning and growth are stressful: hold space for those feelings.
The community agreement crafted by cohort I task force members aligns with the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences principles and practices for community engagement. One of the benefits of the task force community agreement is that it specifically addresses the unique needs, goals, and working conditions of our group.
How Cohort II Could Continue This Work: Cohort II task force members have an opportunity to officially consider and adopt the community agreement crafted by our colleagues.