New Year, New Opportunities

July 2023 will mark my 16-year anniversary at Oregon State University (OSU). My first week as OSU’s Statewide Master Gardener Coordinator coincided with the timing of the annual Master Gardener(TM) Mini-College. I was excited (and a bit overwhelmed) by the many new people I was meeting, geographic names and locations I would learn (was it Dalles? or The Dalles? I was so confused!), and the broad and inspiring activities that were part of one of the longest-running Extension Master Gardener Programs in the nation.

At the time (July 2007) OSU’s Master Gardener Program had just entered it’s third decade, and I marveled at the legacy that legends such as Duane Hatch, Gray Thompson, Anne Marie VanderZanden, Ray McNeilan, Jan McNeilan, and many others had built. I realized that my role was to be a good steward of program so that I could proudly pass on the baton to someone else, just as Jan and Ray had passed on the baton to me.

I’ve loved my time working in the Master Gardener Program. But, it is time to move on to new opportunities. I will be staying at OSU, where I will be transitioning to a research/teaching position on July 1st. The change will give me time to focus on my research with the OSU Garden Ecology Lab, and to pursue some novel opportunities in supporting native plant producers, hydroponics, insect husbandry, urban agriculture, and environmental microbiomes . . . all of which are super interesting, but not directly germane to the work of the Master Gardener program. The change will also give me an opportunity to focus on my teaching, and make course improvements I’ve long wanted to make, but never had the time to do.

As I look back on my time in the Master Gardener Program, I am both proud of the work that I have done, and excited for what is yet to come. Some of the memories that I will most cherish, and work that I am proud of, includes:

Master Gardener volunteers stand in front of program displays at a conference
I’m camera shy, and don’t like to take many photos. Thus, I have precious few photos from my time in the Master Gardener program. This one will always be one of my favorites. I believe it was Mini-College 2009, with some of my favorite Master Gardener volunteers, L-R: Cathy B., a younger me, Marcia S., and Betty F.

Beyond the work that I’ve done, meeting so many amazing, smart, dedicated, and FUN gardeners, volunteers, and colleagues has been the absolute best part of the job. Some of you were there for me, from the start, and have been reliable and trusted advisors, collaborators, and friends. Others, I have only recently met or started to work with, and am so inspired by the ideas, enthusiasm, and expertise that you bring to the program.

I am not going far, such that I hope our paths might continue to cross.

As I think about what comes next for the Master Gardener Program, I want to make sure that I leave the Program as strong and vibrant as possible, for the next person to step into the Statewide Coordinator role. In that vein, I wanted to let folks know about the Statewide Master Gardener Endowment Fund, which has helped fund new tools to support Master Gardener work, and has helped bridge gaps in funding for local programs. If you are able and interested in doing so, you can make an end-of-year gift to support the program. The funds will truly help the next Coordinator continue the good work that we’ve been doing over the past 45+ years, and will enable them to build new opportunities and invest in new activities that will keep the program fresh, relevant, and impactful.

With sincere gratitude for the past 16 years, Gail Langellotto.