A call to action for gardeners: Dirt! The Movie screening

As part of OSU’s 41st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration 2023, the OSU Extension Master Gardener program is proud to host an online movie screening of Dirt! The Movie.

When: Monday, January 16th at 3:00 pm

Where: online at https://kosmi.app/bllb9i

We’ll be screening the movie online with an opportunity to chat with other attendees throughout the movie. No registration required. Free.
About Dirt! The Movie
Made from the same elements as the stars, plants and animals, and us, “dirt is very much alive.” Though, in modern industrial pursuits and clamor for both profit and natural resources, our human connection to and respect for soil has been disrupted. “Drought, climate change, even war are all directly related to the way we are treating dirt.”
DIRT! the Movie—directed and produced by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow and narrated by Jaime Lee Curtis—brings to life the environmental, economic, social and political impact that the soil has. It shares the stories of experts from all over the world who study and are able to harness the beauty and power of a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with soil.
DIRT! the Movie is simply a movie about dirt. The real change lies in our notion of what dirt is. The movie teaches us: “When humans arrived 2 million years ago, everything changed for dirt. And from that moment on, the fate of dirt and humans has been intimately linked.” But more than the film and the lessons that it teaches, DIRT the Movie is a call to action.

Three questions for attendees to reflect upon prior to the movie:

  1. Dirt! The Movie demonstrates some of the unjust systems surrounding agriculture and how our most impoverished communities are most greatly impacted. How is this seen in your region of Oregon? Who are some of these communities being impacted?
  2. The King Center’s 2023 observance is titled “It starts with me.” Master Gardener volunteers are community educators: what responsibility do we have, as individuals and as a collective, to ensure our work strives to remove the inequities of Oregon’s different communities.
  3. The relationship between dirt and conflict is centered in the movie. Martin Luther King Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. What can gardeners be inspired by knowing this?

About OSU’s 41st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration 2023

The annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration is the longest-running annual event at Oregon State University focused on social justice and transformative change. The commemoration objectives are:

  • Learn about and reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King and collaboratively envision ways to carry forward his work;
  • Participate in an impactful, inclusive and engaging celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King; and
  • Collaboratively learn about and reflect on the legacy of Dr. King in a way that is relevant in today’s context.

Growing & Belonging: Fall Update

Autumnal greetings from your fellow Master Gardener volunteers, staff and faculty, participating in the statewide Growing and Belonging committee (formerly known as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce). This is the first of four updates a year we will publish, sharing our work, findings, and resources to help keep you informed—and hopefully engaged— in creating a local Master Gardener program and association experience that is one of growing and belonging. 

About that new name…
Growing and belonging is essential to achieving the mission and vision of the OSU Master Gardener Program. We need to grow who we are and who we serve in order to cultivate resilient and healthy communities and expand the reach of science-based gardening practices across Oregon.  

For resilient and healthy communities, Oregon needs informed gardeners, and more of them. And just as a healthy garden is biodiverse, so too is a healthy gardening program. This means we seek to attract Oregon gardeners from all counties, backgrounds, ages, races, ethnicities, nationalities, genders, abilities, income levels, renters/homeowners, gardening experience levels, and more. 

To attract gardeners of all backgrounds, Master Gardener programs and practices must create an experience of belonging for all participants and potential participants. 

Read more about the committee, our name, and why we exist. 

What we’re doing in this year’s committee

We are a learning and working community. This means we both participate in trainings and work on projects through our small groups. 

The four groups and work focus are:

This group is gathering the different materials used by associations/programs across the state regarding accessibility and DEI, and then creating access to them for others to use or replicate. Also, we’re developing a toolkit for using the new bilingual Grow Your Own publication for outreach and building partnerships with community organizations. 

Survey of Master Gardener volunteers
There hasn’t been a demographic survey in over 10 years. This is to provide us with a tool of measurement and set a baseline for gauging our work in growing the MG program. 

Seed to Supper
This group plans to develop a partnership toolkit that includes organizations in each county who interact with traditionally underserved and food insecure people. The goals include growing and providing support for the Seed to Supper program taught by MG volunteers, and to provide recommendations in facilitator training (including trauma-informed).

This group is focusing on sharing the work of the group, coordinating events, helping to update the Master Gardener handbook to include messages of growing and belonging, and further building the stories at The Culture of Gardening

What we’re learning

This summer we participated in a workshop “Dialogue Skills for Conflict and Cooperation.” Facilitated by Jeff Kenney of the Office of Institutional Diversity at OSU, we learned and practiced how to respond in difficult situations, including de-escalation. We explored care strategies of prepare, respond, and restore, and how establishing group norms allows for true dialogue. 

Some additional resources you may find helpful:

How can I strengthen my skills in speaking of diversity, equity and inclusion? 
How can I help set expectations for civil dialogue in our group? 
What did the first year of this committee do? 
A guide to Indigenous land acknowledgements
Increasing inclusion in the school garden

Ways for Master Gardener volunteers to help do this work:

• Come to events and share them with others in your group;

• Make the creation of a local project for Martin Luther King’s Day of Service on January 16th. Promote it and engage your fellow volunteers, and the broader community, in participation;

• Participate and encourage participation in surveys you may receive from us;

• Share the information and resources in these updates with others in your group. Talk about them at chapter meetings, including how your local group can learn and adopt the work being done. Let us know what you come up with!

How’s the diversity, equity, and inclusion work going? Introducing the Growing & Belonging Committee

This is an update in our ongoing series of the work being done in the OSU Master Gardener program of growing who we are and serve and creating a community where everyone belongs. Formerly known as the OSU Extension Master Gardener Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce, the group has a new name. Read on to learn more.  

What is the Statewide Growing & Belonging Committee?

The Statewide Growing & Belonging Committee of the OSU Master Gardener Program is a group of Master Gardener volunteers and faculty from across the state dedicated to growing who we are and who we serve, and to cultivating an experience of belonging in our programs for all Oregonians. 

Why does Growing & Belonging matter?

Growing & Belonging is essential to achieving the mission and vision of the OSU Master Gardener Program. We need to grow who we are and who we serve in order to cultivate resilient and healthy communities and expand the reach of science-based gardening practices across Oregon.  

For resilient and healthy communities, Oregon needs informed gardeners, and more of them. And just as a healthy garden is biodiverse, so too is a healthy gardening program. This means we seek to attract Oregon gardeners from all counties, backgrounds, ages, races, ethnicities, nationalities, genders, abilities, income levels, renters/homeowners, gardening experience levels, and more. 

To attract gardeners of all backgrounds, Master Gardener programs and practices must create an experience of belonging for all participants and potential participants. 

Why is a Growing & Belonging Committee needed?

When we look at who the current Master Gardener volunteers are, we see that the make-up (age, gender, race, ethnicity, income, etc.) doesn’t match the makeup of Oregonians interested in gardening. Master Gardener volunteers skew retired, landowning, female, and white. Yet we know Oregonians from many different backgrounds are interested in gardening.  

Whenever a group’s make-up is skewed, there are reasons why that happened. Usually, structural reasons, meaning policies and practices rather than individual behaviors—although those play a role too. Policies and practices that, by design, benefited some and excluded others. Often, the biggest reason for a group’s skewed makeup has to do with the impact of these compounded over several decades. 

Policies and practices of the past—and many still today—intentionally left some people out, based on their race, ethnicity, gender, citizenship status, and more. OSU’s Master Gardener Program exists to serve the public, and that means everybody. It is our responsibility to make sure no one is left out. That requires new intentional policies and practices, and that’s why the Statewide Growing & Belonging Committee is needed.  

Is the focus on Growing & Belonging new?

This focus has actually been a part of OSU and federal work for some time. A demonstrated “commitment to diversity and to ensuring equal opportunity for those wishing to benefit from OSU Extension programs and services” is included in every OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer’s position description.  A commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is also written into the position description of every OSU Extension faculty member. This work is also an expectation of any program that receives assistance from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

The work of the Statewide Growing & Belonging Committee will help the OSU Master Gardener Program do a better job of what has long been a stated part of our roles as Master Gardener coordinators and volunteers. 

What are the values of the Statewide Growing & Belonging Committee of the OSU Master Gardener Program?

Our values are the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program Guiding Values:

We are connected to Oregon State University, and use both science and local knowledge to inform our community engagement, educational outreach, and horticultural expertise. We strive to make the resources of Oregon State University accessible to all and inspire and encourage lifelong curiosity and learning through continued scientific exploration and discovery.

We are connected to our local communities, and their needs drive the work of our program. We are inclusive, where everyone is welcome, respected, valued and supported. We know that collaboration and partnership with our communities, community organizations, and neighbors make us stronger and that together, we create positive change.

We are connected to our earth and strive for stewardship and sustainability through horticultural best practices and a conscientious approach to volunteer work in alignment with our program priorities. We aim to improve not only the lives of the people within our communities, but also the land which sustains us, and future generations.

We are driven by a sense of fun, wonder, and curiosity for the natural world and a commitment of service to our local communities. 

The Statewide Growing & Belonging Committee seeks to live these values by growing who Master Gardener volunteers are and who we serve, and by cultivating an experience of belonging in our programs for all Oregonians. 

What is belonging? What does it have to do with gardening?

Everyone has had a moment when they felt like they didn’t belong. It’s not a feeling you forget.  

Belonging is a universal human need. In part, it’s a felt sense—either you experience it or you don’t, based on how you’re being treated. For example, if you enter a room and everyone stops talking and looks at you, you may feel like you don’t belong there. But if everyone smiles at you and waves you in, if you smell a favorite food, if the music playing is familiar—you would likely feel belonging. 

Belonging is also structural, or about how things are set up. For example, if you need a ramp to get into a building and there are only stairs, then how the building is set up is sending a signal that you don’t belong there. But if you need an interpreter at an event and one is already provided, that’s (part of) structural belonging. 

Everyone has also had moments when they felt like they did belong. Belonging is getting to show up as your real self and be accepted by those around you. It’s also getting to be a part of making decisions. All this has to do with the culture that a group chooses to cultivate. The thoughtful adjustments a group makes so everyone experiences belonging, both interpersonal and structural.  

The vision of the OSU Master Gardener Program is to “provide accessible and equitable education programs that nurture life-long learners and volunteers who can expand the reach and impact of science-based sustainable gardening practices to benefit all Oregonians.” For our programs to be truly accessible, participants need to know they will experience belonging. Otherwise, they may not decide to participate at all. 

What explains the current Master Gardener volunteer demographics?

Mostly, structural barriers. One of the biggest is access to land, which is necessary in order to garden. Let’s take a look at a brief history of land/home ownership in Oregon:

  • Since time immemorial, Native people have lived on—and in relationship with—the land we now call Oregon. There was no such thing as land ownership.
  • In the mid-1800s, the U.S. military violently forced Native people off their homelands and onto reservations. The U.S. federal government passed the Donation Land Claim Act, which granted white men in the Oregon Territory up to 320 acres each. The U.S. government deliberately excluded men of other races and unmarried women. 
  • The U.S. government also used stolen Indigenous land as the foundation of the land-grant university system, of which OSU is a part.  
  • In 1844, Oregon’s Provisional Government passed its first black exclusion law. Black people who tried to settle in Oregon would be publicly whipped—39 lashes, repeated every six months—until they left Oregon.
  • From a 1919 Portland Realty Board rule declaring it “unethical for an agent to sell property to either Negro or Chinese people in a White neighborhood” to subprime lenders targeting Black and Hispanic families at twice the rate of white families in 2006, the compounded impact of racist housing policies means lower rates of home—and land—ownership for people of color in Oregon today.

That’s just a small slice of history that helps explain the state of home/land ownership. Of course, many renters can and do garden, but it’s harder to put in the up-front costs and labor that go into a garden if you know you’re going to have to move someday.  

On top of the crucial piece around land ownership/access, we recognize that the current Master Gardener make-up is the way it is also due to barriers in the way the program was originally set up. 

  • Cost: Varies across counties from $150 – $450 (with scholarships available on a county-by-county basis) is out of reach for many people. 
  • Timing: When classes are held during the workday, those who work full-time can’t participate. 
  • Hours required: With 45+ hours of volunteer service required, it’s hard for parents raising kids or with full-time employment to take part. 
  • Language: With instruction only available in English, folks more comfortable learning in another language cannot yet go through the program.

The Statewide Growing & Belonging Committee of the OSU Master Gardener Program is working to break down these and other barriers.  

What is the history of the Growing & Belonging Committee?

In 2017, based on recommendations that emerged from an annual meeting of OSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinators, a subgroup formed to answer this question:  

“How can we re-envision Master Gardener volunteer training to make annual trainings a) more broadly accessible, b) more active and interactive, and c) more fun?” 

Research confirmed what had long been suspected: 3-hour lectures do NOT represent research-based best practices for adult learners. Several of the recommendations focused on removing systemic barriers to participation in the program, such as:

  • Reducing the cost of classes
  • Reducing the volunteer service hour commitment
  • Providing flexible options for engaging with the program such as a hybrid online/in-person training option

 In 2020, a statewide committee of Master Gardener volunteers was formed to inform changes and growth of the program. Initially known as the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Task Force, or JEDI group, today this is the Statewide Growing & Belonging Committee of the OSU Master Gardener Program. 

The 2022 Master Gardener training season adopted a hybrid training approach that enabled people who otherwise would have been locked out to participate in the program. Response from new Master Gardeners in 2022 has been overwhelmingly positive.  

“Having the Master Gardener Program available online has helped me easily fit the coursework into my other obligations, like working full-time. I’ve loved being able to nurture my gardening knowledge in my own time, getting myself prepared for in-person volunteering this spring!” —Mary P., 2022 Master Gardener Trainee 

The Statewide Growing & Belonging Committee continues to identify ways to grow who OSU Master Gardeners are and who we serve and to cultivate an experience of belonging in our programs for all Oregonians. 

Learn more about the history of this work. If you have suggestions for ways we can make our programs more accessible, please contact Statewide Master Gardener Outreach Coordinator LeAnn Locher at leann.locher@oregonstate.edu.  

Next up: an update on the work of this year’s Cohort

OSU Extension Master Gardeners Statewide Trivia Tournament

Open to Master Gardeners throughout Oregon this fall and winter, join us once a month for an evening of multiple choice trivia, all online. With 50 questions per session, learn about timely gardening topics, have fun, and earn valuable prizes.

Each session is good for one Continuing Education Credit in the Master Gardener program.

How it works

Register below for each night you plan to play. Then the night of the event, join via Zoom, and play along via the trivia app “Slido” on your phone or computer. Instructions will be sent upon registration.

There are prizes

  • Valuable prizes each session!
  • 1st place: $100 gift certificate*
  • 2nd place: $50 gift certificate*
  • 3rd place $25 gift certificate

*Gift certificates to mail-order garden companies in the PNW such as Territorial Seed Company, Conifer Kingdom, Heirloom Roses, Noname Nursery, etc. Winners will receive gift certificates approximately one week after each event.

The whole schedule (separate registration for each):

Questions? Contact Nicole Sanchez at nicole.sanchez@oregonstate.edu 

Still seeking your continuing education credit hours?

If you’re still seeking to fill your continuing education hours for Master Gardener certification, remember there is a whole suite of Growing Oregon Gardeners: Level Up webinars available on our website.

Want to learn about the latest research on if you should leave your leaves in the fall garden? Learn about native plants with experts from across the state? Maybe you want to extend the growing season and dig deep into succession planting.

These one-hour webinars, produced by a team of OSU horticulture extension faculty and staff can count as one hour each of continuing education.

And, we have two more coming up: one this week is all about soil fertility and nutrient cycling, and November’s is growing specialty and culturally relevant vegetables, fruits, and herbs and how to grow them in home gardens in our Oregon climates.

We’re planning next year’s line-up, so let us know if you have any special requests!

What does it mean to garden in community?

Photo courtesy Centro Latino Americano

For the Latinx and immigrant community in Lane county, gardening in community means connecting in the 7 community gardens and growing organic produce together. At an upcoming webinar by the Lane County Master Gardener Association, learn how Centro Latino Americano (formerly Huerto de la Familia) provides services and support for this great initiative, and how gardeners are teaching new gardeners in the garden. Leaders from the organization will share insight into community building through gardening, lessons learned, and examples of community engagement.

Come learn how the Lane County Master Gardener Association has fostered this important community relationship and helped to take a behind-the-scenes role in supporting Centro Latino Americano’s work.

Tuesday, September 20th, 6:30-7:30 pm. Online webinar.

Master Gardener volunteers and program coordinators across the state are invited and encouraged to attend. Read more about the event, and register for the webinar.

OSU Master Gardeners are invited to a sneak peek of plants in research and development

Master Gardeners are invited to attend this in-person (closed to the public) event, designed to inform OSU researchers in the development of new sustainable plants. Get an inside look and preview of possible new plants, and give feedback on which ones you find the best looking!

NWREC Field Day

About this event:  The ever-changing climate puts pressure on the nursery industry to develop more sustainable plants. As part of a six-university study, OSU seeks to improve urban water-use efficiency by evaluating landscape plant performance on three irrigation treatments corresponding to the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species (WUCOLS): High, Moderate, and Low categories of water need. The plants are irrigated regularly during their first summer after planting. Treatments are imposed during the second growing season where researchers collect growth and quality ratings.

The NWREC Field Day allows landscape, nursery, and horticultural industry professionals and educators the opportunity to see new plants in their 2nd year and share your opinions and preferences by rating a representative sample of the plants in the field undergoing irrigation treatments. One plant from each of the 3 water levels, for 15 different species (some released to the public and some not yet) will be surveyed. Along with this field of 360 plants, you will be able to get a sneak peek at the next year’s field, currently in an establishment phase.

Who should attend: Professionals from landscape, horticulture, nursery and related fields; OSU Master Gardeners; garden writers; academics/educators

When: September 14th 2022; 10am – 2pm (Arrive when convenient; ratings take about 60 min)

Where: OSU’s North Willamette Research & Extension Center, 15210 NE Miley Rd, Aurora, OR 97002

What’s involved: Evaluating aesthetic qualities of selected landscape plants (about 60 minutes).

More info and contact information: https://blogs.oregonstate.edu/nackleylab/2022/07/28/climate-ready-landscape-plant-field-day/

This is not an official volunteer credit activity, but simply an invitation to attend.

“Inclusive curriculum” working group

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. Assembling a list of educators who might be invited guest speakers for Master Gardener classes, conferences, or seminar series.
  3. Assembling a library of resources that can inform culturally-specific gardening instruction and education.
  4. 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.

“Who we are” working group

This is the fourth 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.

This subgroup was tasked with understanding who becomes a Master Gardener volunteer, and what is the demographic makeup of the Master Gardener community. To do this, they leveraged available data, from surveys that had been completed in Oregon and other states. The largest and most recent survey results were published by Dorn and colleagues (2018), with nearly 7,500 volunteers and more than 300 program coordinators responding from 35 U.S. states. This survey showed a remarkably consistent lack of racial diversity across the program: 94% of state coordinators, local coordinators, and Master Gardener volunteers identified as white. Most coordinators and volunteers (>70%) identified as female, and 64% of volunteers were retired.

The group also utilized a survey of Oregon’s Master Gardener volunteers that was conducted in 2008 by Weston Miller and Gail Langellotto (Langellotto-Rhodaback and Miller, 2012). This survey also referenced demographic data of the Oregon Master Gardener program, collected by McNeilan (1992, unpublished) and Kirsch and VanderZanden (2001). Interestingly, across all survey years (1992, 2001, and 2008), the racial makeup of Oregon’s Master Gardener volunteers was 95% white. However, there was a shift towards older and away from young Master Gardener volunteers across the three surveys. For example, individuals aged 50 and older represented 65%, 71%, and 74% of respondents in 1992, 2001, and 2007, respectively. Similarly, individuals aged 40 and under represented 16%, 7% and 3% of respondents in 1992, 2001 and 2007, respectively. In 1992, male volunteers made up 42% of Oregon’s Extension Master Gardener volunteer base. In 2001 and 2007, the proportion of male volunteers was 26%.

Contemporary Demographic Data is Needed

Although it was useful for the Cohort I members of the ‘Who Becomes a Master Gardener’ working group to review historical data, they clearly recommended that Cohort II consider doing a new, statewide survey to better understand the current makeup of our Master Gardener community. They suggested that the statewide Master Gardener Program provide assistance with this effort, by paying students to help with survey creation and data analysis. The group suggested that it was important to learn about people’s experiences in the programs, and to conduct exit interviews with volunteers, to understand why people leave.

Ultimately, the subgroup noted that survey data (historical and contemporary) will help us to better drive actions on how to proceed to best support an inclusive and welcoming Master Gardener Program.  Data gathered should include quantitative numbers, but also qualitative text that lets folks describe their experiences and perspectives. 

Bias Incident Training Exercise

In an effort to utilize the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences CARE document (Community Agreements), this subgroup also created a series of bias incidence scenarios that were piloted in two Master Gardener training programs. The intention of the learning exercise is to foster and support a welcoming place for Master Gardener volunteers and the community in which Master Gardeners interact. Feedback was extremely positive from the two counties that piloted the learning exercise in 2022.

Moving forward, this subgroup recommended that we broadly distribute the learning exercise and develop a Tool Kit to help local program coordinators and Master Gardener Associations understand how to incorporate the learning exercise into annual Master Gardener training and Master Gardener Association Board meetings or retreats. The tool kit would be filled with the bias incidence learning scenarios, and additional resources and suggestions for supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in all levels of the Master Gardener Program.

Creating an Inclusive and Welcoming Community

In addition to the great work that the ‘Who Becomes a Master Gardener’ subgroup accomplished, they also left a series of suggestions for Cohort II of the Master Gardener Diversity Equity, and Inclusion Task Force. These include:

  • Communicate to program leaders, local association leadership, and the OMGA to read and share the posts from this blog.  Spread the word that anyone can subscribe to the blog.
  • Establish direct lines of communication with consistent messaging, related to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts and expectations in the Master Gardener Program.
  • Task Force subgroups should share their work with each other, more regularly, to avoid duplication of efforts, and to better support each group’s efforts. We should take and share meeting minutes.
  • Find and support change agents in local communities. These individuals can help ensure the focus of diversity, equity, and inclusion is integrated into various events/programming.  Apply this lens to all aspects of a local county programs and/or associations. Have designated individuals to act as a change agent at meetings, fundraisers, special events/projects, demonstration garden planning, and more.
  • Support a culture of caring, by reserving  time at Master Gardener gatherings or meetings to celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion. Ideas include developing and sharing a land acknowledgement, discussing pronoun use, sharing plants and recipes of cultural significance, sharing information about important upcoming DEI events, or highlighting relevant resources that support an inclusive environment. 
  • The State-wide Master Gardener program, local programs, and/or associations should create a book club focused on topics of diversity, equity and inclusion. This could create a safe space for learning more and discussing literature in a thoughtful manner and considering how this can be applied to MG work. Discussion could be beyond books/literature, such as  a post on the Culture of Gardening blog.
  • Establish and nourish community partnerships that support equity, inclusion and diversity within the Master Gardener Program and the community. Reach out to other community groups to partner and learn from. Learn from their experience and learn the gritty details needed to establish trust and true partnership. Cohort II could consider adding to the ‘tool kit’ guidance on how to reach out to community organizations, questions to ask, things to consider for mutually supportive relationships. 
  • Recognize good diversity, equity, and inclusion work within the Master Gardener Program. Perhaps the state Master Gardener program or the OMGA could incorporate this type of recognition in their annual awards.
  • Develop resources to support Master Gardener associations in making such changes.  

And the final advice from this Cohort I subcommittee, as Cohort II begins their work:

Stay committed

“There is much work to be done. Maintain dialog. Keep at it. Even when things are uncomfortable, continue forward. Being able to talk about uncomfortable things is important. The experience of doing this work and being part of the cohort is valuable, and we are grateful that you are taking up the charge.”

Master Gardener DEI Taskforce Cohort 1 to Cohort 2

“Who we serve” working group

This is the third 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. 

This working group identified the need to establish a baseline of who benefits from the services of the Master Gardener Program, and to identify underserved communities. This group also assessed current perceptions or attitudes of diversity, equity and inclusion within Oregon’s Master Gardener community.

Establish a baseline of current work and perceptions

In December of 2021, a survey was conducted with 202 faculty, MG Associations, and DEI Taskforce members. Half of the respondents were from association boards.  

Survey results

What are we currently doing
The program primarily provides educational information to the public with plant clinics, and in-person events or workshops. For implementing outreach to underserved communities, plant clinics and community gardens were perceived as our best current work.  

What we need to do better
When implementing outreach to diverse communities, the main challenge cited was a lack of clear strategies, guidance, knowledge, and training. Respondents identified the need for examples or case studies and training for reaching diverse groups. In addition, the lack of volunteers to do the work, COVID, and volunteers resistant to change was also cited. There is a perceived lack of diversity in local communities (which experts refer to as ‘hidden diversity’), and a lack of Spanish-language gardening materials. It was noted that it takes time and consistent effort to establish trust and relationships. With a high turnover of volunteers and staff, relationships that may have just started to form are lost, when the people in the program leave.  

Overall perception of DEI
While overall perception of DEI work was positive, there was also a negative perception about the work in general, specifically from some MG Associations and some members of MG Associations. Some groups failed to see the connection between gardening and DEI work, or the potential for gardening to benefit diverse communities across Oregon. It is important to point out, however, that the Oregon Master Gardener Association (OMGA) has prioritized DEI for the 2022 calendar year. 

Perception and needs for the DEI Taskforce
The DEI taskforce was cited as providing needed and valuable work, and members learned a great deal from their participation. While there is an understanding that the work takes time, more communication about DEI is needed across the state. Recommendations specifically made to the MG taskforce included: developing case studies, providing training (including relevant scenarios), and offering guidance. In addition, the MG DEI Taskforce should Increase communication with MG Associations, and better define what diversity is in the program, for Associations and Extension MG volunteers.  

Who are our community partners?
Respondents identified the names of community partners the Master Gardener program has worked with over the last three years. This list of 166 organizations includes those with which we have both formal and informal agreements. They include: ·     

  • City, regional, county, and state government, including health departments, park districts, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts
  • Food banks
  • Libraries
  • Schools and Colleges
  • Correctional facilities (adult and juvenile)
  • Nonprofit organizations, including environment, advocacy, and builders
  • Tribes
  • Gardens and plant clubs
  • Centers and/or homes serving veterans, children, and older adults
  • Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Churches
  • Media