Stormi’s story: Master Gardeners are on-the-ground community scientists

Stormi in front of the OSB Pollinator Bed at the Yachats Demo Garden in May 2022

Stormi wanted to up her plant growing game, and maybe make some friends in the process. When she found the Master Gardener program, she says “I feel like I’ve found a community.”

Stormi is heavily involved in her local community work of Master Gardeners working to help preserve the threatened Oregon Silverspot Butterfly (OSB). In a partnership with the Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District (LSWCD) Stormi worked with fellow Master Gardeners “to conduct very small-scale “tests” that could help increase the adult OSB’s feeding area and determine how far adult OSBs will travel. I took this on as my Apprentice project last year and led the incorporation of OSB Pollinator beds in our Lincoln City and Yachats Demo Gardens. When this opportunity came up in my own county, it spoke to me, and I raised my hand. It was a meaty project for me to get into. We live in a beautiful area of Oregon and want to preserve what we have. Anything I can do to keep the OSB alive and thriving is a very good thing.”


This is but one of the many stories of the OSU Extension Master Gardener program we’re sharing this month in honor of Dam Proud Day. On April 26, Beavers everywhere will come together to support the things we do best: transformative educational experiences and life-changing research.
 
We are excited to be raising support specifically for our Seed to Supper program and updating our foundational resource, the “Sustainable Gardening Handbook” to reflect current knowledge. Please join us in gathering your friends and colleagues to give to support the Master Gardener Program on Dam Proud Day, at any donation level. See you (online) April 26th!

Julie’s story: Master Gardeners are a community who value service to others

This photo was taken by fellow MG, Bonnie Coulter, and accompanies my byline when I write periodically for the Roseburg News Review in the Ask a Master Gardener feature. 

“I have been a gardener since my grandmother first cupped her hand over mine to tuck pansies into her flowerbeds, showing me the sweet face in each blossom.”
 
Julie is most proud of “Being part of a community of people who value service to others, who share a love of continually learning and applying new things, and who dig gardens as much as I do. Master Gardeners are some of the most supportive people I know. They love sharing freely what will help other gardeners succeed.”
 
“Our world is changing, and with that change comes the need for new and sustainable practices. Master Gardeners serve as a powerful and accessible liaison between University research and academia, and community practice. Master Gardeners are our neighbors, our friends, the one down the street who will help us repair our garden tools, or share a plant or a tip, or help us find resources for our gardening issue of the moment. They are the ones who will be there to laugh (and sometimes cry) right along with us at every stage of the gardening process.” 


This is but one of the many stories of the OSU Extension Master Gardener program we’re sharing this month in honor of Dam Proud Day. On April 26, Beavers everywhere will come together to support the things we do best: transformative educational experiences and life-changing research.
 
We are excited to be raising support specifically for our Seed to Supper program and updating our foundational resource, the “Sustainable Gardening Handbook” to reflect current knowledge. Please join us in gathering your friends and colleagues to give to support the Master Gardener Program on Dam Proud Day, at any donation level. See you (online) April 26th!

Exciting opportunity to support the Master Gardener program

woman in sweatshirt holding in her gloved hand a large onion that she just harvested from a large raised garden bed of onions. Beavs Dam Proud Day Believe it. 4/26/23 OSU Extension Master Gardeners Let's Show Up!

One day, everyone together.

On April 26, 2023, Master Gardeners and supporters will come together to show our belief in the Master Gardener program and Oregon State University’s Dam Proud Day. This 24-hour period is dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of the Oregon State community, including supporting Master Gardeners, and stretching ourselves toward our aspirations.

As a featured fund on Dam Proud Day, we have a special opportunity to raise money to support our work.

On one day, can you imagine what we could do together?

Here’s how Master Gardener volunteers, past and present, can help NOW.

1.     Help us tell the Master Gardener story. Share your story by participating in our storytelling campaign. Reach out to LeAnn at leann.locher@oregonstate.edu to receive 3 questions for you to answer, and to send in a photo. We’ll be sharing these over the coming weeks to highlight all that Master Gardeners do. Your stories tell the story of the Master Gardener program!

2.     Follow OSU Extension Master Gardener on social media. www.facebook.com/OSUMG and @mastergardenersOSU on instagram. Share our stories and posts about Dam Proud Day with your friends and followers.

3.     Show up on April 26th and make a donation online signaling your support for the Master Gardener program. It’s all online, all on one day.

On one day, we can show up for gardening and Master Gardeners in Oregon!

An exciting opportunity for Master Gardener demonstration gardens and volunteers: Master Gardener Grow-Along

Master Gardeners and their demonstration gardens are invited to participate in a “grow along” event this growing season. “Grow along” with thousands of Oregonian households who are participating in the Grow This! Gardening Challenge, an initiative of SNAP-Ed and Food Hero. (Last year 93,138 Oregonians participated!) These beginning gardeners can learn from you, see the same plants they are growing in your demonstration gardens, and discover the incredible resource they have with local Master Gardeners and the educational gardens you care for.

What you’ll do:

-Grow one or more of the following plants (preferably by seed) in your local Master Gardener demonstration garden.

  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Herbs
  • Lettuce
  • Zinnias

-Share via email 2-3 updates a month of the progress, including photos, tips, challenges, and/or advice for growing these plants.

-Offer Grow This! participants the opportunity to drop by during your garden work days to talk with Master Gardeners, and visit your gardens.

Some examples of updates shared in 2022:

What you’ll receive:

-Your growing updates and open garden opportunities will be shared through the Grow This! Newsletter, the Food Hero social media channels, as well as the OSU Master Gardener social media channels.

-Recognition of participation on our statewide demonstration garden page (this is a much-visited resource to the public).

-Increased recognition of the value and assets of local demonstration gardens.

-Connection to a local audience eager to learn how to grow their own food and begin gardening, many for the first time.

Other ideas:

-Some demonstration gardens may want to plan special open house events around growing these five types of plants, such as “learn how to plant your new seedlings” or “how to build your own tomato cage out of recycled materials.”

-Share a video how-to from your garden, demonstrating how your team direct sows zinnias.

-Share photos of your educational signage for growing these plants, or growing in containers.

We are excited to highlight the many demonstration gardens across the state to an eager and large audience seeking to grow healthy food on a budget.

Apply here: https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2g9jL9phEboAGkS

Please apply to participate by March 31.

About Grow This!

The Grow This! Garden Challenge is a call to action to families, schools and other groups to garden together and eat what we grow. Participants receive free seeds, a monthly garden newsletter with new, simple ideas for growing; tips on harvesting, seed-starting, seed-saving and pollinators; recipes; and more. This is a project of Food Hero, whose mission is to help low-income Oregonians improve their health by increasing their consumption of fruits and vegetables, and is an initiative of Oregon Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) program, developed by Oregon State University Extension Service and funded jointly by OSU Extension Service, Oregon Department of Human Services, and the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. 

P.S. Visit all of our gardening content at Food Hero: wonderful resources for beginning gardeners!

Call for nominations: this year’s Oregon Master Gardener Awards

We are excited to celebrate the good work of OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers. Please remember that May 15th is the due date for all Oregon Master Gardener Association (OMGA) awards. You can learn more about the awards on the OMGA website. (Check back as links are added). All awards should be submitted electronically.  

This year, there is also a new county and statewide award, recommended by the MG Growing and Belonging Committee and approved by the OMGA Board of Directors at the November 2022 meeting. This new award, called the Growing and Belonging Award, will recognize volunteers who have significantly contributed in advancing diversity, inclusion, access, and/or equity among Master Gardener volunteers and clientele. Examples and more information about the Growing & Belonging Awards are here.

Ready to get started nominating? Here are the nomination forms:

 Statewide Master Gardener of the Year
 https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_71UXaVGtcCsthm6

Statewide Behind the Scenes Award
https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_damejozOzM8XNgG

Statewide Growing and Belonging Award
https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6LFVVIPLXKOJijs

County Master Gardener of the Year
https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0rIxSLXdYCzyQv4

County Behind the Scenes Award
https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5c3kpLSNC5IBT5I

County Growing and Belonging Award
https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6LGFSL1tOt1IcZM

Remember that all award nominations must be COLLABORATIVELY prepared, working with your local Master Gardener Association and your local Master Gardener Program staff.

County Master Gardener awards are decided upon at the local level. This includes County Master Gardener of the Year, County Behind the Scenes, and County Growing and Belonging awards. Once nomination forms are submitted to the statewide office, we use this information to prepare certificates, press release announcements, and posters that are displayed at that annual Master Gardener statewide conference, known as Mini-College.

Note that County Master Gardener award winners are not automatically advanced to consideration for statewide awards. A separate nomination form is needed.

Statewide awards are nominated by county Master Gardener Programs and Associations. This includes Statewide Master Gardener of the Year, Statewide Behind the Scenes, and Statewide Growing and Belonging. Nomination forms are then distributed to the OMGA Awards committee for review, scoring, and discussion, to ultimately determine a winner for each award. This year, the awards committee consists of past winners of the Statewide Master Gardener of Year, including Jane Moyer (2022), Susan Albright (2021), and Chris Rusch (2021). Committee members also include past winners of the Statewide Behind the Scenes Award, including Sherry Sheng (2022) and Sue Ryburn (2021). The Statewide Master Gardener Program Coordinator, Gail Langellotto, serves as committee chair.

We are looking forward to receiving your nominations, and reading about the wonderful work you have done across the state, by supporting aspiring, novice, and experienced gardeners.

Please submit your nominations before or on May 15th deadline! 

Introducing a new award: Growing & Belonging

What does it mean to grow our work inclusively? To create an environment where everyone belongs? Let’s find out, together, with our new Growing & Belonging County, and Statewide Awards.

In addition to our Master Gardener of the Year, and Behind the Scenes awards, 2023 marks the first year recognizing and celebrating the volunteers who have significantly contributed in advancing diversity, inclusion, access, and/or equity among Master Gardener volunteers and the communities we work with.

Unlike our longstanding awards of Master Gardener of the Year, and Behind the Scenes awards, these awards do not recognize the length of time served as a Master Gardener, but instead, the impact their work has made in creating a belonging environment, inclusive of diverse communities such as race, ethnicity, culture, abilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or growing our volunteer work in traditionally under-invested communities. The best of these projects are co-created with the individuals being served, listening to their needs, and responding with a project that meets those needs.

Some examples:

  • Launched a new Seed to Supper course at a local low-income housing community.
  • Organized a seed swap with the organizers of Juneteenth and helped on site.
  • Introduced a training for fellow volunteers around the importance of the use of pronouns and supporting our transgender community.
  • Created a partnership with a local day-hire advocacy group to provide plant identification training in Spanish to day laborers.
  • Worked with the organizers and clients of a local homeless services center for the best way Master Gardeners could help or partner together to create a community garden.
  • Identified needs for ensuring accessibility for all attendees when attending in-person, outdoor events. Developed a checklist of accessibility options to be used by Master Gardeners in planning these events.

All of these examples center work in partnership with other organizations that have trusted relationships with their communities.


What: County, and Statewide Growing and Belonging Award

Why: This award comes as a recommendation made by your Master Gardener Growing & Belonging Committee. It was approved by the OMGA Board of Directors at the November 2022 meeting.

How:

Deadline: May 15th, 2023

What about the other awards? Same deadline, same process. Information about all of the awards is available here.

Does nominating someone for a county award automatically put them in a pool of nominees for the statewide award? No. That is a common misconception. Like our other awards, separate nominations are needed. County nominations are automatically awarded. Statewide nominations go on to a committee for review. You can enter the same person for both county and for state.

We are excited to introduce these new awards and to celebrate the good work of OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Growing & Belonging: Winter Update

Hello! This is your Winter Update from your statewide Growing & Belonging committee. Four times a year we publish on the program news blog, sharing our work, findings, and resources to help keep you informed and engaged in creating a local Master Gardener program and association experience that is one of growing and belonging.

Events

Thank you to the 75 Master Gardener volunteers, faculty, and staff who gathered last month to view Dirt! The Movie on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day of Service. Dr. Gail Langellotto shared reflections on the movie and several Master Gardeners offered their thoughts on the movie as well. I encourage you to read your fellow Master Gardeners’ words in the comments section but will share here a bit of what Donna Leveridge-Campbell wrote:

Dirt! The Movie…resonated with me in so many ways, both in my long-held beliefs and gut feelings, and that there was much synchronicity with things I have read and taken to heart. For myself, I have been considering ways I can support the dissemination of this important information and world-view in order to bring about the much-needed changes to bring health to our soils and biomes, and to our human communities.

A quote from Robin Wall Kimmerer in her phenomenal book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, that kind of sums up where I am at in my life these days is, “The most important thing each of us can know is our unique gift and how to use it in the world.” Another quote I love from this book is, “I taught my daughters to garden so that they would always have a mother to love them, long after I am gone.”

Read more of the thoughtful comments here.

Call for Participation

Do you or someone you know garden to connect to your culture? We would love to share your story. The Culture of Gardening storytelling site, a project of the Growing & Belonging committee, is a beautiful collection of photos and stories told in the gardener’s own words, of gardening to connect us to our heritage and foods specific to our own cooking. Please consider sharing your story or nominating a fellow gardener to be interviewed and featured. Our stories are powerful, healing, and insightful. Please email LeAnn LeAnn.Locher@OregonState.edu to be connected to the project: we promise to make it an easy and fun experience!

Resources You May Find Helpful

The work of Dr. Douglas Deur, associate research professor at Portland State University, focuses on the intersection between culture, place, and environment. He works closely with Native American knowledge holders to illuminate misunderstood environmental traditions, and more. Keeping It Living: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America tells the story of traditional plant cultivation practices found from the Oregon coast to Southeast Alaska.

Webinar series: Culturally Inclusive Teaching in the Garden. A six-part series from February – June exploring ways to celebrate and center culture through garden-based learning. “Garden education is increasingly recognized as an interdisciplinary approach that integrates academic goals, health and wellness, place-based education, and community connections and relationships. However, a discussion of culture is often missing in garden-based education. To validate and celebrate the interests and experiences of our students, we will delve deep into the significance of culture as it relates to food and gardens and also as it relates to the diverse populations with whom we work.”

A wonderful resource for all garden educators, and that certainly includes Master Gardeners!

Exhibit at the High Desert Museum in Bend: Creations of Spirit. Six Plateau artists created works recognizing and containing the spirit of their maker and will have ongoing relationships with contemporary communities. These six pieces are meant to be borrowed and used by the community. Learn more about this innovative and thoughtful project.

“A lot of times it’s hard because baskets are cherished and put behind glass and they’re never out. That’s what I really liked about this project. The basket is going to be out there and useful. It’ll wear, it’ll get dirty, and it’ll have marks of age that define its history.”
– Joe Feddersen, member of the Confederated Tribes of Colville Reservation

Podcast Black Food: Liberation, Food Justice and Stewardship. Listen to this important conversation between Karen Washington and Bryant Terry on how Black Food culture is weaving the threads of a rich African agricultural heritage with the liberation of economics from an extractive corporate food oligarchy. The results can be health, conviviality, community wealth, and the power of self-determination.

This is Kalapuyan Land at the Pittock Mansion in Portland is an exhibition of contemporary Indigenous artworks alongside a selection of historical panels curated by Steph Littlebird (Grand Ronde, Kalapuya, Chinook). Learn more and plan a visit with your fellow Master Gardeners.  

Call to Action for Master Gardener Associations: Here is a wonderful book to pre-order for your Master Gardener resource library. A new children’s book by Warm Springs Elder Linda Meanus, is set to be published by Confluence and OSU Press in June 2023. Learn more about Native American history through a first-hand account, “My Name is LaMoosh” is also a reminder that Indigenous people continue to maintain a cultural connection to the land and river that gave them their identity. Preorder here.


We encourage Master Gardener volunteers to share the information and resources in this winter update with others, including your fellow volunteers. Read and together discuss these resources, consider organizing a listening session of the podcast or a group trip to an exhibit, or purchasing these publications for your Master Gardener resource library. Thank you for contributing to a growing and belonging environment in your Master Gardener program.  

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:

Curriculum
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).

Communications
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