Extension Operations Update

After a very long year, we are starting to see an easing of COVID-related restrictions! And, we’re planning to offer face-to-face Master Gardener training classes in 2022!

As of June 1, 2021, OSU Extension made several changes to operations, that will make it easier for face-to-face Master Gardener programs to occur. These updates specifically apply to Oregon counties that are at low or moderate risk of COVID transmission. Counties that are at high risk of COVID transmission still have some restrictions in place.

  • Travel for Master Gardener Activities: The formerly used In-person and travel authorization form will no longer be needed for local travel of volunteers or employees. Out of state travel for MG related work by volunteers or employees continues to need approval, as has always been the case.
    • This operations update does not broadly apply to most Master Gardener volunteers. During COVID restrictions, we did have a few volunteers who travelled to monitor invasive species traps with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. But, most Master Gardener volunteers do not ‘travel for Master Gardener activities’. Travelling to the Extension office or to a demonstration garden is considered ‘commuting’ and not ‘travelling for work’.
  • Master Gardener Programming: Master Gardener Programs and volunteer activities in Lower and Moderate Risk Counties no longer needs formal approval by an Extension Regional Director. Please note, however, that Master Gardener Programming and Volunteer Activities should be planned in close cooperation and communication with your Master Gardener Coordinator. All activities must be planned using the guidelines of the OSU Extension Activity Matrix (see the file, at the end of this post). Your Master Gardener Coordinator can help ensure that programs and volunteerism are being organized according to the Activity Matrix.
  • Counties at High Risk must continue to use the High-Risk Programming Approval Form for Master Gardener Programs and Volunteer Activities. These submissions are reviewed by an Extension Regional Director.
  • Face Coverings: If physical distancing can be maintained, face coverings are no longer required outdoors at OSU and during programming. However, if the setting is crowded, and/or if physical distancing cannot be maintained, face coverings are required. Face coverings continue to be required indoors at all OSU locations and during Extension programming, regardless of vaccination status. OSU’s physical distancing policy continues to require compliance with all current OHA guidelines and OSHA guidelines. Gatherings – including indoors – are allowed, but should be planned and executed using the Extension Activity Matrix. This includes the allowance for in-person meetings and activities.
  • COVID-19 Training: COVID-19 training for employees and volunteers will no longer be required.

I’m looking forward to the day when we can all meet in person, around our shared love of plants, gardening, insects, birds, fresh vegetables, shade trees, flowers, or whatever it is that excites you about the Program.

~Gail

Master Gardener Certifications in 2021 and new Master Gardener Trainings in 2022: questions and answers as of May 18, 2021

“Will OSU Extension be hosting trainings for new Master Gardener volunteers in 2022?”  

Yes. Counties with Master Gardener Programs are planning for the 2022 Master Gardener trainings. Typically, applications for new Master Gardener trainees are available each fall, and the classes begin in January or February of the following year. Specific dates may vary across counties. Check with your local Master Gardener program for details. 

“I took the Master Gardener training class in 2020, but COVID disrupted my ability to complete my certification. Can I still be certified?” 

Yes! We realize that COVID has disrupted personal lives and much of our in-person programming. Many counties were not able to hold face-to-face volunteer activities, and many face-to-face volunteer activities are still on hold. Most counties have lowered the number of required volunteer service hours to 40 hours, to help the class of 2020 Master Gardener trainees complete their service hour requirement. Your sum total volunteer service hours accrued during 2020, 2021, and into 2022 will count towards meeting the service hour requirement and Master Gardener certification. Be alert to your local county program updates as volunteer activities are able to resume. We appreciate your patience and continued participation in the Master Gardener training program. 

Keep note of your volunteer service activities. Volunteer service hours must be reported to your local Master Gardener Extension program for them to count towards Master Gardener certification. Most OSU Extension Master Gardener Programs (except for the Portland Metro counties) use the online Volunteer Reporting System for reporting and tracking volunteer hours. The Portland Metro Area Counties of Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah use a different system, and will provide a link to report your hours in the fall. 

In 2021, you may have also participated in continuing education programs for your Master Gardener work. These may have included webinars (such as the Growing Oregon Gardeners: Level Up Series) or online classes (such as the Elevated Skills training for Master Gardener volunteers). Or, you may have participated in other continuing education classes, through your local Master Gardener Program. We hope these programs have enriched and supported you in your new role as community garden educators.  

Please check with your local Master Gardener coordinator if you have questions about reporting service hours or continuing education units. 

“I took the Master Gardener training in 2020 and completed both my coursework and my volunteer service hour requirement. Can I be certified as a Master Gardener volunteer?” 

Yes! Individuals who completed their coursework and volunteer service hours will receive (or may have already received) their Master Gardener badge and certificate of completion. Completing your Master Gardener training and certification is a HUGE accomplishment, and particularly so during the challenges of 2020 and 2021. Congratulations, and thank you! We look forward to celebrating your accomplishment. 

“I am a current Master Gardener volunteer but have not been able to recertify during COVID. What do I need to do?” 

Master Gardeners who were certified for the 2020 calendar year will maintain their certification in 2021 and into 2022. We understand that COVID has disrupted our lives in so many ways, including the ability to complete annual recertification requirements (a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer service and a minimum 10 hours of continuing education units per year). 

Even if you have not been able to complete annual recertification requirements, we encourage you to report any volunteer service hours and/or continuing education units that you have been able to complete. 

“Do I need to report my volunteer service and continuing education hours?” 

Yes. Reporting your Master Gardener Program service hours and continuing education is very important. It helps us to know that you are still interested in engaging with the Master Gardener Program, and pursuing your Master Gardener certification. As we open Master Gardener certification opportunities to new trainees in 2022, your reporting helps us to ensure that you will be first in line for volunteer service opportunities. Reporting also helps us to communicate the impact and value of the program to local, university, and statewide decision makers, and to make the case for funding in counties with active Master Gardener volunteers. 

Please check with your local Master Gardener coordinator if you have questions about reporting service hours or continuing education units. 

“I heard that OSU will require vaccines for faculty, staff, and students. What about volunteers? Do I need to be vaccinated and/or report that I have been vaccinated?” 

OSU Extension Service encourages all community members to get vaccinated.  The more people are vaccinated the better the outlook for getting back to community volunteer activities. For more information please see: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/community-vitality/coronavirus.  

At this time there is not an expectation to require volunteers to be vaccinated. However, administrators are expected to have more discussion about this over the next few weeks. If new details are added to the OSU vaccination requirement, that affect Master Gardener volunteers, we will be sure to communicate them as soon as we know more. 

“Given the CDC’s latest guidance for individuals who have been fully vaccinated, do I have to wear a face covering or mask while participating in face to face Master Gardener volunteer activities?” 

In short, and at this time, the answer is ‘yes’. The information, below, is excerpted from a recent email from OSU’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Dan Larsen: 

Oregon State University must continue to adhere to current Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHA) guidelines and rules requiring the use of face coverings. 
   
You likely know that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced Thursday that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a face covering or physically distance, except where required by state or other jurisdictions’ laws, rules and regulations. Gov. Kate Brown followed the CDC’s announcement Thursday sharing that businesses in Oregon could stop requiring face coverings and social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated. 
  
We do share your excitement in the updates provided by Governor Brown and the CDC, and we are eager to support those who are fully vaccinated in being able to engage in activities with fewer requirements and restrictions. For now, we must wait, as OSU’s Safety & Success policies must be in alignment with existing Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) guidance, as well as OHA and HECC guidance for higher education, and OHSA workplace rules
   
Additionally, once we receive updated guidance on how OSU can extend the benefits of reduced face covering requirements and restrictions, we will thoughtfully evaluate our current policies and enforcement measures, and will communicate any changes and updates with employees, students and stakeholders. We do anticipate that some environments within the university may continue to require use of face coverings through the end of spring term. 

Dan Larson email to OSU Community Members on May 14, 2021.

A Spring 2021 Update

Hello Master Gardener Volunteers,

The signs of spring are different across Oregon: daffodils in the Willamette Valley, the first trilliums seen in bloom along the coastal forest roads, the fields greening up in Central Oregon, and in Southern Oregon, the bright red of maple tree buds before they unfurl into leaves.

Spring brings so much hope, so let’s talk some real talk: we acknowledge the social isolation has been hard on many of us, with little to no opportunity to gather in person and to do the gardening work we love, together. Yes, we’ve had many zoom meetings, webinars, emails, and virtual trainings, but as many of you are receiving vaccinations, there seems to be hope on the horizon. As we look to the possibility of opening things back up, please know that the health and safety of our volunteers is of utmost importance, and our work will be to prioritize that.

As county risk levels continue to move to lower levels across the state and we start to participate in more face to face Master Gardener activities, please know:

  • Face to face Master Gardener volunteer activities still require approval from the appropriate Extension regional director. Requests for new activities are submitted by your Master Gardener coordinator. Activities that have been approved may need to be cancelled or postponed if a county’s risk of COVID transmission moves from a lower to higher level in the interim between when an activity is approved and when the activity is scheduled to take place.
  • Many volunteers have asked if vaccination status influences the types of Master Gardener activities and projects that can be planned. OSU Extension administration states that irregardless of an individuals’ vaccine status, we are continuing to use the status at-a-glance information for restricted return or modified operations as a guide whether specific activity requests are approved, or not.
  • In discussions with Master Gardener Program Coordinators across the state, we noted that most face to face Master Gardener gatherings are going really well. Folks have taken the COVID safety training class, are wearing masks, and are observing social distancing. We have high confidence that our Master Gardener volunteers are doing their best to keep themselves and each other, safe. At the moment, we are prioritizing face to face Master Gardener activities that are limited to Master Gardener volunteers, or to a small number of folks from the general public. At this time, we’re not yet at the point where we want to schedule activities that would place Master Gardener volunteers into high-traffic events and activities with the general public. For now, we’re not prioritizing Master Gardener plant clinic booths at farmers markets or fairs.

As a closing note, we stand in solidarity with members of the Asian and Asian American community as the rise in anti-Asian racism continues in our country. To our Asian Master Gardeners and community: we see you, we value you, and know you deserve to feel safe and respected. Here is an important message from OSU leadership. To report a bias incident within the OSU community, visit the Office of Institutional Diversity’s Bias Incident Response website. Any member of the OSU community who believes they have been subjected to harassment or discrimination should visit the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access.

Here’s to Spring and the message of hope it brings, for all of us.

LeAnn Locher
Statewide Master Gardener Outreach Coordinator
Oregon State University Extension

White flower trillium
Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

Happy New Year, Oregon Master Gardeners!

Dear Friends,

During these final few hours of 2020, I’ve been taking the time to organize and prepare data for the annual report of the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program (which will be published in mid-late January). Reading through all of the accomplishments and about the resiliency and creativity of Master Gardener volunteers, faculty, and staff during this difficult year makes me so proud to be affiliated with this wonderful community. Our collective work and creativity made a difference across the state, at a time when the gifts of gardening were especially needed.

Perhaps my absolute favorite part of the Master Gardener Program is that it is a community of people who are life-long learners. My entire life, I have been searching for this type of community! I was literally the kid who read the dictionary and every encyclopedia volume in the house, because I loved learning, so much. When I learned about graduate school, and that you could get paid (although not much) to go to school and learn, it seemed like a dream come true. And now, in the Master Gardener Program, I make it a point to learn one new thing, every day.

In case you were wondering, yesterday, I learned that people keep colonies of dermestid beetles to help them clean skulls ~ something which is known as a dermestarium. I also learned that mites are the mortal enemy of dermestid beetles, and can wipe out a colony in a short time period. Finally, I learned that the best ways to keep the mites at bay are to: (1) lower relative humidity to as low as 50% RH, (2) carefully check your skulls before placing them into a dermestid beetle tank to make sure that you’re not inadvertently introducing an ‘intruder’ dermestid, that might be harboring an ‘intruder’ mite under its wings.

I mean, seriously . . . what other job or volunteer program might afford me the opportunity to learn about skull-cleaning beetles?!?!

But personal learning and enrichment is only half of the equation. Sharing knowledge enriches an entire community. And in 2020, Master Gardener volunteers directly reached and taught more than 24,000 people! When COVID restrictions required us to pivot to different ways of reaching and teaching gardeners, Master Gardeners responded in really innovative ways. For example, the Lane County Master Gardeners started researching and writing a ‘Tip of the Week’ segment on Facebook. Across the year, these bits of information about gardening, birds, and houseplants reached 74,560 gardeners. In Linn County, volunteers stepped out of their comfort zone and delivered programming with a prerecorded how-to video on cocoon cleaning coupled with live Q&A sessions on Zoom. And these are just two examples of many innovations that came out of the 2020 programming year.

Megan Wickersham does an amazing job of coordinating the Master Gardener Program in Hood River County. In her annual report of accomplishments, she shared the following note, which I think is broadly applicable across most Master Gardener Programs in the state:

Overall, this unexpected pause in traditional programming allowed for volunteers to refocus on interest areas, join committees to evaluate projects, and take time to identify future improvements needed. Though almost all volunteers indicated that they prefer in-person trainings and activities, closures provided the opportunity for Master Gardeners to learn and develop confidence in new technologies. Volunteers viewed and participated in online trainings they may not have accessed during a traditional year. There was also increased volunteer participation in plant clinics using the online model, as the system allowed Master Gardeners to more easily identify areas of personal interest as well as program needs.” (Megan Wickersham, Hood River County Master Gardener Program Coordinator)

On this final day of 2020, I wish you and all those dear to you a healthy and happy and fulfilling 2021. I hope that your own personal ‘pauses’ afforded you an opportunity to explore and learn and rest in ways that you might not have known you needed. I hope that your garden, or houseplants, and/or bird feeders have provided unexpected moments of joy, insight, peace, and beauty. Most of all, I hope that we can soon gather to learn and laugh together and I THANK YOU for all that you have done in support of gardening and your communities.

Happy New Year.

~Gail

My photo for 2020 seems to do a good job of capturing the mood: I was down for a bit, but not out. May 2021 bring better days for all.

Master Gardener Program Update: August 7, 2020

Status of Face to Face Master Gardener Activities

It has been 136 days since OSU effectively shut down all face-to-face activities, in response to Governor Kate Brown’s ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ executive order. As I take stock of Oregon’s Master Gardener Program, today, I can see that we are gradually and cautiously returning to limited face-to-face activities. Please remember, that all face-to-face programming and non-essential travel during the Modified Operations phase must be approved by your regional director, via the Extension Modified Travel and Programming Request form. Please make sure to cc me on your requests, so that I can continue to keep track of the evolving landscape of the statewide Master Gardener Program.

To date, here are the face-to-face Master Gardener activities that have been approved for county Extension offices in the Modified Operations phase are listed below. Please note that these activities represent low-density, outdoor activities, with the exception of low density Plant Clinics in select Extension offices.

  • A trial run of a virtual plant sale has been approved, for potential scaling up of a fall, public, virtual plant sale. Master Gardeners are hosting a ‘closed’ sale, open only to other Master Gardeners, to try and identify and work out potential kinks in protocol that may be issues for a larger, public sale.
  • There are two Citizen Science projects that have been approved. In one project, select Master Gardeners will travel to help our state partners monitor invasive pests. In the second project, Master Gardeners will travel to an OSU research farm to help evaluate plant that are part of butterfly bush research project.
  • One hybrid training opportunity has been approved. Master Gardeners will participate in self-guided plant identification activities, and will ‘meet’ via Zoom for a follow up session.
  • Master Gardeners are working in Extension office plant clinics in two counties. Plant clinics at markets, fairs, retail stores, and other high density public venues are still off-limits, at this point.
  • Master Gardeners are working in demonstration and community gardens across the state. Unlike the Restricted Operations phase, when only activities that were focused on critical services for food security and/or facilities maintenance, that approvals have been expanded for counties in the Modified Operations phase to include maintenance of compost piles and worm bins.

Creating Opportunities for Social Interactions and Celebrations

On yesterday’s weekly Zoom call, we discussed how we might thank and celebrate our Master Gardener volunteers, while also adhering to public health and safety guidelines. Here is what we came up with:

  • Governor’s Proclamation of Master Gardener Week in Oregon, November 2-6 2020
  • Celebratory / Thank You Video featuring OSU administrators, faculty, staff. We’ll be asking high level administrators (Anita and Alan) to deliver messages of thanks. We will cut in video of MG faculty and staff, holding up signs with different thank you messages, and points of celebration/resilience. Will ask LeAnn to help storyboard. Am seeking video production assistance from OSU Faculty Multimedia Services.
  • Annual State of the MG Program Address (to be delivered by Gail, as a webinar)
  • A three-film Gardening Film Festival. Gardeners can live stream films at home. We will arrange for Q&A with directors, as a Zoom webinar or meeting. Potential Films: The Love Bugs (Entomology Focus),  Land Grab or Plant this Movie (Urban Ag Focus), and a third movie that should have a plant focus.
  • The week concludes on November 6, with the final Board Meeting of the Oregon Master Gardener Association.

Upcoming MG Coordinators Zoom Meeting Topics

  • August 13th: 2021 MG Training Plan, including plan for 2020 trainees who could not complete training.
  • August 20th: Developing MG Program Priorities & Values (including workshopping DEI training scenario that we did not get to on July 30th)

August 27th: Open to Your Suggestions, but could be focused on planning and progress for the 2020 Oregon Master Gardener week celebration.

Resuming In-Person MG Plant Clinics

The Master Gardener Program began in Washington State in 1973, when David Gibby and Bill Scheer (who were then Washington State University Extension agents) proposed recruiting and training volunteers who could respond to gardeners’ questions as a way to serve the needs of home and community gardeners (Gibby et al., 2008). Since that time, the program has endured and expanded. Today, Master Gardener programs are active in all 50 states, nine Canadian provinces, and in South Korea (Langellotto et al. 2015), and most recently, Puerto Rico!

Receiving and responding to the public’s gardening questions remains a core part of our mission. In 2019, for example, a total of 6,321 questions were submitted to OSU Extension through eXtension’s Ask an Expert Service. Of these, 4,925, or 78%, were related to home gardening, insect identification, urban forestry, or other questions commonly fielded by Master Gardeners. Of the 4,925 Ask an Expert questions that were related to home gardening, Master Gardener volunteers fielded and answered 3,650 questions, or 58% of all of OSU Extension’s Ask an Expert questions in 2019. And, these numbers do not include the thousands of gardening questions that are fielded and answered by Master Gardener volunteers at Plant Clinics located in Extension offices, at Farmer’s Markets, or at other sites.

When COVID-19 hit, it put a halt to all in-person Master Gardener activities, including Plant Clinics in Extension offices and at Farmer’s Market. Now that many Oregon counties have entered Phase 2 of the Governor’s Plan to Re-Open Oregon, some Oregon State University Extension Offices are moving from a restricted operations model to a modified operations model. Master Gardener Programs in at least two counties have included in-office Plant Clinics as part of the Modified Operations Plan for their County Extension Office.

In case you are thinking of resuming in-person Plant Clinics, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • According to OSU Extension’s Decision Tree for Adult Learners, in-person Plant Clinic activities can not occur during the ‘Restricted Operations Phase’ (i.e. counties in Phase 1), but can be considered for counties in the ‘Modified Operations Phase’ (i.e. counties in Phase 2).
  • If your Plant Clinic activities can be effectively accomplished, remotely, you should continue to focus on remote delivery of this public service. However, as we know, many Plant Clinic questions yield better answers if clients can drop off a plant or pest sample. Also, many of our clients are not able to submit Plant Clinic questions, online. Finally, some Master Gardeners have limited internet access, and are not able to easily access and answer questions in an online environment. If these scenarios describe your situation, and if it is safe and prudent to do so, you may want to consider resuming Plant Clinic in your County Extension Office.

Additional Things to Consider For Plant Clinics in OSU Extension Offices:

  • The public may not be allowed into the Extension office, even during the Modified Operations phase. You thus should consider putting out a station where clients can drop off plant samples and/or questions. For Master Gardener volunteers that are not able to access and answer questions, online, this station can also serve as the pickup site for plant samples and questions. Think about how samples can be submitted and retrieved, in a safe and sanitary way.
  • You will want to limit the number of volunteers working in an Extension Office Plant Clinic, so that adequate social distancing can be maintained, and should have a sign-up system in place for Clinic shifts. Volunteers must complete the OSU Extension COVID-Awareness training prior to participating. Volunteers must agree to relevant OSU policies prior to participating, including OSU’s policy on face-coverings in public and common settings.
  • Volunteers who are high risk for serious illness from COVID-19 should not participate in face-to-face volunteer activities. Volunteers who are sick or who have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 or symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 are to refrain from participating.
  • If you are confident that your county and your Master Gardener Program is in a good position to restart Extension Office Plant Clinics, work with your Office Manager to write Plant Clinic into the County Extension Office Phase II reopening plan. The plan will be routed to your Regional Director, and then to OSU administrators for review and approval.
  • Remember that the health and safety of you, your colleagues, volunteers, and community is paramount. It is better to err on the side of health and safety. Do not rush to re-open in-office Plant Clinics if it is not prudent to do so, at this time.

For Plant Clinics at Outdoor Farmer’s Markets or Other Outdoor Sites

Plant Clinics at Outdoor locations are surprisingly more complicated to consider. This is because our Outdoor Plant Clinics are usually held in conjunction with a collaborating organization, which will require communication and coordination before an Outdoor Plant Clinic can resume. In addition, our Outdoor Plant Clinics are often held in spaces where the general public gathers, such as a Farmer’s Market or retail site.

Because the health and safety of our volunteers is paramount, I don’t think that it makes sense to set up outdoor Plant Clinics at this time. If we did, we would be putting rotating shifts of volunteers in direct contact with a large number of people. For this reason, I would suggest holding off on Outdoor Plant Clinics at Markets and Retail sites, at least until we move into Phase 3 of county re-openings.

Let’s recap how Master Gardener activities have been approved, thus far, during this COVID-19 crisis and Oregon’s phased approach to re-opening. I think it is important to recap what has been approved, thus far, because we are seeing some counties be moved down to a earlier phase, as case counts rise.

  • Baseline: during baseline phase, we were under the Governor’s ‘Shelter in Place’ order. During this phase, we received approval to work with community partners with distribute plants in our communities. A key point to this approval was that the community partners served as the distribution site during this phase, to limit the OSU faculty, staff, and volunteer travel and gatherings.
  • Phase 1 / Restricted Operations: during this phase, we received approval to resume work in Master Gardener demonstration and community gardens.
  • Phase 2 / Modified Operations: during this phase, we are just starting to see some counties receive approval to resume Plant Clinics in Extension offices.
  • Phase 3 / Full Return (Yet to Come ~ Date Unknown): is when we expect to see a return to in-person classes, meetings, and events.

3/21/21 Update:

Resuming MG Activities: Now What?

June 13th has been the date that we have been waiting for! Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-09 suspended higher education instructional activities (including non-credit instruction through Extension). Executive Order 20-17 extended this moratorium on instruction until June 13th.

So, what happens on June 14th? On June 12th, the Governor issued Executive Order 20-28. This Executive Order notes that in person instruction will be subject to restrictions, including the adoption of minimum standards for face coverings, physical distancing, and sanitizing. Because we are a program within Oregon State University, we are obligated to follow OSU’s resumption plan (and in fact, the links I have above for face coverings and physical distancing are OSU recent guidance on those subjects).

We are now entering what OSU Extension has been referring to as the ‘restricted operations’ phase, where we can cautiously resume some MG Program activities. This doesn’t mean that we can rapidly return to business as normal (I wish!). Instead, we’re working to resume work in ways that limit risk of illness to volunteers, faculty, staff, and our communities.

OSU faculty and staff developed guidance for resuming work within the MG Program, and this guidance was reviewed and approved by OSU Extension administration. Briefly, work in MG gardens is approved under OSU Extension’s restricted operations phase. MG Coordinators have been submitting requests (through DocuSign) to resume work in specific gardens. Several requests have been approved, today.

As noted in the guidelines, other Master Gardener activities, including plant clinics, classes, workshops, and meetings have been approved for the modified or full operations phases of OSU Extension’s resumption plan. According to OSU’s resumption plant (pages 19 and 30), OSU will remain under restricted operations until at least July 13th.

To all of the MG Coordinators, volunteers, and friends: I thank you for your patience as we work through a new way of doing business in the midst of a global pandemic. I thank you and SALUTE you for all **ALL** that you’ve done to support gardening education and outreach in your communities. Your work has helped to blaze new trails for the Master Gardener program in Oregon, and has helped to engage many new learners and clients with OSU Extension. Your resilience is paying off in the form of building stronger local food systems, reducing unnecessary pesticide use, and promoting an overall love for plants and the beneficial insects that associate with them.

So, what now? How are we going to restart our on-the-ground work in MG gardens? Here are a few of the steps that need to happen.

  • MG coordinator should develop a sign-up and/or sign-in system for garden work. This will help to limit the number of people who are working the garden at one time. This system will also aid in contact tracing, should there be a documented risk of COVID-19 exposure at a garden.
  • Volunteers will need to complete OSU Extension’s COVID-19 awareness training before returning to work in the gardens. You can sign up for and complete the training online, at this link: https://envisionextension.thinkific.com/enrollments
  • There is a checklist that we are asking gardeners to review and sign, before returning to work in the gardens. The checklist is on the last page of the ‘Guidelines’ file that is shared in this post.
  • MG Coordinators should complete the template for resuming work in gardens, and route through DocuSign for necessary signatures.
  • MG Coordinators will also be working to set up a communications plan, that may include posting signage at the garden.

Although it is surely disappointing to not be able to jump back into business as normal, I hope that a return to work in the gardens provides some light that we are moving towards happier days. I also know that the time away from the garden may find you greeted by weeds that were demanding attention months ago. I tried to find an inspirational garden quote about weeds, and stumbled upon one from Robert Michael Pyle, who was scheduled to be our keynote speaker for 2020’s Mini-College (which had to be postponed, due to COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings).

But make no mistake:  the weeds will win; nature bats last.  ~Robert M. Pyle

Not exactly the inspirational ‘get out into the garden’ quote that you might have been looking for. But I still love this quote, because it suggests a degree of needing to let go, rather than raging against the indomitable nature of . . . nature.

Happy gardening to all.

Letter to MG Program Partners

Dear Friends and Partners of the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program:

The OSU Extension Master Gardener Program partners with numerous organizations across the state, in support of our mission to make sustainable gardening information and educational opportunities open to all Oregonians. Our partnerships include local Recreation and Parks offices, Food Banks and Food Pantries, School Districts, Correctional Facilities, Gardening Non-Profits, Public Housing Authorities, Local Governments, and the Oregon Master Gardener Association and its non-profit chapters. I value our partnerships beyond measure, and recognize that our outreach efforts and our organization are elevated as a result of our collaborations.

I wanted to share an update on the current status of OSU Extension Master Gardener activities, in the context of the Phase 1 reopening of Oregon counties that began on May 15th. As a state agency and an institution of higher education, OSU Extension is under different guidance than Oregon businesses. For example, Executive Orders 20-17 and 20-09 suspend in-person instructional activities at Oregon Higher Education Institutions through June 13th.

In short, I am still in a holding pattern and awaiting direction from OSU and OSU Extension, related to face-to-face activities, events, and instruction. I have drafted, and am awaiting administrative feedback on a plan to resume limited face-to-face Master Gardener activities that adheres to state, university, and OSU Extension guidance. OSU expects to receive guidance from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, later this week. OSU and OSU Extension expect to update their respective resumption plans, shortly thereafter. I am hopeful that the Master Gardener resumption plan might be reviewed, edited as needed, and approved shortly thereafter.

At this time, I would ask that we continue collaborative partnership by:

  • Keeping lines of communication open: sharing (as possible) resumption plans, and thinking about how we can jointly meet any mandated requirements for face-to-face activities.
  • Recognizing that we are bound by OSU guidance: and unable to resume face-to-face instructional activities until at least June 13th.
  • Presenting clear and united communications to volunteers and to the public that we serve: until the Master Gardener program gets the green light for face-to-face activities from OSU, we are not able to resume face-to-face activities.

    I look forward to continued and fruitful partnerships. Most of all, I look forward to the day that we can again partner to promote a love of and success with gardening, via hands-on, face-to-face, and fun activities.

    I hope that you continue to stay safe and be well!! Should you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your local Master Gardener coordinator and/or to me.

    Sincerely,

    Gail Langellotto
    Statewide Extension Master Gardener Program Coordinator
    Oregon State University