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

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.

“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

Events and communications working group

This is the second 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. 

Celebrating and centering diversity, equity and inclusion was the focus of this working group. They identified areas to raise the recognition of DEI by communicating through events, highlighting the diversity of gardeners, and celebrating themes of inclusion and equity in our social media.

While most of the work of the other working groups was behind the scenes, the work in this committee was public-facing. It recognized the importance of consistently communicating the program’s recognition, celebration, and representation of diversity among gardeners.  

Events

Movie: Gather, followed by a discussion with Dr. Samantha Chisholm Hatfield and Dr. David Lewis (online). Attended live by 1,100. 

Movie: The Ants and the Grasshopper, followed by a discussion with Vivek Shandas (online). Attended live by 500.Talk:

Abra Lee talk, “The future is in our hands.” (online). Attended live by 600.  

Project: The Culture of Gardening

Gardening provides a safe space for reflection, a connection to heritage, and a celebration of identity. But popular culture and the horticultural industry have historically left many voices out. The Culture of Gardening storytelling initiative creates a space for all to feel seen and heard — and share the experiences that mean the most to them. Created in April 2021 through the OSU Extension Master Gardener DEI Taskforce, the Culture of Gardening is a collection of personal stories gathered through interviews by a small team of Master Gardener faculty and volunteers, presented as an OSU Extension blog, and then distributed through social media. Each story is shared in the interviewee’s exact words to preserve authenticity. Topics include gardening as a source of healing, foods passed on from generation to generation, family history, connection to community, and more.  The goals for the project include amplifying diverse voices in gardening and highlighting cultural connections to growing a plant. The work demonstrates and centers on the importance of gardeners and gardening to connect inter-and cross-culturally and to honor and attract a more diverse group of Master Gardener volunteers. The project demonstrates “diversity in action.”  Some posts include recipes used in the preparation of food grown in the gardens, ranging from a grandmother’s gyoza recipe using homegrown Nira, to raita made with homegrown cucumbers.  Short quotes from the full stories shared on the blog are posted in social media, along with photos, linking to the full stories on the blog.  

The stories we share in the Master Gardener program are an important representation of who is seen as gardeners in the community: these stories ensure representation of a vital and growing demographic of gardeners connecting to themselves, community, culture, and ancestors, all through the beauty of gardening.  

  • Website: 18 posts, 1,552 views, 866
  • Facebook: each post reaches approx. 5,500 and engages 150-500. The current reach is 168,000. 8 posts have been made on Facebook.
  • Instagram: The current reach on Instagram is 8,700. Additional posts are made to Stories, and one Instagram Live event was broadcast. 

This is an ongoing project, engaging volunteers, faculty, and staff in sharing these stories. It was identified as a major example of diverse representation in OSU Extension communications. In addition, it was featured in OSU Office of Institutional Diversity’s magazine Taking Action, a publication that aims to highlight the rich diversity of equity work at the university. 

Heritage months and identity recognitions

Celebrating the history and contributions of historically marginalized identities offers the opportunity for our community of gardeners to learn more about the people, traditions, history, and current experiences within our communities. A calendar was created and adopted to communicate through the year in our social media channels. These include months celebrating Black history (February), women’s history (March), Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage (May), Pride (June), Hispanic heritage, and Native American heritage (November). Social media posts were published, generating celebration and discussion, and many expressed gratitude for the recognition. 

This is the second 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. 

Year 1 Overview: Master Gardener Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce

The first cohort of the OSU Extension Master Gardener Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force wrapped up its work this past February, after a year of learning opportunities, organizational self-study, action items, and recommendations. One key recommendation that was offered to cohort II of the Task Force, by the 34 active members of the original group, was to communicate progress and priorities out to the broader Master Gardener community. This post is the first in a series that will do just that. Over the next few days, we’ll provide an update on the outcomes and recommendations that emerged from the four subgroups of cohort I of the taskforce. The schedule for this series is:

Diversity, equity, and inclusion work within the Master Gardener program started a few years before the first meeting of the Task Force. In 2017, based upon recommendations that emerged from an annual meeting of OSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinators, a subgroup was 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?”

Two Master Gardener volunteers, two Master Gardener program coordinators, and the statewide coordinator worked together to read, study, query colleagues, analyze results, and thoughtfully discuss how to meet the three points outlined in the questions above. This group, called  CHAP, for Community Horticulture Advisory Panel, took the time to intensely study each of these points, and make recommendations to the broader Master Gardener program.

An Overview of OSU Extension Master Gardener Efforts related to DEI

The Beginnings: CHAP

The CHAP model began in 2014, when the Master Gardener Coordinators working group changed the decision-making process from one of consensus-based decision making to the CHAP model. Folks who signed up to work on a CHAP committee were tasked with taking the time to intensely review and consider an issue affecting the Master Gardener Program. CHAP would make recommendations, based upon careful consideration and review. The Master Gardener Coordinators working group would vote on the CHAP recommendations, with majority rule. This model emerged, because many working group members were over-extended, and often unable to commit the time and energy needed to carefully study an issue, before coming to a decision. Prior to focusing on annual Master Gardener trainings, previous CHAP committees made recommendations related to the types of activities that would qualify for Master Gardener service hours or continuing education hours. The first CHAP committee also recommended recognizing certified Master Gardener volunteers on their badges, which is where the stickers came from!

The 2017-2018 iteration of CHAP developed several recommendations related to making annual Master Gardener training more broadly accessible, interactive, and 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, and providing flexible options for engaging with the program such as a hybrid online/in-person training option. Several years later, the 2022 Master Gardener training season adopted a hybrid training approach that enabled many folks to participate in the program, that otherwise would have been locked out.

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 work to increase access and inclusion continued into 2019 when the Master Gardener Coordinators working group convened in Seaside, Oregon for two days to discuss the programmatic mission and vision. Two members of the Oregon Master Gardener Association leadership also participated in these discussions. This group fine-tuned the program’s mission and developed a programmatic vision that focused on access and equity. The focus on mission and vision was important, as these items serve as a north star and compass when determining where to invest time and effort amidst a landscape of extensive need and limited resources. In 2020, the work continued by solidifying the program priorities and values.

Today: Master Gardener Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force

In 2020, the program’s focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion became more public-facing, with the first blog post about racial and social justice, and reading recommendations received from Master Gardener volunteers in June of 2020. In January of 2021,  an open discussion, reflecting on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was held, and the commitment to convening a task force of Master Gardener volunteers and coordinators was born. 

Across the next week, we hope you will take the time to read about the work, outcomes, and recommendations of the four workgroups that comprised the first cohort of the task force. We welcome your ideas and thoughts, and how you are working within your local Master Gardener group to make this work come alive within your community. 

Tomorrow: Events & Communications, The work of the Master Gardener Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce, Cohort 1.

March is Women’s History Month: A message from Celina Ratliff, Clackamas County Master Gardener

Dear Fellow Master Gardeners,

Recognizing National Women’s History Month during the month of March, I invite you to explore these articles and videos highlighting gardening and landscaping accomplishments by women. The actions of these courageous females help pave the way for us, our granddaughters, and future generations. One of my favorites, Indigenous Spirituality inside Oregon Prisons is educational, inspirational, and thought-provoking. I shared the online video with others, creating meaningful dialogue about spirituality and inclusion. I encourage you to do the same. I invite you to select at least one article or video that touches your heart and share it with others.

Lastly, for fun, check out the two videos highlighting easy yoga exercises specifically designed for us…gardeners! Happy Spring gardening!

Cheers,
Celina Ratliff
Clackamas County Master Gardener | Statewide Master Gardener DEI Taskforce member


The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world; I am like a snowball – the further I am rolled the more I gain.
—Susan B. Anthony


Women Making a Difference Yesterday & Today: Celebrating Women’s History Month

Timeline of Women’s History in American Gardens 1858 – 2009↗
Browse selected moments and movements in which American women have used plants, gardens, and landscapes for power, advocacy, and change.

Eight Women to Know in Horticulture History↗
Women from all backgrounds and interests have shaped the course of American gardens. 

Garden design was a man’s world in the early 1900s. Learn how a few women landscape architects determined to practice in their chosen careers slowly made their way into the field. This short video is from Smithsonian Gardens.

Check out the #HorticultureHERstory hashtag on Smithsonian Gardens’ Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more tales of groundbreaking women!

Photographers Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) and Mattie Edwards Hewitt (1869-1956), separately and together as working partners, captured thousands of images of gardens and architecture around the country during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This video provides insight into how the Planting Fields Foundation archives are specifically informing landscape restoration plans, by showcasing a number of images by Mattie Edwards Hewitt that show the site in its prime circa 1925.

Garden Clubs of the Early 20th Century
Garden clubs of the early to mid-20th century were about more than just planting and socializing: they were an important force that brought women together to make change. Women’s clubs were one of the few means by which women could effectively exercise social power before universal suffrage.

Women’s Wartime Gardens
This collection highlights the history of how America confronted the rapid food shortages during World War I and World War II, primarily the role of women in sustaining the U.S’ food source.

Gardening for the Common Good

The Earth in Her Hands: Jamaica Kincaid in Conversation with Jennifer Jewell I New York Botanical Garden

Listen to celebrated author and avid gardener Jamaica Kincaid discuss one of her greatest loves, when she joins public radio host Jennifer Jewell for a riveting conversation about gardens, the plants that fill them, and the extraordinary women who tend them.

Landscape Architects, Two Oregon Women Laid the Groundwork for Many of the Northwest’s Enduring Gardens I OregonLive
The scenery has improved in the century since Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver founded the first landscape architecture firm owned and operated by women in the Pacific Northwest.

Elizabeth Lord (1887-1976) and Edith Schryver (1901-1984) formed Lord & Schryver in 1929, the First Firm of Women Landscape Architects in the Pacific Northwest. 

Indigenous Spirituality inside Oregon Prisons I OPB

In 1978 the American Indian Religious Freedom Act allowed Native Americans to practice spirituality in the open. This inspirational video highlights what female leaders are doing to enhance spirituality practices in Oregon prisons, including gathering and serving sacred foods from the earth.

Oregon Garden Yoga↗
Interview and stretching tips for gardeners.

Yoga for Gardeners↗
This all-level holistic practice is for everyone! Suited perfectly for the actual gardener, but also designed for the metaphorical gardener within each of us.

Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and Urban Greenspace

Note: this article was originally written for the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon (HPSO) Quarterly Magazine (spring 2022 issue). The wonderful team at the HPSO, especially Eloise Morgan, provided copy editing assistance on this article.


To observe Oregon State University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, the Master Gardener Program hosted a screening of the movie ‘The Ants and the Grasshopper’. The movie follows Anita Chitaya, as she travels from her home in Malawi, to farms and gardens across the United States to share her story of how climate change is impacting her village. Afterwards, Dr. Vivek Shandas of Portland State University joined us to discuss the intersection of historical racism, landscaping and greenspace, and environmental justice.

When Anita Chitaya was asked what Americans can do to help the people in Malawi, she responded that she wanted people to talk about climate change and tell people about the plight of her village. Her response struck me for three reasons. First, she could have asked for many different things, such as money or advocacy. Instead, she thought it most important to talk about climate change. She, like many of you, saw great value in spreading knowledge. Second, after considering Anita Chitaya’s request, I realized that I don’t personally talk about climate change, outside of my classes. The scientific study of climate change has firmly established that human-caused climate change is happening, is accelerating at an unprecedented rate, and represents a danger to the life as we know it on earth (IPCC, 2021). I firmly believe that climate change is the one of the most important issues of our time, and I regularly worry about the world that my grandchildren will inherit. Yet I still feel shy to broach the subject with friends and family. Finally, Anita Chitaya was working to amplify the voice and concerns of those most affected by climate change. And, the movie made it quite clear that those most affected by climate change often hold the least power. This is something that Dr. Jeremy Hoffman of The Science Museum of Virginia and Dr. Vivek Shandas of Portland State University have studied in cities across the United States. And their work has direct connections to landscaping and gardening, as well as to historical racism and segregationist policies.

Together with Nicholas Pendleton, Drs. Hoffman and Shandas looked at 108 cities across the United States (Hoffman et al. 2020). For each city, they looked at historical Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC) maps from the 1930s, to see which neighborhoods had been ‘redlined’. Redlining is the historical practice of refusing loans or insurance to entire neighborhoods, based upon racially motivated perceptions about risk of investment. HOLC maps categorized neighborhoods from “Best” (A neighborhoods, outlined in green), “Still Desirable” (B neighborhoods, outlined in blue), “Definitely Declining” (C neighborhoods, outlined in yellow), and “Hazardous” (D neighborhoods, outlined in red).

After defining the historical boundaries of the A, B, C, and D HOLC neighborhoods, the scientists generated Land Surface Temperature maps (LST maps) using publically available Landsat imagery. The LST maps were based upon Landsat data for summer months (June – August) of 2014 through 2017, when cloud cover was less than 10 percent. The resolution of the LST maps was fairly course (30 meters by 30 meters), but nonetheless provided data on neighborhood- and city-scale patterns of modern-day heat.

A HOLC  map for Portland Oregon, circa 1938. Green areas were rated ‘A’ or ‘Best’. Blue areas were rated ‘B’ or ‘Still Desirable’. Yellow areas were rated ‘C’ or ‘Definitely Declining’. Red areas were rated ‘D’ or ‘Hazardous’. Creative Commons License. Original Source: Robert K. Nelson, LaDale Winling, Richard Marciano, Nathan Connolly, et al., “Mapping Inequality,” American Panorama
, ed. Robert K. Nelson and Edward L. Ayers, accessed February 7, 2022, https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redlining/

What they found was astonishing: 94% of the cities they examined had city-scale patterns of extreme heat in historically redlined areas. Let me put this another way: 80 years had passed between the HOLC maps and the LST maps that they used as data for this study and 50 years had passed since the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was passed to stop the practice of redlining. Yet, these neighborhoods still bore the signature of historical racism, in the form of urban heat. Notably, the largest modern-day difference between “D” and “A” neighborhoods was found in Portland, Oregon. On average, neighborhoods that had been classified as “D” in the 1930s were 13 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than neighborhoods that had been classified as “A”. Nationally, historical “D” neighborhoods were 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than “A” neighborhoods.

What could account for these differences in temperature? First, historical “D” neighborhoods lacked tree canopy cover, parks, gardens and other greenspaces and green infrastructure that can help to naturally cool a city. This is consistent with the historical disinvestment in redlined neighborhoods. Not only were loans and insurance withheld, but when trees were removed due to damage and disease, they were often not replanted. In addition, redlined neighborhoods were also the most likely to be developed. Residents in these neighborhoods often lacked the social capitol needed to successfully protest the loss of a public garden or park, or to fight a new road or highway. This meant that these areas, over time, were more likely to be paved, and less likely to have trees.

I asked Dr. Shandas, during our discussion following the film, how gardeners and landscapers can promote social justice and fight environmental racism through our work. He responded that urban greening and tree planting initiatives seem and obvious answer, but that they need to be planned and executed in close consultation with community members most affected by urban heat. Perhaps not surprisingly, these community members are often the most vulnerable to extreme weather and climate change, including the homeless or those in rental or federally subsidized housing and without easy access to air conditioning. For a good example of an effort to work closely with local communities to increase trees and greenspace in historically redlined neighborhoods, you can visit Dr. Hoffman’s ‘Throwing Shade in RVA’ website (Hoffman, n.d.).

Urban forests, such as the trees that provide beauty and shade on the Corvallis campus of Oregon State University, are important assets for moderating urban heat and integral to building and maintaining sustainable cities. Photo Credit: Gail Langellotto

I don’t purport to have great solutions or answers to heavy issues such as climate change, environmental justice, or historical and systemic racism. But, I take inspiration from the direction provided by Anita Chitaya, and I am working to become more comfortable talking about climate change. I’m also taking inspiration from the direction given by Dr. Shandas, and am trying to grow my service to community partners in a way that focuses on listening, learning, and following their direction. I also think that it is interesting to note how gardens, trees, and greenspace play a central role in who is exposed to versus protected from urban, extreme heat. As gardeners, these aren’t often issues that we consider or contend with. But, the Master Gardener program is focused on the science of gardens and other greenspaces, and Drs. Hoffman and Shandas have provided compelling evidence of the research-basis of patterns that we might not notice or that we take for granted in cities and neighborhoods across the U.S.


Hoffman, J.S. No Date. Throwing shade in RVA. http://jeremyscotthoffman.com/throwing-shade, Accessed February 1, 2022.

Hoffman, J.S.; Shandas, V.; Pendleton, N. 2020. The Effects of Historical Housing Policies on Resident Exposure to Intra-Urban Heat: A Study of 108 US Urban Areas. Climate 8, 12. https://doi.org/10.3390/cli8010012

IPPC 2021. Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment-report-working-group-i/