30+ Master Gardener volunteers from 15 counties across the state, along with 7 Master Gardener program staff and faculty recently kicked off the first cohort of a task force focused on expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion in the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program. These volunteers have made an incredible personal volunteer commitment to serve on the task force for one year, and the faculty and staff are excited to work alongside them on this journey.
As a learning community we explore:
our own stories and history
history of racism in Oregon
founding stories of land grant institutions
colonization within the field of our work
growing our awareness of inequities to improve our critical consciousness
As a working community we work to:
Increase the diversity of who we serve in the community
Increase the diversity of who we are in the program
Grow the breadth of our curriculum and events to include cultural practices and inclusion
Model inclusive practices to our peers in the MG program
Form, grow and strengthen our work with community partners
We meet monthly to deepen our learning and to connect, and working sub groups are also running throughout the month. These four workgroups are focused on the following questions:
Who becomes a Master Gardener?
What are our current demographics? What are the barriers to becoming a Master Gardener? Barriers identified in previous surveys of MG volunteers and coordinators include: -time required to take the course and to fulfill volunteer hours; -cost of the training course and financial penalty for not completing volunteer hours; -location of training course and volunteer opportunities; -time of year/day when training course is offered.
Who do we serve in the community?
Mapping of where the MG Program currently works and operates Using an asset-based approach, identify existing organizations and potential partners, groups and communities working in areas of the community where we are not.
How can our Master Gardener curriculum and content grow to be more inclusive?
Examining existing MG curriculum and making recommendations on how the MG curriculum can be broadened beyond a Euro-centric perspective that assumes land access and ownership. Should and how do we include different cultural perspectives in the curriculum?
What events and programming should we grow/develop to support this work?
Identify and plan special events, such as OSU Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of celebration, Pride and others as identified by subgroup. Coordinate and plan the Culture of Gardening series.
Why a DEI Task Force?
In 2020, we made clear statements and reiterated our commitment to building a more inclusive program. We know that these changes cannot be made without Master Gardener volunteers playing a key role in identifying and doing the work alongside us, as a way to engage and demonstrate, and to hold each other accountable. We have work to do, and we are committed to doing it together.
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.
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
At this time, when many Oregon counties are in the ‘Extreme Risk’ of COVID transmission category, there are limited opportunities for Master Gardener volunteerism. And, until we return to ‘normal’, we can expect that OSU Extension will require approval for in-person programming and employee travel. The current guidance that we are operating under can be found in the PDF, below.
During this time of COVID restrictions, Master Gardener volunteers have continued to serve their communities by writing social media posts (gardening tips of the week), participating in virtual plant clinic, or approved work in demonstration of community gardens. Given the limited selection of approved volunteer activities at this time, I am pleased to announce that there are two new options available for Master Gardener volunteer service. Both of these projects are eligible for volunteer service hour credit.
1) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Learning Community and Task Force
Are you interested in participating in a statewide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI )workgroup? We are exploring the formation of a statewide DEI workgroup that would include OSU Extension Master Gardener staff and volunteers.
For the past 8 months, a small group of Master Gardener program staff have been meeting to establish priorities and to work on creating a more equitable and inclusive program. We’d like to grow this group to include volunteers, and to create a learning community and work group dedicated to DEI. Are you interested in participating? We’d love to hear from you.
A learning community and working group to focus on needs and priorities for diversity, equity and inclusion in the OSU Extension Master Gardener program
Estimated time commitment is 5 hours/month. Statewide working group to meet monthly, subteams to meet 1-2 times a month for specific focused work. Hours count towards MG volunteer hours.
Apply before February 12th. We hope to have the first meeting in April.
Food Hero and Master Gardeners are collaborating on the 2021 Grow This! Oregon Garden Challenge. The second year of the Grow This! Oregon Garden Challenge, is much bigger than last year’s Challenge! This year we are looking to sign up 8,000 gardeners to grow vegetable and flowers and need your help!
We need your help to grow along and share your expert advice with these gardeners. Please consider signing up to participate as a Grow This! Champion. Your growing tips, comments, challenges and stories will be shared on our social media platforms and in monthly update emails to beginning gardeners as a way to build a growing community across the state.
Master Gardener volunteers are invited to participate, and apply to be a Grow This! Champion.
A Grow This! Champion:
Must be a current Oregon Master Gardener volunteer or Master Gardeners representing a county demonstration/educational garden.
Will need to apply for the Grow This! Champion program by midnight February 19 (we are looking to include Master Gardeners from across the state and may need to limit participation if demand exceeds our seed supply).
Will receive one crop seed packet and one flower seed packet. (Type and variety will be selected at random.) Pick up will be at your county in March (specifics will be sent by email)
Must agree to give feedback on your growing process and results at least once—but as often as you want—during the Challenge. Feedback could include suggestions, comments, challenges and solutions, stories, photos, drawings or videos that we can share with others (with or without your name). These can be emailed to email@example.com or shared on social media adding the following text to any post: @BeAFoodHero and #mastergardener. All feedback is WELCOME.
Can count your active time spent on this project as Master Gardener volunteer hours (report as ‘community science’)
Questions? Email Brooke.Edmunds AT oregonstate.edu or food.hero AT oregonstate.edu or leave a voice message at 541-737-1017.
Learn more about the challenge here: https://www.foodhero.org/growthis. You can also download the flier in the file, below, to share with other Master Gardener volunteers who might be interested in participating.
As part of the University-wide 39th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers and staff are invited ahead of time to read, view and reflect upon materials and prompts of inclusion and identity as gardeners and Master Gardeners. These include:
Use Google Image Search to search for the terms, below. What do you notice about the images that are returned with these search terms? What does it say about who is or can be a gardener or Master Gardener?
You are also invited to attend the morning’s keynote address to be delivered by Dr. Angela Davis for Oregon State University’s 39th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. University-wide celebration. The event is free and open to the public. Register here.
As 2020 comes to a close, we are glad to be looking forward and seeing light in the new year and path ahead. Gardeners are resilient, and that includes OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers. So let’s look at an overview of what’s coming to the OSU Extension Master Gardener program in 2021.
Growing Oregon Gardeners: Level Up Series
This monthly Zoom series kicks off in January, offering education led by OSU horticulture experts for the experienced gardener. Take your gardening knowledge to the next level with timely topics ranging from gardening in a changing climate to techniques to extend your season.
The second Tuesday of the month, 3pm, January-November 2021
Zoom, with recordings available for you to view anytime
Open to the public, Master Gardener volunteers receive continuing education credit
Elevated Skills Training for Current Master Gardener Volunteers
Ready to gather new skills to elevate your Master Gardener volunteerism? Through the Elevated Skills Trainings, Master Gardeners will learn how to use new tools for plant ID, advance your zoom or social media skills, and learn about community science within the Master Gardener program, are just a few examples. We’ll be using an online training tool named Thinkific, which is the same platform we’ve used to deliver the COVID Safety Training and the Celebrate Master Gardener Week. Each week, a new lesson will open for you to work through, on your own time, and at your own pace. Each lesson is optional: you can take whichever ones interest you. Once a lesson is open it will remain open for the rest of 2021, meaning you can take it at any time during the year.
late January-late March 2021
online learning platform, Thinkific
Current Master Gardeners (including 2020 trainees)
OSU Extension Master Gardeners and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebration
As part of the University-wide 39th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers and staff are invited to read, view and reflect upon materials and prompts of inclusion and identity as gardeners and Master Gardeners. A moderated online Zoom discussion will follow.
January 18th, 7pm
OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers, staff, faculty
Dr. Angela Davis will be delivering the keynote address for Oregon State University’s 39th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. University-wide celebration. The event is free and open to the public. Register here.
The Culture of Gardening
Let’s explore what gardening means to different people and groups, and how to grow and use plants from a variety of cultures. This new series of blog posts and talks will debut in late spring 2021, with a keynote address by horticulturist Abra Lee on the history of African American gardens and gardeners.
May 18th + more dates in the series
Zoom online, with recordings available, and this blog
OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers and the gardening public
More details to be announced.
Mini-College for OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers
The Oregon Master Gardener Association is organizing the first all online Mini-College, coming this summer. Plans include an array of classes and workshops for gardeners of all levels.
OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers and the gardening public
More details to come.
We will post more information and details as they become available. We hope to see many of you in 2021!
Community science projects, like climate or invasive species tracking, are reliant on observant volunteers, on the ground, able to report back findings. Think about how the Asian Giant Hornet was recently discovered in Washington State: Whatcom County residents served as the eyes and ears alongside scientists to spot, locate, and eventually destroy the nest.
In 2016, we developed guidelines to encourage OSU Master Gardener Volunteers to engage in community science projects and to have those hours count towards volunteer hours. These guidelines require that community science projects must:
Align with the Master Gardener educational mission of discovering and disseminating research-based gardening information,
Advance one of both of the flagship programs of the OSU Extension Master Gardener program: sustainable gardening and/or home and community food production,
Involve participation on one or more levels of the community science typology. These levels are (from least to most involvement): crowdsourcing, distributed intelligence, participatory science, collaborative science.
The following are Oregon and national community science projects which are approved for indirect volunteer hours with the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program as of 12/2020. You may count your hours as the actual time spent collecting and submitting data. When reporting volunteer hours associated with participation in approved community science projects, volunteers should report in the category of ‘Citizen Science’ (indirect volunteer hours).
Projects approved for OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer hours
I like to think of gardeners as the original storm chasers. We can spot a change in humidity, temperature, scent and know if something is coming, and whether we should cover those tender seedlings, bring in the pots of zonal denial tropicals, or if we need to do an extra watering of the new plantings before tomorrow’s anticipated record high temperatures. A gardener is witness to the climate first hand, and many Master Gardener volunteers use these great skills as front row reporters on climate and climate change as part of the OSU Extension Oregon Season Tracker (OST) citizen science program reporting precipitation with national partner CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network).
Through CoCoRaHS, volunteers of all ages and background in all fifty states participate by measuring and mapping precipitation (rain, hail and snow). They share their precipitation measurements, providing important data for natural resource, education and research applications. Here in Oregon we’ve had over 70 Master Gardener volunteers join Oregon Season Tracker, active and engaged with reporting their precipitation, counting towards their hours of service in the Master Gardener program.
Shari Bosler, a Master Gardener in the Central Gorge region, collects precipitation data throughout the year. She shares her information with her local Master Gardener chapter, and with more participants sharing their data through the CoCoRaHS network, she’s able to see what’s happening throughout the region. Shari says “It’s been fun to total the amount of snow we receive (though it’s a bit less than fun to be the mad scientist at 7am to melt snow, then measure) using a white board.” But she knows she’s part of a larger network all contributing to capturing good local data for scientists and researchers across the country, and that’s exciting. This summer she learned she had totaled 2,614 observations to the network.
Master Gardener volunteers make great partners in capturing this data according to Jody Einerson of Oregon Season Tracker (OST) at OSU extension. “OST citizen science volunteers are collecting precipitation and plant phenology data from home that is contributed to databases operated by our national partners,” she says. “MG’s have been a great fit with the OST program, as we share a common interest in plants and weather connections.”
Amy Jo Detweiler, OSU Extension horticulturist and associate professor, also coordinates the Master Gardener Program in Central Oregon. Her publication, Water-wise Gardening in Central Oregon (revised this past June) is a vital resource for successful gardening with little water and includes the seven steps of water-wise gardening, along with planting recommendations from trees to shrubs to ornamental grasses.
“As we continue to see a consistent pattern of drought in the western United States, we need to balance what our home and commercial landscapes can and should look like with a focus on water conservation and water quality. Landscapes add value, beauty, and livability to our homes and communities, and keeping them water-wise is a critical part of being a good steward in our region.”
Water-wise Gardening in Central Oregon
Central Oregon Master Gardener volunteers helped to design, install and now maintain Hollinshead Waterwise Garden in Bend. They do cross programming with the City of Bend Water Conservation program to deliver classes related to water-wise gardening (in normal years). Master Gardeners also maintain water-wise plants at the OSU Demonstration Garden in Redmond. Both gardens have educational signs that depict water use fire-resistance, irrigation types, etc. The water-wise materials serve as materials for classes taught by Master Gardener volunteers.
Almost all of our Master Gardener volunteers felt the effects of wildfires this year, and we know that means our gardens, too. Master Gardener networks fielded queries and responded with science-backed information thanks to materials produced by Brooke Edmunds, OSU Extension Community Horticulturist (and Master Gardener Coordinator) in Linn and Benton Counties and assistant professor (practice) in the OSU Department of Horticulture. What should I do about the wildfire ash covering my garden? addressed exactly that question, and along with social media materials in English and Spanish, Master Gardener volunteers made sure the information was passed on into communities right when they were needed the most.
Today is Day 4 of Celebrate Master Gardener Week, and we hope you can make it to this evening’s “State of the Statewide Master Gardener Program” talk being given by Gail Langellotto. The presentation will review recent accomplishments and points of pride, current challenges and opportunities, and an overview of what is to come in 2021. And study up for tomorrow night’s Insect Trivia using both Zoom and some technology called Slido. Register here!
Today, I want to shine a spotlight on and celebrate all of the great work that Master Gardener volunteers do in support to support native species conservation and address concerns regarding invasive species.
In addition to promoting mason bee conservation, Washington County Master Gardeners have several ‘insect domiciles’ at their PCC Rock Creek education garden. These structures add visual interest to a garden, and provide year-round habitat for a variety of insects and arthropods to nest. The idea is that beneficial predators, including carabid beetles, rove beetles, and spiders take up residence in the domicile, and help protect the plants from garden pests. I hope to eventually work with the Washington County Master Gardeners to break down the structures and document the diversity of arthropod and insect residents within.
Master Gardeners across the state support native bee conservation and education, as community scientists who have partnered with the Oregon Bee Project to document the current status of Oregon’s bees. The Oregon Bee Atlas’ four year mission (2018-2021) is to train volunteers to explore Oregon Counties, to seek out new native bee records for the state, to boldly go where no amateur melittologist has gone before! These new specimen records will be added to newly digitized historic records from the Oregon State Arthropod Collection to build the first comprehensive account of the native bee fauna of Oregon. Master Gardeners in nearly every Oregon county participate in this statewide effort.
Master Gardeners are also stewards of native plant across the state. In our applied research program, we have studied 23 of Oregon’s native plant species, to better understand which are most attractive to pollinators ~ as well as to gardeners! Our 3-year field study identified a number of species were highly attractive to native pollinators across all years, including the Phacelia heterophylla, Solidago candensis, and Aster subspicatus. Unfortunately, these three plants were not attractive to many gardeners. We found that Gilia capitata and Eschscholzia californica were highly attractive plant to both native pollinators and to consumers. Clarkia amoena and Anaphalis margaritacea were moderately to highly attractive to native pollinators in 2/3 years of our field study. These plants were also found to be moderately attractive to gardeners. Finally, we established that several non-native plants that are popular with consumers and touted as bee plants are highly attractive to non-native honey bees and, but not native bees.
Master Gardeners also help to protect Oregon’s native species, by participating in research and education efforts related to invasive species detection and eradication. Earlier this year, Master Gardener volunteers in Jackson and Josephine County assisted the Oregon Department of Agriculture and OSU Extension in setting out and monitoring gypsy moth traps. Gypsy moth poses a significant environmental and economic threat to Oregon’s forests. In a normal year, the Oregon Department of Agriculture sets out more than 10,000 traps to find incipient populations, that can be effectively eradicated before moth numbers grow and expand to new areas. In 2020, COVID made it more difficult for the ODA to conduct their normal trapping and monitoring operations. However, Master Gardeners were ready and able to lend a hand.
It should be worth noting . . . that even though Asian Giant Hornet is not yet in Oregon . . . that it was the actions of dedicated volunteers, setting out traps throughout the summer, that helped scientists locate and eradicate the first Asian Giant Hornet nest in the United States. I am hoping that our colleagues in Washington State will be fully successful at locally eradicating this new invader. However, if need be, I also have great confidence that Oregon’s Master Gardener volunteers will heed the call to help keep this and other potential invaders from wreaking environmental and economic havoc in our state.
Thank you, Master Gardeners . . . for your love and protection of the natural world. You are helping to conserve and protect the natural history and heritage of our state, for future generations. You are helping to open people’s eyes to the beautiful insects that would otherwise be overlooked. You’re pushing boundaries with garden design, by placing native plants where they had previously had no place and creating habitat for insects.
Every time you build insect or bird habitat into your garden or share information about the ecological beauty of native species, you are making a difference. Your choices matter, and are helping to create a better world for all.
We continue our 2020 Celebration of Oregon’s Master Gardener volunteers, by thanking Master Gardeners for all they do to build strong local food systems across Oregon. If you haven’t already registered for the mini-film festival and discussion that accompanies Master Gardener week, you can do so by visiting THIS LINK. Tonight, we will be discussing “Land Grab: The Movie” with the film’s director, Sean O’Grady, and OSU Urban Agriculture Instructor, Mykl Nelson.
The Master Gardener Program first started in Oregon in 1976, with 31 individuals who enrolled for class in Lane County or in Clackamas County. Helping others grow their own food has always been an essential aspect of the Oregon’s Master Gardener Program. And volunteers are so diverse in their individual approaches to growing food, which offers so many examples and ideas to others who might be starting their own journey in food production. Below are just a few examples of the diverse food production methods innovated, demonstrated, and practiced by Master Gardener volunteers across the state.
In 2008, Lincoln County Master Gardener Bill Biernacki his garden-scale method to extend the growing season on the Oregon coast, via a Raised Bed Cloche. Biernacki collaborated with Extension Sam Angima (now an Associate Dean in the College of Agriculture) to write a publication teaching others how to build their own raised bed cloche. Their method has been adopted by gardeners in challenging climates, across the state.
In Marion County, Master Gardener Jim Liskey designed and refined a drip irrigation system for the Marion County demonstration garden, as a way to show others how to increase production, decrease weed pressure, and conserve water in raised beds.
In Multnomah County, Master Gardener volunteers built out trellises to show how to grow vining vegetables that would otherwise take up a lot of space in small urban lots. Over the years, the group has also experimented with dry farming vegetables in raised beds, and has recorded and shared the results of their trials.
In Lane County, Master Gardeners have built raised beds, pulley systems, and lowering trellises, to make gardening more accesible to everyone. Their motto is ‘Garden Smarter ~ Not Harder’. And, one of their volunteers is the living embodiment of this motto. Pat Patterson was a member of the very first Master Gardener class, in 1976 in Lane County. Pat continues to grow and share food in her community, and is also just as generous with her wealth of knowledge related to vegetable gardening and adaptive gardening.
Master Gardeners have tested and trialed grafted tomatoes, to see if their increased production merits their increased cost. One of the biggest advocates of grafted vegetables is Harry Olsen, who has developed the ‘Harry Prune Method’ for maximizing tomato production. Harry gardens on a small lot in Salem, Oregon (perhaps less than 0.15 acres?). Even though this is his private home, he operates it like a public demonstration garden, eager to teach anyone who wants to learn how to maximize food production on a small urban lot. In fact, when Mykl Nelson and I were building out the very first accredited Urban Agriculture certificate program in the United States, I had Mykl visit Harry to see his production system and to learn more about his approach.
In addition to demonstrating effective growing techniques, Master Gardeners are also supporting food security in their communities. This has been particularly important in 2020, as concerns about disruptions to global food chains and economic hardship have renewed interest in food gardening.
Master Gardener volunteers really stepped up their efforts to support their communities’ local food systems in 2020. But, *every* year, Master Gardener volunteers do so much to support local food across the state. For example, in 2019, Master Gardener volunteers donated 52.5 TONS of fresh food to local food banks and food pantries, and supported the efforts of gardeners in 29 school gardens, 46 community gardens, and 23 teaching/demonstration gardens. That’s something to be proud of, and something that all Oregonians can applaud!
2020 has delivered many challenges and Oregon Extension Master Gardeners have risen to meet them. Identifying pest problems, recommending plant options, responding to compost concerns have all gone from in-person discussions to virtual workshops, email, and web based interactions. This has been a tremendous pivot, all while Oregonian’s interests in gardening, and beginner gardeners, have skyrocketed in numbers.
In order to meet the needs of the community and to support our 3,000 active Master Gardeners, we are excited to begin announcing our approach to elevated education in 2021.
Current Master Gardeners (including 2020 trainees) will be offered an innovative new curriculum, online, via a combination of self-paced learning and live webinars and online conversations with OSU experts. Online discussion boards and meeting rooms will be used to foster connectedness, networking, and the exchange of ideas among Master Gardeners across the state. This curriculum will be delivered January – March, 2021, so that Master Gardener volunteers can launch the 2021 gardening season empowered to serve Oregon’s experienced and novice gardeners.
Trainings for new Master Gardeners will occur again in 2022.
What this means for Master Gardeners: • access to top level university training opportunities to connect, learn and grow with others in your local community as well as across the state; • learn how to take the deep well of horticulture knowledge you have and bring it to more people, friends and neighbors through learning new online tools;
What this means for Oregonians; • increased accessibility to OSU Extension Master Gardeners, questions and advice; • a whole wave of new regionally relevant resources to support Oregon’s gardeners; • increased topics of knowledge for growing plants for food, health and wellness;
We will continue to offer our core services to gardeners in local communities, including answering your gardening questions, teaching and demonstrating locally-relevant gardening methods, and supporting locally-driven and delivered garden education opportunities. But we’re also expanding and strengthening our ability to develop and disseminate gardening advice and information in ways that are easily accessible to gardeners of all levels, on their own time, at their own pace, and at no cost.
In the coming week, surveys will be distributed to current Master Gardeners to solicit your thoughts, ideas and priorities for this new 2021 curriculum. We look forward to hearing what’s important to you and your local communities and are excited to work together in 2021. Together, we can grow Oregon’s gardeners.