Report to the Oregon Master Gardener Association Board of Directors (4th Quarter meeting, 2021)

Each quarter, Gail Langellotto (me, the statewide OSU Extension Master Gardener Program Leader) provides a report to the Oregon Master Gardener Association Board of Directors. This blog post is a copy of that report.

Please note that the information referenced on the hyperlinks attached to this report can change rapidly, particularly for COVID guidance from OSU. I am sharing what I know, as of this moment in time. The guidance may very well change, in the near future.

Updates from OSU Extension

  • Dr. Ivory Lyles will start his tenure as Vice Provost of Outreach and Engagement, and Director of the OSU Extension Service, on September 30th.
  • OSU’s vaccination requirement does not apply to volunteers, but to faculty, staff, and students.
  • The COVID-19 Safety Training for OSU Extension offices is being updated. It had been required for volunteers, participating in face-to-face programs and projects. I don’t yet know how it will be rolled out or required, in the future. But, as staying safe in the workplace is a high priority, I would hope that this training will be put to good use within the Master Gardener Program, and across all Extension programs.
  • OSU has updated their guidance for in person events.
    • OSU-managed, indoor, face-to-face programs and activities can proceed, where registration (day of or pre-registration) occurs.
    • OSU-managed, outdoor, face-to-face programs and activities can proceed, where registration (day of or pre-registration) occurs.
  • Where MGs might be participating in events not managed by OSU:
    • employees and volunteers are expected to follow OSU policy and OHA public health recommendations (regarding face coverings, for example), but we can’t impose our guidelines on events and activities that are managed by community partners.
    • we can opt not to participate in community partner events, in the interest of public health and safety. 

2022 Master Gardener Awards

  • Nominations for county and statewide Master Gardener awards are due on May 15th, every year.
  • The 2022 nominations forms will be posted online. This will make it easier to track nominations, as they are submitted. The current system of sending them through email makes it difficult to manage, given the amount of email volume that Gail receives.
  • Please make sure that your county Master Gardener groups knows that they should start discussing potential nominees WELL IN ADVANCE of the May 15th deadline. I would suggest putting it on the agenda in January or February of each year, making final decisions in March of each year, and then using April to write up nominations.
  • Communicate with your Master Gardener coordinator throughout the process. Double check and cross check that everyone is on the same page, when it comes to the name(s) that will be submitted for awards.

2022 Master Gardener Training

  • Counties are currently planning for recruitment of 2022 Master Gardener trainees, and delivery of the 2022 Master Gardener training classes.
  • Many/most counties are planning for hybrid (online and in person) training options, that allow greater flexibility and opportunity for participation. The online options are also a safe option, given instructors’ and students’ (or potential students’) concerns about COVID. Your specific county program can share the details of their training series.
  • New in 2022: the statewide Master Gardener program office is developing:
    • a module that goes over the statewide policies and expectations, related to volunteerism with OSU and in the Master Gardener Program. This module is intended to serve as an orientation for new Master Gardener students, but will also serve as a good reminder/update for continuing Master Gardener volunteers. The module is required for all new Master Gardener trainees, and recommended / required (we haven’t settled on this, yet) every 2-3 years for continuing MG volunteers. This module will include information on:
      • What does it mean to be a MG: Representative of the University; Recognition of advanced training and study; Expectations for superior customer service and support
      • Required Paperwork: Code of Conduct, Conditions of Volunteer Service Form (every year), PD, OSU College of Ag Sciences CAREs document.
      • Our commitments to protecting children.
        • Criminal History Checks (every two years?): Why they are required. What happens during the Criminal History Check Process.
        • Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse: an abridged training from the Office of Youth Safety
      • Volunteer Service Hour Requirements: What counts as volunteer hours? How to record volunteer service hours. Why the volunteer hour reporting is important.
  • A module that grows the community education component of the Master Gardener Program. Master Gardeners learn sustainable horticulture from Oregon State University and extend this information to local communities by serving as volunteers community educators. The Volunteer Community Educator Curriculum helps prepare new and continuing volunteers for this role. It will be required for new trainees, as well as for recertification of continuing Master Gardener volunteers. We anticipate offering a menu of options that individuals can participate in to satisfy this requirement, most of which are one hour or less, in length.
    • Master Gardener volunteers who are active on the statewide or on local diversity, equity, and inclusivity committees can apply their work in these groups towards meeting the training or recertification requirement.
    • OSU Extension’s DEI training for volunteers (4 modules, about 1 hour of total time, in length: Introduction, Equity, Inclusivity, and Conclusion)
    • Recipes for Collaborative Communities course (from the Elevated Skills Training Series that was offered in 2021, through Thinkific)
    • Broadening Outreach with Community Partnerships (from the Elevated Skills Training Series that was offered in 2021, through Thinkific)
    • Abra Lee’s Culture of Gardening Keynote: ‘The Work is In Our Hands’
    • Webinar from OID: to be scheduled by and delivered through the statewide office.
    • OSU’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebration Keynote or associated events
    • Events organized by the Master Gardener DEI Task Force Events committee

Dates to Remember

  • Ongoing, Second Tuesday of Each Month: Level Up, Growing Oregon Gardeners Series. Remaining classes for 2021 include: native plants (September), climate change (October), and garden soils (November). The series will return in January of 2022.
  • September 12-17, 2021. International Master Gardener Conference: September 12-17, 2021. Registration has closed, but perhaps I will see some of you there?
  • September 25, 2021: Fall Master Gardener BioBlitz: One fall day to document garden biodiversity in Oregon. Join us with your camera on September 25, 2021 to capture the insects, birds, wild plants, and other wild organisms in your garden or a nearby community or public garden space.
  • September 30th: Extension Master Gardener Photo Contest Winners will be announced on October 25th. See our blog for details.
  • Save the Date!: November 10, 2021: The Extension MG DEI Task Force Events Subcommittee is hosting a screening of the film ‘Gather’, at 7pm on November 10th. A 30 minute panel discussion will follow, featuring Dr. David Lewis of OSU. More details will be forthcoming. Please share this Save the Date with Your Volunteers.

May 15, 2022: Master Gardener Awards nominations are due.

Announcements

  • Culture of Gardening Blog. If you and your Master Gardeners have not yet seen the new ‘Culture of Gardening’ blog, please take a look. We have been receiving a lot of positive feedback from diverse communities, who are happy to broaden their understanding of diverse identities and cultures . . . and how these identities intersect with plants and gardening: 
  • Master Gardener Photography Contest: Please make sure to communicate with your Master Gardeners colleagues about the fun opportunity to participate in our first ever photography contest, currently open for submissions, through October 25th. Now is a great time to capture in photos the bounty of the summer harvest, the beauty of our demonstration gardens, and all of the hard work MGs are putting in in the community. 
  • Recruitment Materials: Priorities, Values, Mission, Vision One Pager (double-sided): You can learn more about the Master Gardener Program on our website, and can share this information with prospective Master Gardener volunteers who want to know more.  We also have a one-pager (double sided) that can be used to talk about our program.
  • We will be calling for applications for the 2nd Cohort of the Master Gardener DEI Task Force. The call for applications will go out in early 2022, with new members joining the cohort in April 2022.

Elevated Skills Training Update

If you are an Oregon Master Gardener volunteer, and haven’t already checked out the 2021 Elevated Skills Trainings for Master Gardener volunteers, now is the time to do so. Altogether, the 14 classes that are being offered have over 3,000 combined enrollments! Seven classes have already opened, and the other seven will open over the coming weeks.

Although the courses, themselves, will remain open for self-paced learning that you can complete at your own pace, and when it is most convenient to you ~ the discussions boards will only be monitored, and instructors will only be available to comment on your assignment submission, through the end of April.

Early reviews for the courses include this note about the Woody Plant ID course: “Plant ID has been my nemesis for my 12 years as a Master Gardener. I pushed through. When we got to the plant ID tool I felt like a whole new and wonderful world opened up for me. I honestly am excited about identifying plants with this tool as a guide. This has me stoked and I have never been “stoked” in my life.

The 2021 Elevated Skills Training offers Oregon’s Master Gardener volunteers a chance to expand and grow their skillset in ways that include plant and insect ID using technological tools, databases to support Plant Clinic work, and more. (Video created by Elizabeth Records, OSU Extension)

Please Note: We have changed the original guidance on CEUs for the Elevated Skills Training. Instead of one hour per course taken, you can count and report your actual time in each class, as your number of CEUs. In other words, if a class took you two hours, you can count two CEUs. If a class took you three hours, you can count three CEUs.

I am also working with MG coordinators to see if any part of course participation (such as time spent on the hands-on assignments and practical application of knowledge) can count towards required volunteer service hours. Stay tuned.

Want to sign up for classes? Visit THIS LINK for a full list of courses with enrollment links.

Elevated Skills Training for Current Master Gardener Volunteers is ready for you

We’re excited to offer this new series of 15 trainings for existing Master Gardener Volunteers (including 2020 trainees). Registration is open and you may sign up for as many classes as you like. (Please note that, even though registration is currently open for all classes, that each course will ‘open’ and become available, across a 10-week period.)

Overview of 2021 Elevated MG Skills Training and the Learning Platform Thinkific
This class is required pre-requisite for any other course in this series. Get to know the format we’re using for this series, how classes are set up and how to navigate through them, and where to turn with questions.
ENROLL HERE

Zoom Basics
Opens January 29th
Zoom is Oregon State University’s official video conferencing platform, and is currently used by Extension Master Gardener faculty, staff, and clients for online meetings, events, and webinars. This module will cover the Basics of Zoom, and is aimed at current Master Gardener volunteers who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with Zoom. Zoom Basics will cover what you need to know to be a participant in a Zoom meeting or webinar.
REGISTER HERE

Advanced Zoom
Opens January 29th
Advanced Zoom is aimed at current Master Gardener volunteers who want to step up their Zoom capabilities, by hosting interactive meetings, serving as a session moderator for your Master Gardener chapter’s virtual conference or monthly speaker series, or serving as presenter of gardening information during a webinar or other gardening event.
REGISTER HERE

iNaturalist for Master Gardener Volunteers
Opens February 6th
iNaturalist is one of the world’s most popular nature apps. This class will help you engage with the iNaturalist community, connect with other gardeners on our iNaturalist project page, and learn to identify the wild plants and animals around you, Although iNaturalist can be used to identify a broad diversity of organisms, this particular class will focus on insects and wild plants.
Note: if you are interested in taking this class to learn to identify insects, and will be using a cell phone to take and upload images to iNaturalist, you may want to consider purchasing an inexpensive macro lens that can help you capture better images of small insects.
REGISTER HERE

Garden Woody Plant ID with the OSU Landscape Plants Database
Opens February 5th
Plant identification is vital for a variety of things, from ensuring your garden thrives to helping clients at the Plant Clinic figure out what plant they are working with. This module will introduce you to the OSU Landscape Plants Database. We’ll go through the database together to learn how you can use this simple but very effective tool for identifying woody plants in your landscape, or those of clients.
REGISTER HERE

Best Practices for Online Plant Clinic
Opens February 12th
As a Master Gardener volunteer or trainee, you’re familiar with the role and function of in-person plant clinic. Your county may have recently adopted or may be in the process of adopting an online or remote plant clinic. In this online environment, some may find it challenging to research problems and communicate with clients and fellow volunteers. In this short course, you will gain knowledge and skills that connect your existing plant clinic skills to tools in your county’s online plant clinic. This course is suitable for all levels of experience with plant clinic.
REGISTER HERE

Learning How to Use the Extension Client Contact Online (ECCO) Tool in Plant Clinic
Opens February 12th
In this course you will learn how to use the Extension Client Contact Online (ECCO) tool, an online record keeping tool and database for your plant clinic clients. This module will cover how to set up a login, how to enter a new client’s information and their question(s), and how to use the database to search out clients, or specific questions using filters such as plant name, keyword or questions topic. Additionally, this tool has a built in guide that can help improve your skill set in diagnosing plant damage.
REGISTER HERE

Taking Your Master Gardener Social Media to the Next Level
Opens February 19th
Social media offers many opportunities for OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers to promote and share local events and meetings, but it also can connect gardeners in your region to a plethora of resources and is a great form of community building. In this course we’ll go deeper into how to use Facebook to connect with broader audiences, and we’ll tap into Instagram and even Nextdoor. We’ll identify how to enact the great skills we have in-person with the public to social networking platforms, and how to work as teams with other Master Gardener volunteers to coordinate your efforts. Maybe you’ll be the next big influencer!
REGISTER HERE

Best Practices in Youth Gardening Programs
Opens February 26th
As a Master Gardener volunteer, you will have the opportunity to work with youth in the garden. This module will cover the basics of Oregon State University’s Youth Safety & Guidelines, youth developmental stages, understand your role in building partnerships with youth, and develop garden-based education activities according to youth’s developmental stages. This short module is suitable for all Gardener volunteers with or without experience working with youth.
REGISTER HERE

Superpower Your Educational Garden
Opens February 26th
This module is designed to inspire! We’ll be showcasing innovative educational outreach happening in educational gardens across the state (and beyond). We will share ideas for online outreach strategies to boost engagement with your demonstration/learning gardens and/or community gardens. Plus we’ll explore best practices to create engaging garden learning opportunities for both seasoned and newer Master Gardener volunteers. This module is organized by Brooke Edmunds (Extension Horticulturalist in Linn and Benton Counties) and Marcia McIntyre (Program Representative in the Portland metro area) and features a panel discussion with Master Gardeners from the Central Oregon, Multnomah and Washington County programs.
REGISTER HERE

Community Science and the Master Gardener Program
Opens March 5th NEW Opening Date: March 26th
Community science is a type of scientific research or monitoring, where science professionals work closely with individuals or community groups to leverage local knowledge and insights, social learning, and collective action to help discover and disseminate new knowledge. Master Gardener volunteers are active and excellent collaborators on many community science projects across Oregon, and science professionals regularly seek out opportunities to work closely with Master Gardener volunteers on new projects. In this module, we explore how science works and how it relates to your garden. The overall aim is to deepen your understanding of the scientific process, and introduce you to several projects that you might participate in as a community scientist. 
REGISTER HERE

Showcase Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Efforts in Other States
Opens March 12th
You’ll have a chance to see how other states are overcoming barriers and creating new pathways to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how new audiences are being reached through the Master Gardener program. Find out what you can take back to your county!
REGISTER HERE

OSU Extension’s Diversity Training for Volunteers
Opens March 12th
More information to come.
This class has been postponed. An update will be posted, as soon as it becomes available.

Recipes for a Collaborative Community
Opens March 15th
Master Gardener programs around the state involve a wide-range of volunteers, partner organizations, and community clients. How everyone works together can contribute to the success or detriment of a project/program. What is the “secret sauce” to achieve a successful, collaborative community? A community that achieves shared goals and keeps people coming back and participating.
REGISTER HERE

Building Community Partnerships to Broaden Outreach
Opens March 19th
We’re stronger together: grow and expand who you work with in the community by developing effective community partnerships. In this course you’ll learn how to identify possible partners, how to engage in partnerships, identify possible funding, and learn from other partnerships across Oregon and the country. We’ll look at examples of both rural and urban partnerships, get inspired, and chart a plan for growing effective partnerships. REGISTER HERE

Connect with Other Oregon Master Gardeners During the 10-Week Course Period

If you are on Facebook, you may want to consider joining the private group that we have set up to coincide with this 10-week training period. Connect with other Master Gardeners, ask questions, or share observations.

JOIN THE PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP HERE

Growing Oregon Gardeners: Level Up Series

This monthly zoom series kicks off in January, offering education for the experienced gardener led by OSU horticulture experts from across the state. Take your gardening knowledge to the next level with timely topics from gardening in a changing climate to techniques to extend your season.

WHENThe second Tuesday of the month, 3pm, January-November 2021
WHEREZoom, recordings available to watch anytime
WHOOpen to the public, OSU Extension Master Gardeners receive continuing education credit
HOWTake one or take all. Read more and register here.
COSTFree

Elevated Skills Training for Current Master Gardener Volunteers

Ready to gather new skills to elevate your Master Gardener volunteerism? Through Elevated Skills Trainings, Master Gardeners will learn how to use new tools for garden plant ID, advance your zoom or social media skills, and learn about community science within the Master Gardener program, as 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.

WHENlate January-late March 2021
WHEREonline learning platform Thinkific
WHOCurrent Master Gardeners (including 2020 trainees)
HOWTake one or take all.
COSTFree

Read more about plans for 2021, including additional event and trainings.

Getting ready for 2021: the OSU Extension Master Gardener program

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.

WHENThe second Tuesday of the month, 3pm, January-November 2021
WHEREZoom, with recordings available for you to view anytime
WHOOpen to the public, Master Gardener volunteers receive continuing education credit
HOWTake one or take all. More information, including the list of classes here.
COSTFree

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.

WHENlate January-late March 2021
WHEREonline learning platform, Thinkific
WHOCurrent Master Gardeners (including 2020 trainees)
HOWTake one or take all. More information, including the list of classes here.
COSTFree

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.

WHENJanuary 18th, 7pm
WHEREZoom online
WHOOSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers, staff, faculty
HOWRegister online. More information here.
COSTFree

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.

WHENMay 18th + more dates in the series
WHEREZoom online, with recordings available, and this blog
WHOOSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers and the gardening public
HOWMore details to be announced.
COSTFree

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.

WHENJuly 16th-17th
WHEREonline
WHOOSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers and the gardening public
HOWMore details to come.

We will post more information and details as they become available. We hope to see many of you in 2021!

What’s coming in 2021 for OSU Extension Master Gardener training?

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.
 

The Known-Unknown Framework of Discovery

The known-unknown framework for discovering and generating new knowledge is a time-tested approach, first attributed to the Greek Philosopher Socrates, and later refined by the 13th century Persian-Tajik poet and philosopher, Ibn Yami.

Briefly, this framework asks four questions:

  • What do we know already (known knowns)?
  • What are the surprises that we are completely unaware of (unknown unknowns)?
  • What biases and unconscious thoughts might be influencing our understanding (unknown knowns)?
  • Do our assumptions have validity, or are they off-target  (known unknowns)?
The known-unkowns framework of knowledge discovery considers the role of current knowledge, assumptions, biases, and surprises in our understanding of a situation.

As the Master Gardener Program continues to operate in the unique era of COVID-19, we want to take a deep dive into benefits, barriers, opportunities, and impacts that are experienced by Master Gardener volunteers and the communities that we serve. Thus, in true Master Gardener style, we’re going to ask a lot of questions ~ of ourselves, of you, and others ~ and we want to actively listen with open ears, open minds, and open hearts.

As the Statewide Master Gardener Program Cooridnator, I have lived and work in this program for 13 years. I spend a lot of time thinking about the Master Gardener Program (just ask my husband). I want to help the program grow in ways that lets the public know, without a doubt, that we are a trusted source of local gardening information. I want to swing the doors of our program open in such a way that makes Master Gardener trainings and volunteerism available to as many people as possible. I want to bring the benefits of gardening to every single Oregonian who wants to grow a houseplant, try their hand at composting, grow flowering plants for bees or birds, or grow their own food in 5-gallon buckets or in a 1/4 kitchen garden . . . and any or every other aspect of gardening.

Over the years, I’ve had instances where ~ even with the best of intentions ~ I could see that I was wearing blinders that prevented me from seeing the program from all perspectives. While it was painful to realize that I was wearing blinders, at the time, I was able to better serve the Master Gardener Program once I recognized my own assumptions and biases, and once I become more comfortable with surprises.

  • In 2009, I co-organized Mini-College, which is the name for the statewide Master Gardener conference. I was so proud of the program of workshops that we put together for conference participants, including a workshop on how to prepare healthy meals from the garden that was hosted by a Master Gardener who was a culinary institute instructor. I arranged to use a classroom in a building I was not familiar with. The classroom had a full demonstration kitchen, with mirrors that allowed the audience to see what was being prepared. I was sure that it would be a hit. Fast forward to the day of the workshop. The classroom was on the third floor. The elevators were broken (which was, apparently common for this building). One of the workshop participants was in a wheelchair. Participants carried the participant up the stairs ~ and my heart broke at how my oversight ~ my blinders ~ created a difficult situation for all. Since that day, every single conference or event that I plan, I move through the space thinking about how someone with a wheelchair or walker might navigate; how someone with hearing aids or a hearing impairment might experience the space. And, I still get it wrong! I once organized an event and realized that I had not allowed for space for service dogs. Another blinder, but another chance to improve.
  • Speaking of accessibility, I once had a potential Master Gardener volunteer lay out the true cost of Master Gardener training classes. I knew that the classes were costly (from $150 to $495). What I didn’t realize was that a person who would need to take off work to participate in classes was losing an additional $1,440 in income (8 hour workday * 12 Master Gardener course weeks * $15/hour wage = $1,440). And, in some counties, individuals are asked to pay a penalty of $100-$200 if they complete the classes, but don’t complete their volunteer service hours. Taken together, the true cost of taking the Master Gardener training course is somewhere between $1,590 to $2,135 for individuals who are employed, full time. Once these costs were laid bare to me, we worked with our Master Gardener chapters to provide more scholarships, moved more classes to evenings and weekends, provided more hybrid (online and in person) opportunities to complete training, lowered the service hour requirement to become a Master Gardener volunteer, and removed the financial penalty for not completing volunteer service. Yet, there is more work to do to remove these and other systemic barriers to program participation.
  • Not only should our spaces be accessible, but they also need to be welcoming. Master Gardener training classes are often three hours long, which is a dreadfully long time to sit in one place. On my instructor evaluations, I’ve received feedback that says something like ‘great class, but these chairs are awful.’. This was another ‘blinders’ moment for me. I’m standing up and teaching for three hours. what would it feel like if I had to sit in those seats for three hours? Over time, I’ve reduced the length of my training classes (quantity of content presented doesn’t translate into learning). And, I’ve tried to move away from passive lectures to more active and hands-on learning (which has been a fun challenge). I wish I had the budget to buy comfortable and accessible chairs for every Master Gardener training venue! Alas, that is not the case.
  • Another factor that may influence how welcoming a Master Gardener Program is to others ~ particularly to newcomers ~ is where we choose to hold classes and meetings. Many Master Gardener Programs partner with local churches to host trainings. Could imagery or words on that space make someone who is holds a different set of beliefs feel uncomfortable? Take a look at your training spaces with fresh eyes, to make sure that you are not inadvertently excluding folks by hosting trainings in a space that signals ‘you’re not welcome here’. Related to this, think about where Master Gardener chapter meetings are held. In an effort to build community and fun into Master Gardener chapter meetings, some have been held at local restaurants or local casinos. Does this exclude others, who don’t have expendable income to put towards a restaurant or buffet meal? Could it exclude folks who can’t tolerate cigarette smoke in a casino?

Identifying and understanding the blinders that are limiting our work . . . the assumptions, biases, and suprises (in the known-unknown framework of knowledge discovery). . . is so important to build a strong, accessible, and welcoming Master Gardener Program.

Towards this end, we are initiating surveys for Master Gardener volunteer feedback on the program, experiences and offerings.

  1. The development of a statewide, yearly survey for every active Master Gardener. Opportunity to share your experiences, impact and ideas. We anticipate these to begin in 2021 and just become a regular ongoing tool.
  2. Within the next week we are issuing a survey for feedback and response on program priorities, and the underlying values of the program. Having clearly communicated program priorities will help decision making for the important work we do, and underlying values will help guide us in doing this work.
  3. Within the coming month we’ll be soliciting your feedback on courses for the 2021 training year, what the year may look like, and areas of interest to focus coursework for Master Gardeners.

To keep spammers from flooding the surveys (which happens when we share a public link), we will distribute the survey invitations through your Master Gardener Program coordinators. If you were a Master Gardener, in past years, and would like to share your experiences with us, please let me know. We will make sure to share the survey link with you, directly.

Insect Agroecology Lectures

When the pandemic first started, I shared the lectures that I’m creating for ENT/HORT 444/544 (Insect Agroecology) for Master Gardeners who might be interested. The purpose of the course is to examine hypotheses and theory in insect ecology, and translate these to the management of agricultural systems. The course is set up so that students work through lectures on their own time. Every Friday, we meet and discuss two scientific papers that are related to the week’s topic.

After sharing the first two lectures, I stopped sharing course content. Truthfully, I thought (and still think) that most folks will be bored by the content. It’s a little geeky, and doesn’t directly apply to gardens. But today, someone asked me if I had more to share. So, I decided to post them all here.

Some lectures are posted as a single, long lecture. If I had a lot of material to present in a week, I broke the lectures up into smaller chunks, which the students seemed to prefer.

Audio and video quality are consistent with that of a luddite professor, working hard to deliver two classes in a new way, while also dealing with a lot of other COVID-19 pressures. Please be kind in your assessment of each video.

On a desktop or laptop computer: you can minimize my talking head and maximize the slides, by clicking the arrows that are near the top right of each video.

On a mobile device: you can switch between a view of me and a view of the slides by clicking on the small screen with (with the ‘play’ symbol) near the bottom of the screen. Two options will pop up from that small icon. Toggle between the two to view the slides.

Week 1: Insect Diversity and Abundance (35:35)

Week 2: Bottom Up Control of Insect Herbivores: Plant Nutrition (54:11)

Week 3: Bottom Up Control of Insect Herbivores: Plant Defense

Week 4: Top Down Control of Insect Herbivores (51:27)

Week 5: Competition and Food Webs

Week 6: Pest Management: Insecticides

Week 7: Pest Management: Biotechnologies

Week 8: Pollinators in Agroecosystems

Week 9: Climate Change

CDC Issues New Guidance that Affects MG Outreach, Plant Sales, and Events, through May 10th

On March 15th, the CDC issued new guidance for large events and mass gatherings. This guidance recommends that, for the next eight weeks (which would take us to May 10th, or Mother’s Day) that events which can draw 50 or more people, in person, be cancelled or postponed.

This recommendation takes us out further on the calendar than the state of Oregon’s March 7th Executive Order banning face-to-face gatherings of 250 or more people for 60 days (which would take us to May 6th). It also takes us further on the calendar that Oregon State University’s policy banning face-to-face gatherings of 50 or more people, through April 30th.

Given the updated CDC guidance, I am updating the previous guidance given to Master Gardener groups (on 3/12), to adhere to CDC guidelines. Through at least May 10th, any face-to-face Master Gardener classes, meetings, outreach activities, and events, including Master Gardener Conferences and plant sales that can draw 50 or more people, should be cancelled or postponed.

All face-to-face Master Gardener activities, events, meetings ~ no matter how many people may attend ~ are suspended pending further notice. This suspension aligns with the guidance given by OSU Extension on March 13th.

As someone who has planned several large events, I know that this is heartbreaking news that will have negative impact on affected Master Gardener chapters. I truly feel bad for the many Master Gardeners who have tirelessly and enthusiastically worked for a year or more, only to have their event cancelled or postponed. But, the health of our volunteers, faculty, staff, and community is paramount, and should be put ahead of other concerns.

Wiley Thompson, the Regional Director for the OSU Extension on the coast, has said something like: ‘this is the year that a lot of things won’t happen: NCAA basketball tournaments, PAC-12 Spring Sports, and so much more’.

But, I’m also seeing many instances of ingenuity, in the face of these challenges.

Master Gardeners are holding meetings via Zoom. If you are able, and if your Master Gardeners are wanting and needing to meet, please help them by setting up a Zoom meeting.

The Benton County Master Gardeners are planning to offer Seed to Supper via Zoom!

Don’t forget that the Advanced Training Master Gardener webinars start tomorrow (3/17). Once again, they will be offered via Zoom! It’s not too late to sign up for one or more classes.

Hang in there! We will get through this!