Welcome to, and from, our new Statewide Master Gardener Manager, Dr. Leslie Madsen

After a national search, Dr. Leslie Madsen (she/her) has joined OSU Extension as the Statewide Master Gardener Manager beginning December 29th, 2023.  Dr. Madsen most recently was the Associate Director for Educational Development in the Center for Teaching and Learning at Boise State University. She is an expert in evidence-based teaching practices that are informed by emerging technologies including different learning styles in the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI), as they apply to formal and informal learning platforms. She is equipped to support our coordinators and volunteers with evidence-based teaching practices, support both face-to-face and distant learning, support DEI efforts across programs, conduct educational assessment, evaluation and implementation, and support various digital accessibility technologies – among many other capabilities. Welcome Dr. Madsen!

A note to Oregon’s Master Gardener Volunteers

As I’m cleaning up my garden one last time before listing my Boise house for sale, I find myself looking eagerly to the future. I love to learn, and I have so much knowledge to glean from you about gardening in a temperate, wet forest biome rather than dry, sagebrush steppe. 

Because I’m a historian as well as a gardener, I’m also thinking of the botanist I most admire, the late Alice Eastwood (1859-1953), who served as the herbarium curator at the California Academy of Sciences for 57 years. 

Here’s my favorite story about Eastwood: 

When awakened in April 1906 by the big San Francisco earthquake, Eastwood hurried down to the Academy to check on the collections. As flames licked at the building next door, the 47-year-old Eastwood scaled the banister of the broken staircase to reach the sixth-floor herbarium. Once there, she lowered 1,500 specimens—most of them type specimens—out a window. She commandeered a cart and horse and ensured the specimens stayed ahead of the flames, even as her own home burned. (Today you can find six of Eastwood’s other specimens in the Oregon State University Herbarium.) 

Not surprisingly, Eastwood became a bit of a celebrity. On Eastwood’s 80th birthday, Smithsonian agrostologist Agnes Chase wrote,  

I recall how thrilled I was in the spring of 1906 when the men here were all talking about how Alice Eastwood had saved the precious types in the California Academy Herbarium. At that time women were not admitted to the august Botanical Society of Washington, so we rejoiced not only that the types were saved but that you saved them. And not only do we admire your work. Your unfailing kindness and helpfulness to other botanists has endeared you to all of us.

Chase’s letter to Eastwood captures the fondness I already feel Oregon’s Master Gardeners—even though I’ve only met a couple dozen of you. Your generosity with your time and knowledge is such a tremendous gift to the people of Oregon. I am so impressed with the amazing work you already have done, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside you. 

Eastwood also was famous for cultivating enthusiasm for gardening by building a network of garden clubs, botanists, and volunteers. Like Eastwood, I’m eager to welcome new Master Gardeners and expand our collaborations with organizations throughout Oregon. To accomplish this, I’ll need to draw on your wisdom, experience, and imagination. 

Our work together begins in the New Year. Should you want to say hello before then, the best way to reach me is via email at madsenle@oregonstate.edu. I’m looking forward to connecting and growing with you! 

Guide to Being a Master Gardener Volunteer: revised publication is now out

The quintessential guidebook for being an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer has been updated and modernized. It’s available to read online and download and features all things Master Gardener, including our connection to OSU, the priorities of the program, and policies and guidelines. Access it here.

What does it mean to recertify? What are the continuing education requirements of Master Gardeners? How do we provide gardening recommendations to the general public? What is the relationship between OSU and the county-based Master Gardener Associations?

You’ll find the answers to these questions, and many more, in the updated guidebook, plus links to even more background and items to read. The new version is a more nimble, modernized version, and can easily be updated as needed. Happy reading!

New Year, New Opportunities

July 2023 will mark my 16-year anniversary at Oregon State University (OSU). My first week as OSU’s Statewide Master Gardener Coordinator coincided with the timing of the annual Master Gardener(TM) Mini-College. I was excited (and a bit overwhelmed) by the many new people I was meeting, geographic names and locations I would learn (was it Dalles? or The Dalles? I was so confused!), and the broad and inspiring activities that were part of one of the longest-running Extension Master Gardener Programs in the nation.

At the time (July 2007) OSU’s Master Gardener Program had just entered it’s third decade, and I marveled at the legacy that legends such as Duane Hatch, Gray Thompson, Anne Marie VanderZanden, Ray McNeilan, Jan McNeilan, and many others had built. I realized that my role was to be a good steward of program so that I could proudly pass on the baton to someone else, just as Jan and Ray had passed on the baton to me.

I’ve loved my time working in the Master Gardener Program. But, it is time to move on to new opportunities. I will be staying at OSU, where I will be transitioning to a research/teaching position on July 1st. The change will give me time to focus on my research with the OSU Garden Ecology Lab, and to pursue some novel opportunities in supporting native plant producers, hydroponics, insect husbandry, urban agriculture, and environmental microbiomes . . . all of which are super interesting, but not directly germane to the work of the Master Gardener program. The change will also give me an opportunity to focus on my teaching, and make course improvements I’ve long wanted to make, but never had the time to do.

As I look back on my time in the Master Gardener Program, I am both proud of the work that I have done, and excited for what is yet to come. Some of the memories that I will most cherish, and work that I am proud of, includes:

Master Gardener volunteers stand in front of program displays at a conference
I’m camera shy, and don’t like to take many photos. Thus, I have precious few photos from my time in the Master Gardener program. This one will always be one of my favorites. I believe it was Mini-College 2009, with some of my favorite Master Gardener volunteers, L-R: Cathy B., a younger me, Marcia S., and Betty F.

Beyond the work that I’ve done, meeting so many amazing, smart, dedicated, and FUN gardeners, volunteers, and colleagues has been the absolute best part of the job. Some of you were there for me, from the start, and have been reliable and trusted advisors, collaborators, and friends. Others, I have only recently met or started to work with, and am so inspired by the ideas, enthusiasm, and expertise that you bring to the program.

I am not going far, such that I hope our paths might continue to cross.

As I think about what comes next for the Master Gardener Program, I want to make sure that I leave the Program as strong and vibrant as possible, for the next person to step into the Statewide Coordinator role. In that vein, I wanted to let folks know about the Statewide Master Gardener Endowment Fund, which has helped fund new tools to support Master Gardener work, and has helped bridge gaps in funding for local programs. If you are able and interested in doing so, you can make an end-of-year gift to support the program. The funds will truly help the next Coordinator continue the good work that we’ve been doing over the past 45+ years, and will enable them to build new opportunities and invest in new activities that will keep the program fresh, relevant, and impactful.

With sincere gratitude for the past 16 years, Gail Langellotto.

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

“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

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.

Meet OSU’s Newest Extension Master Gardener Faculty and Staff

Laurie Lee Bartlett

Laurie Lee Bartlett is the new Educational Assistant at the Curry Extension Office. She is looking forward to taking the Coos/Curry Hybrid Master Gardener class for 2022! As an educator and previous caretaker to her now grown son, she is starting the next chapter of her life with a desire to serve others. This includes reaching out to everyone who wants to learn more about home horticulture. Her family enjoys practicing sustainable gardening on their acre of land and taking care of goats and chickens. This winter she has been expanding her collection of air plants and orchids which she houses in her sunroom and office. Laurie is grateful for the opportunity to be part of the OSU community!

Amanda Woodlee

Amanda Woodlee is the Master Gardener program coordinator (EPA 2) for Umatilla County, based in Hermiston, Oregon. This position enables her to combine two of her longtime passions: gardening and education. Prior to coming to work for OSU, she enjoyed putting together an annual seed share and gardening expo for her local garden club, where she would talk to attendees about pollinators and compost and all things green. She is excited to apply that same passion and skill to developing, organizing, and enhancing Master Gardener events. When she’s not in her greenhouse or bringing up worms randomly in a conversation, she can usually be found with her nose in a seed catalog or a book, writing (with her garden and two bird feeders in sight from her desk), or studying languages (currently Spanish, French, and ASL). Her favorite thing to grow is the Pruden’s Purple heirloom tomato, and the best book she read recently is Alix E. Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches.

Evie Smith

Evie Smith is the new Master Gardeners (25%) and Small Farm (75%) Coordinator for OSU
Extension in Lincoln County. She is coming to OSU Extension from the University of California Cooperative Extension, where she worked in orchard crop research. In the past, she has worked in several different agricultural systems including mixed vegetable production, aquaponics and coffee. She has several years of experience working in a large mixed vegetable garden that donated everything it produced to the local food bank. She was involved in both volunteer coordination and agricultural management at the garden. She also worked on home gardening initiatives and small-scale agriculture projects in a variety of agricultural contexts in the southeastern United States (where she’s from originally), Guatemala, Cambodia, India and California. An avid gardener herself, Evie looks forward to learning about gardening in Oregon, and to using her experiences with volunteer coordination, gardening initiatives, and extension to support the work of the Master Gardeners in Lincoln County! In her spare time, Evie loves to hike, camp, and cook.

Jennifer Halter

Jenifer Halter has worked as a front desk Office Specialist for Washington County Extension since May 2016.  She was excited to join the metro area Master Gardener team as part of her duties in October 2021.  She always assisted MGs in the office, especially those working the phone helpline, an aspect of the job she loved.  Jenifer is thrilled to work more with this great group and our exceptional volunteers.  She tries to attend MG workshops and visit garden events when she’s able.  After going to a Fall seed saving workshop at Jenkins Estate (Beaverton, OR) she aimed to grow more of her own garden plants from saved seeds.  In 2021, almost all of her tomatoes were grown from previous year’s seeds!  She recalled, “That workshop was so memorable and useful!”  It was led by Washington County MG, Sarah Gramm Wolff, a volunteer at the OSU Extension Learning Garden at Jenkins Estate.  Jenifer’s forester father instilled in her a love of nature, and she enjoys hiking, berry picking (especially huckleberries), doing yard work, biking local trails, and catching sunrises and sunsets.   She looks forward to learning and helping MGs more in 2022!

Erika Szonntag

Erika Szonntag serves Jackson County in southwestern Oregon.  Forty percent of her time is dedicated to managing the Master Gardener Volunteer Program, while another forty percent is dedicated to developing programming and otherwise disseminating information to the community on topics of home horticulture.  Erika is really looking forward to supporting all the great work the Jackson County Master Gardeners are doing, including expanding their educational reach around native plants. 

Before coming to Oregon, Erika was a professional gardener in Colorado while finishing her master’s degree in agriculture and watershed science.  Erika also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay (2014-2016) in agriculture extension.  In her free time, Erika loves to hike and trail run with her dogs, mountain bike, paint and draw, and play in the snow.  Her favorite things to grow in the garden are any type of salad green and sunflowers.  She wishes she were better at growing root vegetables!  

Brooke Edmunds

Brooke Edmunds recently transferred to oversee the Master Gardener Programs in Marion and Polk Counties in July 2021. She has been with OSU Extension since 2014 and previously was in the same position in Linn and Benton Counties. Brooke is an Associate Professor (Practice) of Community Horticulture with a home in the OSU Department of Horticulture. Her background is in plant pathology (M.S. and Ph.D) so you’ll find her nerding out over cool diseases and insects in the garden. In addition to coordinating the Master Gardener volunteer programs in both counties, Brooke contributes to statewide programs related to food gardening (Grow This! Champions and Microgreens are two current projects), and develops online educational material for the OSU Extension website. It’s an exciting time for the OSU Master Gardener Program and Brooke is excited to try out a new flexible format that includes hands-on garden based learning. Brooke’s personal gardening goals for this year are to try growing winged beans (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus) and to install a new trellis planted with Passiflora.

Danielle Knueppel

Danielle is located at the Josephine County Extension Office in Grants Pass and divides her time equally between the Master Gardener Program and the Small Farms Program. Danielle’s experience in horticulture includes farming at an organic fresh-cut herbs farm in Colorado, maintaining gardens alongside volunteers at the Cheyenne Botanical Garden, and working as a grower at greenhouses and nurseries in Colorado and Indiana, where she grew up. Before joining OSU, she worked internationally for several years on programs to improve livelihoods and food security among smallholder farmers. Danielle loves to garden and is excited to show new gardeners how fun, easy, and tasty it can be to grow your own vegetables, herbs, and fruits. 

It’s a new day for training to become a Master Gardener volunteer

The OSU Extension Master Gardener program has revamped, revised, and re-imagined training for new Master Gardeners in 2022 to become more accessible than ever. Mixing the best of both worlds, online training will deliver our top-notch university-level gardening education, with localized and in-person hands-on training workshops organized by county-based OSU faculty. 

Why are we doing this?

We’re better meeting community needs: In the summer of 2021, we conducted an extensive community assessment. Findings clearly show the general public wants flexible opportunities to interact, access content and learning on demand, and on their own time. Offering elements of training online and/or in-person will clearly meet that demand in a way we’ve never done before. 

Many of our counties are large and have required distant travel to attend trainings. We’re already hearing from new trainees who are excited to finally be able to become Master Gardeners who have not been able to join due to the distance. 

On-demand education also means that people with busy schedules can fit the training into their schedules in the way it works best for them. 

We’ve lowered the cost, with many counties offering tiered pricing that includes reduced fees and opportunities for scholarships. Tiered pricing includes options for those who want to pay a bit more, to support others who choose the reduced fee option.

COVID is still here: it’s difficult to anticipate what 2022 will look like. Meeting inside, social distancing, and differing county impacts, all make maneuvering with COVID an ongoing challenge. This new model can better meet the need and demand while maintaining flexibility through this changing climate. 

Capacity: We currently have a lack of faculty and staff available to teach Master Gardener trainings. Our “people power” is at an all-time low due to retirements and new hires.

Previously, many of our faculty would travel to teach in person, which is extremely time extensive. With the talented faculty we do currently have, they’re able to provide additional support statewide virtually, actually extending and expanding the reach of experts available to Master Gardener trainees.

Better delivery of adult education means more hands-on workshops, less lectures: Instead of using our in-person time for 3-hour lectures, our hybrid training model uses that time for hands-on, interactive, and experiential workshops. Instead of listening to PowerPoints, trainees instead learn from our expert faculty and Master Gardener volunteers in the garden.

What does it mean to be a Master Gardener?

Oregon State University Extension Master Gardener volunteers are neighbors, friends and family who you can go to for garden advice that is grounded in science and locally relevant. We are garden educators and on-the-ground community scientists. Learn more about our mission, vision, values and priorities of the program.

Are you ready to become a Master Gardener?

Get connected locally with your county Master Gardener program to find out when your county is accepting applications, and when training is scheduled in your area. 

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.


  • 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.

New and updated resources to support OSU Extension Master Gardeners education with the public

The OSU Extension website is constantly being updated with new and current articles to support the public’s need for timely and relevant information. OSU Extension Master Gardeners refer to much of this content when advising and answering questions to the general public. A new garden content team, made up of OSU home horticulture faculty, has been strategically identifying and publishing new articles to support this need.

Recent articles Master Gardeners may find helpful:

Wondering what’s the latest in new articles by the garden content team? Visit Get your gardening questions answered on the Master Gardener website and see “Recent gardening articles” at the bottom of the page. Also, this page is a helpful resource to point to the different ways the public can get help:

  1. Ask a question online;
  2. Connect with their local Master Gardeners;
  3. Access OSU Extension research and articles

In addition, new publications to OSU Extension’s vast catalog are constantly being updated and published. Some recent materials that may be relevant to Master Gardeners:

Wondering what’s the latest being released in the OSU Extension Catalog? You can find the new publications here.

Keep your Master Gardener coordinators informed of trending questions or needs from the public, and check for new publications periodically. We’re working hard to ensure our mission and to support the great work of Master Gardener volunteers.