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.

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.

Extension Operations Update

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

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

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

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

~Gail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A healthy garden is biodiverse, and so is the OSU Extension Master Gardener program: introducing the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force

30+ Master Gardener volunteers from 15 counties across the state, along with 7 Master Gardener program staff and faculty recently kicked off the first cohort of a task force focused on expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion in the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program. These volunteers have made an incredible personal volunteer commitment to serve on the task force for one year, and the faculty and staff are excited to work alongside them on this journey.

As a learning community we explore:

  • our own stories and history
  • history of racism in Oregon 
  • founding stories of land grant institutions
  • colonization within the field of our work
  • growing our awareness of inequities to improve our critical consciousness

As a working community we work to:

  • Increase the diversity of who we serve in the community
  • Increase the diversity of who we are in the program
  • Grow the breadth of our curriculum and events to include cultural practices and inclusion
  • Model inclusive practices to our peers in the MG program
  • Form, grow and strengthen our work with community partners

We meet monthly to deepen our learning and to connect, and working sub groups are also running throughout the month. These four workgroups are focused on the following questions:

Who becomes a Master Gardener?

What are our current demographics?
What are the barriers to becoming a Master Gardener?
Barriers identified in previous surveys of MG volunteers and coordinators include: 
-time required to take the course and to fulfill volunteer hours; 
-cost of the training course and financial penalty for not completing volunteer hours; 
-location of training course and volunteer opportunities;
-time of year/day when training course is offered.

Who do we serve in the community?

Mapping of where the MG Program currently works and operates 
Using an asset-based approach, identify existing organizations and potential partners, groups and communities working in areas of the community where we are not. 

How can our Master Gardener curriculum and content grow to be more inclusive?

Examining existing MG curriculum and making recommendations on how the MG curriculum can be broadened beyond a Euro-centric perspective that assumes land access and ownership. Should and how do we include different cultural perspectives in the curriculum?

What events and programming should we grow/develop to support this work?

Identify and plan special events, such as OSU Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of celebration, Pride and others as identified by subgroup. Coordinate and plan the Culture of Gardening series.

Why a DEI Task Force?

In 2020, we made clear statements and reiterated our commitment to building a more inclusive program. We know that these changes cannot be made without Master Gardener volunteers playing a key role in identifying and doing the work alongside us, as a way to engage and demonstrate, and to hold each other accountable. We have work to do, and we are committed to doing it together.

A Spring 2021 Update

Hello Master Gardener Volunteers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

LeAnn Locher
Statewide Master Gardener Outreach Coordinator
Oregon State University Extension

White flower trillium
Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

Master Gardener Program Response to President Alexander’s Resignation

Dear OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers and Staff,

Over the past few weeks, information regarding Oregon State University President F King Alexander’s leadership over Title IX at Louisiana State University and subsequent information shared about Title IX and the handling of sexual violence and misconduct has been shared through the issuing of a report by the Husch Blackwell law firm. The OSU Board of Trustees has engaged and heard from extensive public comments and communications, conducted public discussions with President Alexander, and has issued a probationary period while further information is gathered. On Friday, March 19th, the Faculty Senate called for a vote of no confidence in President Alexander and called upon him to resign. The OSU Board of Trustees announced President Alexander’s offer of resignation Tuesday, March 23rd.

This has resulted in an array of emotions, questions, and concerns from many within the OSU community. During this tumultuous time, in what has already been an extremely tumultuous past year, I look to our gardening community of volunteers for grounding and clarity.

This is a good time to reflect upon the guiding values of the Master Gardener program:

  • 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.

At the heart of the Master Gardener program are our volunteers, and your health and safety are our highest commitment. More than 75% of Master Gardener volunteers are women. Many of our volunteers come to the program from school experiences and careers in the workforce prior to the landmark passage of the Title IX civil rights law in 1972. Events and news like what we’ve heard at OSU these past few weeks can bring up many painful memories and personal experiences, both for victims and their family and friends.

OSU Extension and the Master Gardener program unequivocally stand in support of survivors of sexual violence and sexual harassment. We are committed to creating safe spaces for our colleagues and the youth, adults and communities we serve and work with, including our volunteers. We will not tolerate discrimination, misogyny, harm or violence of any sort within our program and the communities in which we serve.

If you experience or witness sexual misconduct, discrimination, harassment, bullying, or retaliation in any capacity as an OSU Extension Master Gardener, please report it to OSU’s Equal Opportunity and Access Office: https://eoa.oregonstate.edu/. Your local Master Gardener coordinator, and myself, are personal resources for reporting as well.

You’ll hear more from us in the coming week as we look to the future and see glimmers of hope for returning to our work together. The daffodils have begun to bloom here in the Willamette Valley, and I know spring is here.

More soon,

Gail Langellotto | Statewide Coordinator, OSU Extension Master Gardener Program | Professor of Horticulture, Oregon State University

Bee hoovering near a daffodil. Photo credit: Betsy Hartley.

Two New and Remote Volunteer Opportunities

At this time, when many Oregon counties are in the ‘Extreme Risk’ of COVID transmission category, there are limited opportunities for Master Gardener volunteerism. And, until we return to ‘normal’, we can expect that OSU Extension will require approval for in-person programming and employee travel. The current guidance that we are operating under can be found in the PDF, below.

A jpg of the OSU Extension Activities and Risk Level Matrix, which is also shared in this post as a pdf.

During this time of COVID restrictions, Master Gardener volunteers have continued to serve their communities by writing social media posts (gardening tips of the week), participating in virtual plant clinic, or approved work in demonstration of community gardens. Given the limited selection of approved volunteer activities at this time, I am pleased to announce that there are two new options available for Master Gardener volunteer service. Both of these projects are eligible for volunteer service hour credit.

1) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Learning Community and Task Force

Are you interested in participating in a statewide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI )workgroup? We are exploring the formation of a statewide DEI workgroup that would include OSU Extension Master Gardener staff and volunteers.

For the past 8 months, a small group of Master Gardener program staff have been meeting to establish priorities and to work on creating a more equitable and inclusive program. We’d like to grow this group to include volunteers, and to create a learning community and work group dedicated to DEI. Are you interested in participating? We’d love to hear from you.

  • A learning community and working group to focus on needs and priorities for diversity, equity and inclusion in the OSU Extension Master Gardener program
  • Estimated time commitment is 5 hours/month. Statewide working group to meet monthly, subteams to meet 1-2 times a month for specific focused work. Hours count towards MG volunteer hours.
  • Apply before February 12th. We hope to have the first meeting in April.
  • Apply here before February 12th: https://oregonstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_41JSg3HIvsAFUwt

Grow This! Oregon Garden Challenge

Food Hero and Master Gardeners are collaborating on the 2021 Grow This! Oregon Garden Challenge. The second year of the Grow This! Oregon Garden Challenge, is much bigger than last year’s Challenge! This year we are looking to sign up 8,000 gardeners to grow vegetable and flowers and need your help!

We need your help to grow along and share your expert advice with these gardeners. Please consider signing up to participate as a Grow This! Champion. Your growing tips, comments, challenges and stories will be shared on our social media platforms and in monthly update emails to beginning gardeners as a way to build a growing community across the state.

Master Gardener volunteers are invited to participate, and apply to be a Grow This! Champion.

A Grow This! Champion:

  1. Must be a current Oregon Master Gardener volunteer or Master
    Gardeners representing a county demonstration/educational garden.
  2. Will need to apply for the Grow This! Champion program by midnight
    February 19 (we are looking to include Master Gardeners from across
    the state and may need to limit participation if demand exceeds our
    seed supply).
  3. Will receive one crop seed packet and one flower seed packet.
    (Type and variety will be selected at random.) Pick up will be at your
    county in March (specifics will be sent by email)
  4. Must agree to give feedback on your growing process and results
    at least once—but as often as you want—during the Challenge.
    Feedback could include suggestions, comments, challenges and
    solutions, stories, photos, drawings or videos that we can share
    with others (with or without your name). These can be emailed to
    food.hero@oregonstate.edu or shared on social media adding the
    following text to any post: @BeAFoodHero and #mastergardener.
    All feedback is WELCOME.
  5. Can count your active time spent on this project as Master Gardener
    volunteer hours (report as ‘community science’)

Questions?
Email Brooke.Edmunds AT oregonstate.edu or food.hero AT oregonstate.edu or leave a voice message at 541-737-1017.

Learn more about the challenge here: https://www.foodhero.org/growthis. You can also download the flier in the file, below, to share with other Master Gardener volunteers who might be interested in participating.

A jpg of the Grow This! Challenge flier, which is also shared in this post as a pdf.


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

Happy New Year, Oregon Master Gardeners!

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year.

~Gail

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