“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 This survey also referenced demographic data of the Oregon Master Gardener program, collected by McNeilan (1992, unpublished) and Kirsch and VanderZanden (2001).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.

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