In the News
As we close out the first month of the New Year, our hope for the UC Master Gardener Program is that 2021 will be a year of continued growth in gardening education and support for our neighbors, friends, and communities.
The online demand for trusted information about gardening is at an all-time high. Individuals and families are looking to access the therapeutic benefits of spending time outdoors and the health benefits of eating homegrown produce. The work of the UC Master Gardener Program is more relevant now than ever!
Annually we establish priority areas to focus on important issues. For the 2020 and 2021 program year, our priorities include the following:
- Support training and continuing education
- Support program excellence
- Support diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Celebrate our community
- Support advocacy and fundraising
The UC Master Gardener Program is guided by our program's mission, "To extend research-based knowledge and information on home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices to the residents of California" and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Strategic Plan.
California's strength is its diversity; our mission has always been to serve all communities in our state's population. This blog will outline key statewide priorities for 2021, focusing on our responsibility to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Support diversity, equity, and inclusion
Every five years UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) develops a strategic plan to establish a framework and help guide staff, academics, and volunteers to fulfill its land-grant mission of teaching, research, and public service. UC ANR Strategic Goal 6: Improve Diversity Equity, and Inclusion aims to increase access to and equity in UC ANR programs, research, and work environments for all populations in our state, to make a difference in the lives of all Californians.
National data indicates that Master Gardener volunteers are overwhelmingly white, college-educated, affluent, retired, and female-identified. We do not have data specific to the UC Master Gardener Program, but incomplete data from 2015 indicates that California's volunteer population is in line with the national trend. Therefore the UC Master Gardener volunteer population does not reflect the diversity of California's residents and gardeners.
Improving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Cooperative Extension has been and will continue to be a goal for the UC Master Gardener Program. To truly achieve our mission, we must improve our outreach to communities historically underinvested by Cooperative Extension, including Black, Latino, Native American, LGBT and disabled Californians. We must also uplift the voices of current program leaders who hold identities underrepresented in our program, and increase our staff and volunteers' cultural competency and equity awareness.
A look back at our progress in 2020
In 2020, we laid a foundation for our statewide diversity, equity, and inclusion work by introducing educational resources, revisiting current practices, and engaging in peer dialogues.
In early 2020, we introduced implicit bias resources and trainings on our statewide blog, UC Implicit Bias Training – Now Available for Volunteers. All UC Master Gardener volunteers are encouraged to take these online implicit bias trainings as part of their ongoing continuing education.
The UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator annual meeting focused on inclusive volunteer selection and recruitment strategies. Dr. Maria de la Fuente, County Director, Farm and UC Master Gardener Advisor in Monterey & Santa Cruz Counties, offered the keynote Increasing Diversity in the UC Master Gardener Program. De la Fuente's powerful presentation focused on workplace values and how they are influenced by culture. We also heard from Janet Hartin, County Co-Director San Bernardino County and Environmental Horticulture Advisor in San Bernardino, Riverside, and Los Angeles Counties, on how County Directors can help support diversity, equity, and inclusion.
In July, Elaine Lander, UC Integrated Pest Management Statewide Program Community Educator and Marisa Coyne, UC Master Gardener Program Statewide Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, hosted a discussion for coordinators, Racial Equity in the Garden, which provided an overview of a new racial equity resources webpage on the coordinator website and the UC ANR Diversity Equity and Inclusion page.
Please note: While this post focuses on statewide efforts. Throughout 2020, counties such as Alameda, Sonoma, Santa Clara, Orange, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and others undertook and sustained their own projects and initiatives to enhance equity at the local level.
Looking ahead to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the future
We've mapped out an active approach to raise the bar for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the UC Master Gardener Program by identifying barriers to engagement and addressing social justice shortfalls.
- Learning and Development: Foundational to the success of our goal, we are committed to promoting and participating in lifelong learning opportunities for our UC Master Gardener community that will improve our understanding of racial and social justice.
- Equity Assessment: In the coming months, a preliminary equity assessment, focused on racial equity, will be completed by the UC Master Gardener Program's statewide office and UC ANR's Program Planning and Evaluation team in order to evaluate our program's status and to identify next steps and future interventions.
- Inclusive Volunteer Selection: We will continue to expand on our effort to evaluate program resources through the filter of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The work started in 2020 to re-vamp the new volunteer application and volunteer position description will be completed and new templates released in 2021. We will also improve the accessibility of our digital education and training materials for people with disabilities.
- National Network: To ensure that we learn about different approaches as well as successes and missteps, we will continue to connect and collaborate not only within UC ANR but also with national Extension Master Gardener colleagues.
- Celebrating California Gardens: Together, with coordinators and volunteers, a blog series will be developed celebrating culturally important plants and foods, sometimes missing from UC Master Gardener curricula. For 2021, we look forward to celebrating Black History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and American Indian Heritage Month.
As UC ANR's Vice President Glenda Humiston said, “California's strength is its diversity; our UC ANR mission has always been to serve all segments of the state's population.” We are committed to making sure the UC Master Gardener Program's resources are relevant and available to all gardeners across California. Together, we can learn and grow.
Are you interested learning more? Check out UCANR's Diversity Equity and Inclusion page for anti-racism resources and information about gender inclusion. Are you a UC Master Gardener Program volunteer with a story to contribute to the Celebrating California Gardens blog series mentioned above? Reach out to Marisa Coyne, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, at email@example.com to share your idea!
- Our peers in the Oregon State University Master Gardener Program write an excellent diversity, equity, and inclusion educational blog series that also summarizes progress on equity.
- The Michigan State University's Center for Regional Food System's statement on Racial Equity is a smart and accessible summary of historic, systemic, and ongoing racism in the food system.
- UC ANR Black and Allied Staff and DEI Alliance members will be hosting a Black History Month online educational program during Black History Month in February 2021. This event is open to all UC ANR volunteers.
UC Master Gardener Program partner PlantRight had a information packed LIVE talk about their efforts to phase out invasive plants in California. Alex Stubblefield, PlantRight project manager led the LIVE talk featuring their mission, partners, work and what we can do to help stop invasive plants. If you didn't get to join us LIVE you can watch the video below.
Here is a quick written recap of the LIVE talk:
What is an invasive plant?
An invasive plant is a plant that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration, and whose introduction is likely to cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health. Visit PlantRight's website for more detail.
What's the problem?
Invasive plants harm California's environment and economy in many ways. They can overtake crops or rangeland; harm wildlife by eliminating plants they need for food and shelter; clog waterways used for commerce or recreation; and increase fire hazards and flood risk.
What's the alternative?
There is no shortage of superior alternatives. The vast majority of garden plants are well behaved and will never become an invasive problem. Our plant list includes several suggested alternatives for each invasive plant.
How can I help?
Be a part of the solution by planting right. Whether you are a retail nursery, grower, landscape professional, or home gardener — everyone can play a critical role in preventing the spread of invasive plants. PlantRight has many educational resources and materials available online to read and share.
Plants to watch!
Although the list of plants PlantRight is currently working with is not all-inclusive there is a list of plants to watch. Find the current list of plants to watch on their website.
Attention UC Master Gardener Volunteers: Whether you join LIVE or watch the recording, be sure to record your continuing education hours in the Volunteer Management System.
UC Master Gardener Program and PlantRight have partnered for a LIVE Facebook and YouTube talk about invasive plants on Jan. 19at noon. Invasive plants harm the environment and cost California millions of dollars to monitor and manage each year. Almost half of invasive plants in the state get their start through the nursery trade, and many invasive plants are still legal to sell today. Educating people on the impact of invasive plants is just a small piece of removing them from the environment.
What is PlantRight?
PlantRight is a program that works together with the nursery industry, conservation, science, and government agencies to identify and help nurseries voluntarily phase out invasive plants. For each invasive on the list, PlantRight suggests safer, regionally appropriate alternative plants. PlantRight's goal is to teach everyone from landscapers to home gardeners how toplant “right”. Learn more about PlantRight at www.PlantRight.org. Stay up on the latest from PlantRight by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
UC Master Gardener Partnership
The partnership between the UC Master Gardener Program and PlantRight supports planting the right plant in the right place. The right plant in the right place leads to a healthier environment and healthier plants. Because of UC Master Gardener volunteer efforts, PlantRight can survey plant nurseries all over California. Armed with clipboards, cameras, and data sheets, specially trained volunteers collect and report to PlantRight. The information volunteers gather is vital to PlantRight for three main purposes:
- Tracking the sale of invasive plants currently on the plant list and retiring those that have been mostly phased out of retail.
- Helping PlantRight determine whether or not to add candidate plants to the plant list.
- Informing industry outreach strategy with information about sales in different regions and store types.
UC Master Gardener volunteers play a vital role in educating the public on right plant, right place, and helping PlantRight survey California's plant nurseries.
Planting Right with PlantRight, LIVE on Jan. 19
The UC Master Gardener Program is celebrating this great partnership by hosting a free LIVE talk titled Planting Right with PlanRight. No registration is required. The discussion will be live-streamed to Facebook and YouTube on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at noon. Guest speaker, Alex Stubblefield, PlantRight Project manager, will be educating us on invasive plants in California and offering plant alternatives as well as the importance of the annual plant survey.
LIVE talks are an authentic and interactive way to interact with our audience in real-time. Share the Facebook and YouTube Live opportunity with your friends on social media and tune in to the UC Master Gardener Program LIVE broadcast! In the comments section below, let us know what topics or questions you would like answered on Tuesday, Jan. 19, or ideas for future LIVE topics. The event will be recorded and available for later viewing for those who can't make it. Attention UC Master Gardener Volunteers: Whether you join LIVE or watch the recording, be sure to record your continuing education hours in the Volunteer Management System.
Ask your local UC Master Gardener
For more gardening help and local county resources, click here to Find a Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers, staff, and our extended community's health and safety is our number one priority. Many UC Cooperative Extension offices are offering only phone and virtual services but are here to help, be sure to check your local program for resources. Thank you for your understanding.
As 2020 comes to a close, I'd like to express my deep appreciation and thanks to all of our UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener volunteers who have given the ‘gift of their time' to provide credible information to the gardening public. Even during COVID, they've found creative and safe means to continue reaching the public by converting face-to-face classes and workshops to online opportunities.They've gone above and beyond their expected volunteerism by helping those in need during these difficult times by working with our partners to distribute free seeds, trees, and wattles (for erosion control) and ensuring a happy holiday season for children and adults in need through a gift drive. Through COVID, the UCCE Master Gardeners have maintained their email and phone helplines to help county residents solve their gardening quandaries (linked here) firstname.lastname@example.org and (909)387-2182.
Master Gardener volunteers helped thousands of county residents landscape more sustainably, grow food in home, community, and school gardens, and deepen their appreciation of nature. They:
- Taught classes on drought-resistant landscapes and growing food in home, school, and community gardens
- Hosted ‘Ask the Master Gardener' sessions
- Provided education to community and school gardeners
- Distributed gardening information and answered questions at Farmers' Markets, community fairs and other events
- Answered home gardening questions via email and phone helplines
- Shared gardening information through social media
- Helped promote planting trees to cool urban heat islands in underserved neighborhoods and communities
- Helped take research data on the 'trees for tomorrow' project
- Published the monthly Master Gardener newsletter (thanks Phoebe, Debbie, Maggie, Robin, Sue and contributing authors!)
A special ‘shout out' to our monthly 2020 ‘Spotlight' Master Gardener volunteers for their extraordinary service:
I'd also like to recognize our dozens of non-profit partners including Inland Empire Resource Conservation District and the County of San Bernardino.
And, last but far from least, I'm forever thankful to UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener Coordinator Maggie O'Neill whose passion, heart, and expertise keeps the program thriving!
Happy Holidays to All!
MG citizen scientists
The first week of December is California Healthy Soils Week. To help "celebrate" the occasion, I was asked to give a lecture on some tips to keep your garden soil healthy. If you're the type that likes to watch videos, then you can watch the recording. (It's about 1 hour, including the questions at the end.)
If you're like me and like to get the short, bullet-point version, here it is.
Dustin's Healthy Soil Tips:
- Know your native soil (Try this link!)
- Make permanent paths
- Treat beds like beds: don't stand or walk in them and keep them covered—with mulch
- Add organic materials like compost
- Rotate crops; be sure to include cover crops
- Till gently; here's an article to learn more
Originally published on the Backyard Gardener blog (Dec. 16, 2020):