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Growing Creativity in the COVID-19 Era (Part 4 of 4)

For the past three months, COVID-19 and social distancing requirements have changed the way the UC Master Gardener Program serves our mission to extend trusted gardening information. With a resurgence of interest in gardening, UC Master Gardener volunteers adapted to the pandemic using new and innovative ways to share gardening support and help.

This is the fourth feature of a four-part blog series. Read our earlier posts about how volunteers in Amador County learned new skills and quickly brought program resources online in Part 1 of this 4-part series. Explore how volunteers in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties created the “Great Tomato Plant Share' in Part 2 of this 4-part series. San Diego County was featured in Part 3 of this 4-part series for how quickly they adapted and brought classes online for UC Master Gardener trainees.

Join us as we celebrate the innovation, creativity, and flexibility of UC Master Gardener volunteers and county staff during this unique time! 

SAN LUIS OBISPO

Across the state program coordinators for the UC Master Gardener Program have been working tirelessly to stay up to date on local and state health guidance, support volunteers with the transition to online training, maintain relationships with community partners, and more. In some counties, the ‘new normal' for county-based employees have included work at emergency response facilities.

In San Luis Obispo County, Maria Murrietta is serving her community as a disaster service worker. Twice a week from March through June, Murrietta has delivered food from the food bank to high-risk residents in San Luis Obispo County. These vulnerable residents are unable to venture out to get supplies or groceries because they are following strict self-quarantine guidelines. The disaster service program is the result of a collaboration between the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo and San Luis Obispo County.

Disaster service workers in San Luis Obispo County pick up food pantry packages for delivery to residents during the COVID-19-related shelter-in-place. Maria Murrietta (left) serves SLO as a disaster service worker in addition to her role as UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator.

At noon every Tuesday and Friday, Murrietta joins delivery drivers at one of five food delivery hubs throughout the county. Once Murrietta reaches her pick-up location, she collects two bags of food (one full of dry goods, the other packed with produce) for each adult, in each home on her list. Site leaders provide delivery drivers with route information, special instructions, and face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer to ensure their safety and the safety of residents.

Disaster service workers in San Luis Obispo County load bags of dry goods and fresh produce into county vehicles for delivery to vulnerable residents. The UC Master Gardener Program in SLO donates produce to support these delivery efforts. Photo credit: Maria Murrietta

Upon arrival at each residence, Murrietta makes contact by phone or at a safe distance, with each recipient to ensure they received the delivery. “Having that brief contact with the recipients has been so gratifying,” says Murrietta. “I've visited many of them multiple times and they were all so appreciative of the extra help. Lots of ‘bless you' and ‘thank you' and reminders to ‘be careful out there'. Even neighbors of the recipients have thanked me for helping their community members. One home in particular always leaves a different handwritten thank you note taped to her front door. I take a photo of each one. One resident at a senior facility told me about the wonderful soup she makes with the big bag of produce she receives.”

A SLO resident leaves no-contact messages of gratitude for disaster service workers who deliver dry good and produce on a bi-weekly basis. This message reads, “Thank you SLO delivery angels! Sorry it’s kind of hot out there! Lots of love.” Photo credit: Maria Murrietta

Murrietta is confident that the produce being delivered is of high quality – because a portion of it is grown by volunteers in San Luis Obispo County. The UC Master Gardener Program of San Luis Obispo County has been harvesting and donating fresh fruits and vegetables to the food bank since 2016. Last year was its best year yet with more than 1100 lbs. of fresh produce donated from its vegetable beds and fruit orchard.

UC Master Gardener volunteers, (from left to right) Kathlene Henry-Gorman, Lisa Mowery, and, Aliza Golan, in San Luis Obispo County with a recent harvest from its community garden, the Garden of the Seven Sisters, being donated to a local food bank. Photo credit: Jacqueline Shubitowski

“UC Master Gardener volunteers have been working hard to keep this up during the statewide shelter-in-place order. They were among the first groups to be approved as essential workers - according to the early UC ANR guidelines - so they could continue this vital work,” says Murrietta. “They continue to adjust as the procedures continue to change, even when, for a short time, the food bank stopped accepting donations from non-commercial growers. During this brief break, our lead UC Master Gardener volunteer went to work and found two additional locations in our region that were happy to accept fruits and vegetables - the Salvation Army food pantry and our local homeless services center!”

UC Master Gardener volunteer, Cory Kelso, holding a freshly pulled bunch of carrots from the Garden of the Seven Sisters in San Luis Obispo. Fruits and vegetables harvested from the garden are donated to local food banks to help feed residents in need. Photo credit: Jacqueline Shubitowski

Murrietta reports that demand at the food bank has tripled since March 2020 and that seed racks at two local nurseries are nearly empty. “Food insecurity is not a new topic, but is a new concern for many people for the first time,” explains Murrietta. In San Luis Obispo County, residents can benefit from UC Master Gardener Program harvests, in the form of produce donations, and from gardening education that the volunteers provide to the public. “I think this time of COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of what UC Master Gardeners can offer a community, and it has reminded UC Master Gardener volunteers of how important their work is,” notes Murrietta. “Their skills and knowledge and their desire to contribute go beyond helping other gardeners have a pretty landscape!”

While COVID-19 has affected all communities and volunteers differently, the resilience, creativity, and flexibility, of UC Master Gardener volunteers and coordinators alike, continues to inspire and impress. The stories featured in this four-part series here are a small snapshot of the innovation and strength that this food community and garden education community has to offer.

Please note: Reappointment for the 2020/2021 Program Year began on June 1st and ends July 30th. The UC Master Gardener Program celebrates and appreciates ALL volunteers, regardless of their ability to contribute hours during this unprecedented time. Volunteers who choose to remain active and reappoint will be approved, regardless of the number of volunteer or continuing education hours completed this year.  Volunteers will not be responsible for making up any incomplete volunteer and continuing education hours in the following program year. However, all volunteers must complete reappointment to remain active or limited active in the UC Master Gardener Program.

Posted on Thursday, June 25, 2020 at 7:22 AM
  • Author: Maria Murrietta
  • Author: Marisa Coyne
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Growing Creativity in the COVID-19 Era (Part 3 of 4)

For the past three months, COVID-19 and social distancing requirements have changed the way the UC Master Gardener Program serves our mission to extend trusted gardening information. With a resurgence of interest in gardening, UC Master Gardener volunteers adapted to the pandemic using new and innovative ways to share gardening support and help.

This is the third feature of a four-part blog series. Read our earlier posts about how volunteers in Amador County learned new skills and quickly brought program resources online in Part 1 of this 4-part series and how volunteers in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties created the “Great Tomato Plant Share' in Part 2 of this 4-part series.

Join us as we celebrate the innovation, creativity, and flexibility of UC Master Gardener volunteers and county staff during this unique time! 

SAN DIEGO COUNTY

The UC Master Gardener Program in San Diego County has been quick to develop new and innovative ways to provide remote education to its trainees and members of the public. Scott Parker, program coordinator, credits its new class operation team and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) partners with its successful move to online training and graduation of the class of 2020.

UC Master Gardener Program trainees in San Diego County attended plant propagation and flower dissection workshops via Zoom during shelter-in-place orders in spring 2020.
 

“Shortly after the shelter-in-place order went into effect, Karey Windbiel-Rojas and Elaine Lander of UC Integrated Pest Management Statewide Program (UC IPM) suggested they deliver their pest management content online rather than in person. The presentation was so well done and well attended, that the class lit up,” says Parker. This first success inspired the new class operation team to continue its courses via Zoom.  “They thought, we can graduate these folks!” says Parker.  

The new class operation team, led by Judy MacKenzie, reimagined and developed lessons, including a Zoom-based flower dissection lab. “We sent out a list of materials that trainees needed to gather including plants from their yard or community, a cutting board, and a knife. Suddenly, we had 47 flower dissections in 47 places around the county, all taking place simultaneously!” says Parker.

UC Master Gardener Program trainees in San Diego County participated in an online flower dissection lab via Zoom, led by experienced volunteers.

“Thanks to the creativity and innovation of volunteers, county leadership, and UC ANR partners, trainees reported a high quality, engaging, and interactive educational experience. On the last day of class in late May, trainees said that they were proud to be joining such a wonderful organization,” says Anne Perriera, UC Master Gardener volunteer.  “When Scott Parker played the UC Master Gardener Program's 2020 graduation video during our final training Zoom class, there was not a dry eye in the Zoom room,” says Perriera, “I have been a UC Master Gardener volunteer for four years and had tears in my eyes as well!”

UC Master Gardener Volunteer, Nancy Herzfeld-Pipkin, presents an overview of the Beginning Vegetable Gardening Committee to the UC Master Gardener Program of San Diego Class of 2020 trainees.

Trainees are not the only ones benefiting from the UC Master Gardener Program of San Diego County's flexibility at this time. Just a few weeks after Governor Newsom's statewide shelter-in-place directive was announced, a team of volunteers developed ‘Let's Grow Together San Diego' online gardening resources for gardeners of all ages and experience levels. Parker credits Mike Harrelson, Francie Murphy, and a variety of talented and dedicated volunteers, with gathering resources, creating informative and hands-on activities, and marketing the product to the community.

The reception has been no less than enthusiastic! Visit the San Diego Union-Tribune Home and Garden section to read a column on the ‘Let's Grow Together San Diego' digital collection of tips for gardeners of all ages and experience levels and many other articles about exceptional UC Master Gardener volunteers.
 
While COVID-19 has affected all communities and volunteers differently, the resilience, creativity, and flexibility, of UC Master Gardener volunteers and coordinators alike, continues to inspire and impress. The stories featured in this four-part series here are a small snapshot of the innovation and strength that this food community and garden education community has to offer.

Please note: Reappointment for the 2020/2021 Program Year began on June 1st and ends July 30th. The UC Master Gardener Program celebrates and appreciates ALL volunteers, regardless of their ability to contribute hours during this unprecedented time. Volunteers who choose to remain active and reappoint will be approved, regardless of the number of volunteer or continuing education hours completed this year.  Volunteers will not be responsible for making up any incomplete volunteer and continuing education hours in the following program year. However, all volunteers must complete reappointment to remain active or limited active in the UC Master Gardener Program.

 

Posted on Monday, June 22, 2020 at 6:22 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Growing Creativity in the COVID-19 Era (Part 2 of 4)

For the past three months, COVID-19 and social distancing requirements have changed the way the UC Master Gardener Program serves our mission to extend trusted gardening information. With a resurgence of interest in gardening, UC Master Gardener volunteers adapted to the pandemic using new and innovative ways to share gardening support and help.

This is the second feature of a four-part blog series. Read our earlier post about how volunteers in Amador County learned new skills and quickly brought program resources online in Part 1 of this 4-part series.

Join us as we celebrate the innovation, creativity, and flexibility of UC Master Gardener volunteers and county staff during this unique time!  

CONTRA COSTA and ALAMEDA COUNTIES

If you happened to pick up a newspaper or visit a news website in the Bay Area at the beginning of the pandemic in March, you likely read about the “Great Tomato Plant Share,” a community giveaway of nearly 5,000 plants grown and donated from the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa and Alameda Counties.

Ned Lange (left) and Devra Laner (right), UC Master Gardener volunteers, prepare tomato starts for transfer to Title 1 schools in Alameda County. As of June 11th, more than 1000 families have received food plant donations for their homes and gardens.

When the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County's annual tomato plant sale, attended by thousands of Bay Area residents, was canceled due to COVID-19, volunteers and staff wasted no time organizing ways to get the plants into the hands and homes of community members. “We didn't want the plants to go to waste, we wanted to get them out into the community,” said Dawn Kooyumjian, UC Master Gardener program coordinator. “Rather than composting the plants at a time of heightened interest in home vegetable gardening and food security, we saw an opportunity to connect with Oakland Unified School District through our school garden support team, which supports gardens in Title 1 schools by mentoring teachers, parents, and FoodCorps volunteers.”

According to UC Master Gardener, Devra Laner, at least 1200 families in Alameda County are now growing donated plant starts in their home gardens. “We just celebrated our eighth week of plant donations at seven different school locations within Oakland Unified School District. I would estimate we are close to 1500 plants given away,” says Laner.  “The number is a little hard to calculate because we are distributing the bush beans as a 4-pack, and we have 6-packs of scallions and stir fry greens coming up in a couple of weeks.  So if you count by the plant, rather than the pot, it's actually more!” 

Devra Laner and fellow volunteer Ned Lange have spearheaded the giveaway and have no plans to slow down. “We are proud of the work this team is doing. We hope we can keep it up all summer," says Laner. 
 
UC Master Gardener Program Volunteer, Ned Lange accompanies UC CalFresh Representatives Haley Kerr and Leticia Christian at West Oakland Middle School. 80 tomato and basil plants were distributed at this giveaway.

Additional plants were donated to local community and school gardens and sold to nurseries struggling to keep up with the increased demand. Plants care instructions on how to grow were available in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic.

“Typically, our plant sale is our largest fundraising event of the year, bringing in $85,000 or more to support our mission of helping people learn or improve gardening skills. Because of COVID-19, we turned the ‘Great Tomato Sale' into what our volunteers call ‘Our Great Tomato Share' to support underserved communities,” said Frank McPherson, director of UC Cooperative Extension for the Bay Area. "The work done by our volunteers was enormous in terms of goodwill and transcended county lines. They are to be commended for their generosity and overall positive impact on Bay Area communities. Collectively they spent thousands of hours preparing for what turned out to be one of, if not the largest giveaway in the history of the program. I personally had the privilege of not only receiving and growing some of their plants in my own garden but was also able to participate in one of the plant giveaways. My appreciation and gratitude go out to all who participated and were instrumental in not only propagating the seedlings but also quickly shifting their actions from a fundraising activity to one that has generated such a significant amount of goodwill."

With the loss of its largest fundraising event, the program is thinking creatively about how to raise money for its educational workshops or garden supplies to support its community and demonstration gardens. If you would like to support the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa or Alameda County, you can make a gift by selecting the county name in the dropdown menu here: https://donate.ucanr.edu/?id=3_15.

Read more about the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa and Alameda Counties plant giveaway on local news website, KRON4, and on the UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda's website

UCCE Bay Area County Director, Frank McPherson, and UC CalFresh Representative, Haley Kerr, help distribute tomato plants and basil seedlings grown by UC Master Gardener volunteers at West Oakland Middle School in May

While COVID-19 has affected all communities and volunteers differently, the resilience, creativity, and flexibility of UC Master Gardener volunteers and coordinators continue to inspire and impress. The stories featured in this four-part series here are a small snapshot of the innovation and strength that this food community and garden education community has to offer.

Please note: Reappointment for the 2020/2021 Program Year began on June 1st and ends July 30th. The UC Master Gardener Program celebrates and appreciates ALL volunteers, regardless of their ability of contribute hours during this unprecedented time. Volunteers who choose to remain active and reappoint will be approved, regardless of the number of volunteer or continuing education hours completed this year.  Volunteers will not be responsible for making up any incomplete volunteer and continuing education hours in the following program year. However, all volunteers must complete reappointment in order to remain active or limited active in the UC Master Gardener Program.

Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 at 6:15 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Growing Creativity in the COVID-19 Era (Part 1 of 4)

COVID-19 is having a tremendous impact on social, environmental, and economic conditions throughout the state of California and across the globe. Collectively we have endured a series of losses, from financial security to the lives of loved ones.  We have had to adapt to shifts in our way-of-life, and vision a new, safe future for our communities.

Volunteerism and the many benefits of gardening have recently seen a flood of interest from local and national news media. While much about the future is still uncertain, it is clear that the UC Master Gardener Program's work to extend practical, research-based home horticulture, integrated pest management, and sustainable landscaping information is more relevant than ever before.

COVID-19 related shelter-in-place orders, social distancing requirements, and public or individual health threats have changed the way UC Master Gardener volunteers engage with community members and with each other. Most volunteers have had to limit their participation following federal, state, local, and UC system-wide guidance. Many volunteers are simultaneously balancing childcare, eldercare, work, and personal responsibilities, resulting in limited time for volunteer commitments. For some volunteers, this global crisis has led to engagement in new and innovative extension methods.

Join us over the next two weeks as we share a four-part series of stories that celebrate the innovation, creativity, and flexibility of UC Master Gardener volunteers and county staff during this unique time!  

AMADOR COUNTY

“When California went into shelter-in-place, our public education team stepped up to ensure the public would still be able to connect with UC Master Gardener volunteers and receive gardening information and support,” said Tracy Celio, UC Master Gardener program coordinator in Amador County.  

UC Master Gardener volunteer, Ed Bass, was especially committed, teaching himself how to use video software to create educational gardening content. Bass shared his videos about spring gardening and using compostable materials in raised beds on social media on the UC Master Gardener Program of Amador County's Facebook page.  After a couple of successful videos with high engagement, Celio proposed an online public workshop via Zoom. “We chose to feature a virtual tour of the Heritage Rose Garden followed by a question and answer session with our UC Master Gardener rose experts,” said Celio.


Ed Bass shot and edited the virtual rose garden tour video, working alongside fellow volunteer and workshop instructor Judy Woods. Bass and Woods worked closely together to develop a strategy for the online tour and how to best meet its learning objectives. UC Master Gardener volunteer, Doris Mosblech, jumped aboard to help trouble-shoot and manage the Zoom waiting room and chat. 

“Because of Ed's flexibility, enthusiasm, and willingness to try something new, UC Master Gardener volunteers in Amador County have been able to stay engaged with our community. We could not have done it without him,” said Celio.

UC Master Gardener volunteer in Amador County, Ed Bass, sends congratulations to 2020 graduates of the UC Master Gardener Program. His photo was featured in a video created by Lauren Snowden, statewide training coordinator, to celebrate the nearly 700 newly certified UC Master Gardener volunteers and garden educators throughout the state. Source: Ed Bass

Visit the UCCE Master Gardener Program of Amador County Facebook page to view more exciting videos and virtual content.

While COVID-19 has affected all communities and volunteers differently, the resilience, creativity, and flexibility of UC Master Gardener volunteers and coordinators continue to inspire and impress. The stories featured in this four-part series here are a small snapshot of the innovation and strength that this food community and garden education community has to offer. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the 4-part series on Growing Creativity in the COVID-19 Era

Please note: Reappointment for the 2020/2021 Program Year began on June 1st and ends July 30th. The UC Master Gardener Program celebrates and appreciates all volunteers, regardless of their ability to contribute hours during this unprecedented time. Volunteers who choose to remain active and reappoint will be approved, regardless of the number of volunteer or continuing education hours completed this year.  Volunteers will not be responsible for making up any incomplete volunteer and continuing education hours in the following program year. However, all volunteers must complete reappointment to remain active or limited active with the UC Master Gardener Program.

Posted on Monday, June 15, 2020 at 6:39 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Reappointment begins June 1 2020

It's reappointment time for the UC Master Gardener Program! Before the reappointment process begins we would like to say thank you. Our dedicated volunteers are the heart of the UC Master Gardener Program. You make our program impact possible. We hope you'll join us for another year of extending research-based home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape information to Californians. 

We realize the tremendous impact COVID-19 has had on planned spring activities across the state. After thoughtful consideration to the current crisis, volunteers who choose to remain active and reappoint will be approved, regardless of the number of volunteer or continuing education hours completed this year (July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020). Further, volunteers will not be responsible for making up any incomplete volunteer and continuing education hours in the following program year. See Q2 in the quick tips and FAQ section of this blog for instructions on how to complete reappointment if you have not completed your hours. Please note that all volunteers are still required to log completed hours in VMS, even if the number of completed hours falls short of program requirements.

Annual reappointment is a requirement for all volunteers working with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). Please read this update thoroughly and direct any questions regarding the reappointment process to your program's UC Master Gardener Coordinator, Advisor, or County Director. Reappointment will be taking place from June 1 through July 31, 2020, across the state of California. The process for reappointment can be done in 3 easy steps!

 

Step One: Select “Please Complete!” in VMS

• Log into VMS, vms-mg.ucanr.edu/
• Select “Please Complete!” under "Reappointment" in right column of your VMS home screen

 

Step Two: Complete all three sections to fulfill county requirements for participation

  

Step Three “A”: Verify Date Completed Displays and Print a Copy for your Records

 

Once you complete reappointment, the reappointment window will no longer appear on your VMS screen.

 

Step Three “B”: Submit Insurance Fee (if required in your county)

The UC Master Gardener Program requires a $6.00 fee to cover accident and injury insurance. This fee is either collected locally county personnel, paid for by county fundraising, or combined with a county membership fee. All active, limited-active volunteers should contact their local UC Cooperative Extension program Coordinator, Advisor or County Director for more information about their county requirements and, if required, how to submit a payment.

 


Quick Tips and FAQ's:

Q1: Who must complete the reappointment process?
The reappointment process is mandatory for all UCCE Master Gardeners with the following status and achievement including:

Active AND Limited Active

• First Year Master Gardener
• Master Gardener
• Gold Badge
• Platinum Badge

 

Q2: What should I do if I was unable to complete my volunteer hours or continuing education hours as a result of Covid-19?
When prompted, select the “Not Completed Hours, Seeking Reappointment” dropdown option. In the optional description text box, write “Covid-19.” All volunteers must complete reappointment in order to remain active or limited active in the UC Master Gardener Program. Volunteers will not be responsible for making up any incomplete volunteer and continuing education hours in the following program year.

 

Q3: How many hours do I need to volunteer for reappointment? 
The minimum hour requirements have been waved for this reappointment year, see Q2 above.  The minimum hours required to remain a certified UC Master Gardener volunteer are:

• 25 hours - Volunteer
• 12 hours - Continuing education

Note: First-year UC Master Gardener volunteers are required to complete a minimum of 50 volunteer hours (no continuing education requirement) before the next certification cycle.

 

Q4: What is the date range for calculating hours for reappointment? 
Hours should be reported for the period of July 1, 2019 - June 30, 2020.

 

Q5: Where do I send my payment?
Please check with your county Coordinator, Director, or Advisor about fees and where and how to submit payment. The statewide office does not collect fees or payment directly from volunteers for reappointment. You can find contact information for county personnel here.

 

Posted on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 7:36 PM
  • Author: Marisa Coyne
  • Author: Lauren Snowden
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

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