Posts Tagged: Master Gardener Program
"If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” — Kofi Annan
2020 Gardeners with Heart:
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.
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.
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.”
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 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!”
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.
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!
“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.
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.
It may seem odd to see seventy-five people at a hotel conference center learning about insects and rats on vegetables, but not if you are a UC Master Gardener. The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) in partnership with the UC Master Gardener Program just wrapped up the Vegetable Pests and Solutions train-the-trainer series. More than 340 UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state took part in the regional trainings offered in Fresno, Orange, Placer, San Luis Obispo and Sonoma counties.
The advanced UC IPM training offered a hands-on, train-the-trainer experience that increased participants' knowledge of insect pests of vegetables, vegetable plant diseases and disorders, and vertebrate pests of gardens and homes. One of the highlights of the training was Human-Wildlife Interaction Advisor, Niamh Quinn, showing a taxidermy collection of vertebrate pests at the Orange and San Luis Obispo County workshops. Being able to handle and observe the different markings, colors and claws on certain animals makes future identification easier as participants learned the signs to look for when identifying vertebrate pest damage in the vegetable garden.
UC Master Gardener volunteers were lead through exercises that mimic questions commonly received from the public. Some of the questions had a photo, others just a sparse description that volunteers worked together to solve using online IPM resources and materials provided at the training. The exercises were designed to challenge and expose the learner to different types of scenarios and tools they can use in the future.
Outreach and Education
The UC Master Gardener Program's mission is to extend research-based information, by attending advanced trainings such as this, volunteers are even more prepared to contribute to the program's mission. With exposure and practice using new resources and materials training attendees have the tools and knowledge needed to educate the public on vegetable pests and solutions including scripted PowerPoints, activities, handouts, and vegetable pest identification card sets. One attendee reported “As a first year UC Master Gardener, this training helped me become more comfortable and more confident researching answers for pest management questions.”
At the conclusion of the training volunteers convened with their fellow county volunteers to talk about their plans to take new found knowledge back into their communities. Some of the great ideas generated were:
- offer seasonal pest problems workshops
- include a “Need Help Solving Pest Problems?” flier for all events
- add IPM tips to newsletters and social media
- integrate IPM into presentations as appropriate or relevant to topic
- add signage for damaged or diseased plants with IPM solutions in demonstration gardens
- share IPM toolkit at farmers markets and demo garden events
How We are Making a Difference
One portion of the agenda was focused on how the UC Master Gardener community is making a difference. With 6,000+ volunteers serving more than 517,000 Californians per year the impact of the UC Master Gardener volunteer effort is truly amazing. Through statewide program evaluation efforts the impact in sustainable landscaping, food gardening and community well-being is now being analyzed and reported in the programs annual report. Volunteers can see the impact they are having statewide and be proud of being part of a group that social changes they are seeing in their local communities.
As active volunteers and life-long learners UC Master Gardeners are a powerful educational tool and inspiration for others not only in the garden but in the volunteer community. Statewide educational offerings like UC IPM's train-the-trainer series help hone the diagnostics skills while building confidence in the subject matter.
The next statewide training opportunity for UC Master Gardener volunteers will be the 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference, Sept. 28 –Oct. 2, 2020 at the Granlibakken, Tahoe. The conference is the beginning planning stages and taking speaker and topic suggestions, click here to suggest a speaker or topic.
Tahoe City, Calif. September 28- October 2, 2020
The triennial 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference is taking place Sept. 28- Oct. 2, 2020 in Tahoe City, Calif. Save-the-date to come and join the UC Master Gardener Program and celebrate our 40th anniversary!
The 2017 conference in Long Beach, Calif. saw over 700 attendees from 43 counties across California. The quality and value of the conference is unparalleled in the industry; bringing together leaders in home horticulture and sharing the latest in UC research.
Lake of the Sky: Lake Tahoe
Nestled on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City is the crown jewel of the Sierra-Nevada and the ideal location for the 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference to celebrate our 40th anniversary. The conference is being hosted at Granlibakken Tahoe, a resort built around connection - with adventure, land, water and sky with great food, and one another.
North Lake Tahoe offers experiences from outdoor adventures to explorations of food, culture, art, music and so much more.
Things to do:
- Squaw Valley's Olympic Museum (9.2 miles)
- Tahoe Maritime Museum (.06 miles)
- UC Davis Tahoe Science Center (17.3miles)
- Tahoe Gal (Lake Cruise, 2.1 miles)
- Helicopter Tours (20 miles)
- Ropes course (on-site)
- Kayaking, Paddle boarding
Located minutes from Tahoe City the Granlibakken Tahoe prides itself on preserving the natural environment and providing a space that feels like old Tahoe. Recreational activities (swimming, volleyball, tennis, biking and hiking) are all on conference grounds, and a 1.5 mile private trail leads to North Lake Tahoe.
The UC Master Gardener Conference has reserved the entire resort and an "all-inclusive package" for attendees who stay onsite means lodging, three meals per day, and cocktail receptions will all be included in the lodging rate. Room rate details and the process for booking will be announced in future conference communications. All hotel information will updated on the conference website, ucanr.edu/2020mgconference, check back often for details.
Come to learn, celebrate, explore, & connect
The triennial conference is an important statewide event designed to train volunteers with the most current and up-to-date research-based horticulture information. Training from the statewide conference is used as a jumping board for local-county based programs to be inspired by speakers, content and each other. Attendees are encouraged to share the information in their own county-based programs.
- Intensive sessions
- Poster session
- Search for Excellence
- Silent Auction
- Photo Contest
- Guided nature hikes
- Hosted cocktail receptions
- S'more campfire
- Celebration banquet
- And more…
The 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference is a fantastic opportunity to come together and celebrate our 40th anniversary and explore the natural beauty of Tahoe. Connect, network and build community with fellow UC Master Gardener volunteers from all over California. Save-the-date and see you Sept. 28 – Oct. 2, 2020 in Tahoe City!
Visit the conference website for more details, ucanr.edu/2020mgconference.