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National Volunteer Month: Gardeners with Heart – Diversity Equity and Inclusion Leaders – Part 2

In April, we celebrate National Volunteer Month, honoring all of the contributions that volunteers make in our communities. All month long, the UC Master Gardener Program will feature stories of exceptional volunteers, or Gardeners with Heart, making a difference in California's community, school, demonstration, and research gardens. While the past program year presented many challenges to program delivery, the surge of interest in gardening has never been higher. The passion and support of UC Master Gardener volunteers have been essential in the program continuing to serve our mission.

Today, we celebrate Gardeners with Heart whose diversity, equity, and inclusion leadership has transformed program delivery, outreach, and administration. These volunteers embody the UCANR Strategic Goal to Improve Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) through their commitment to serving audiences historically underinvested by Extension and developing the community engagement and cultural competency of their fellow volunteers. Because of the nature of COVID-19 restrictions, many of our Gardeners with Heart nominated in the community stewardship category also display outstanding technological skills, using new virtual platforms and approaches to support their efforts.

Jennifer Kwoon (left), displays a variety of stone fruit at the while volunteering at the Alhambra Farmers Market in Los Angeles County. Jennifer’s many contributions to the UC Master Gardener Program, include analysis of volunteer applicant demographics, service on the newly formed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force, and extending garden information in Mandarin and Cantonese. [Photo taken pre-COVID].

Jennifer Kwoon – Los Angeles County

Jennifer is an amazing UC Master Gardener Program volunteer from the Los Angeles County class of 2019! She's always looking for ways to use her skills to help the UC Master Gardener Program grow and be more helpful to the diverse communities here in Los Angeles County. Before the pandemic, Jennifer could often be found volunteering at the Alhambra Farmers' Market, sharing gardening information with our community. As a fluent Mandarin speaker who also understands Cantonese, she has helped the program reach Chinese-speaking community members with which the program previously had limited interaction.

In recent months, Jennifer has been very active in Los Angeles County's recently formed UC Master Gardener Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force. Last fall, Jennifer approached UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) staff and offered to analyze program data to help us have a better understanding of the trends in diversity of UC Master Gardeners and trainees over time and of course, we were happy to take her up on this offer!

"I am deeply honored to be nominated for the 2021 UC Master Gardener Program Gardeners with Heart volunteer recognition. Like many people, the global pandemic changed my perspective on how I could still be involved and continue to serve my community in this year of isolation,” says Jennifer, “In addition to a lover of all things green, I am also a fervent proponent for justice and equity. So as a data scientist, it seemed like a natural step to assist the UC Master Gardener Program in Los Angeles County in analyzing years of UC Master Gardener Program applicant and volunteer data to help build a more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming program for all. The UC Master Gardener Program's DEI initiatives are a result of the combined efforts of many caring, dedicated, and extremely generous people. I am privileged to work among them and am continuously inspired by their warmth and commitment to the community.”

Jennifer's contributions have added a layer of awareness to the entire UC Master Gardener Program in Los Angeles, and in turn on every project, by highlighting the urgent need for improvement in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion in every aspect of our program. Jennifer offered her advanced data analysis skills to analyze anonymous UC Master Gardener applicant data from 2010 through 2020 to illustrate the gaps in our applicant selection process concerning diversity, equity, and inclusion. After Jennifer painstakingly analyzed ten years' worth of program data and presented her findings to the group, the DEI Task Force made practical suggestions based on those results. “Jennifer's work was foundational to allowing us to see where we need to improve our volunteer outreach to reflect the diversity of Los Angeles County better. She also promoted cultural competence, relationship building, and communication among our volunteers,” explains program coordinator Valorie Borel. Along with DEI task force members, Jennifer helped design a final project for 2021 trainees, which prepares them to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in their volunteer work.

Despite the pandemic, UC Master Gardener Program volunteers Deb Helleseth, Elissa Bunn, Muriel Stephenson, Karen McNeil, and Suzanne Surburg continued to visit the Sherwood Demonstration Garden in El Dorado County (when allowed by local and state guidelines) to film videos and online educational content for community partners.

Sherwood Demonstration Garden ‘Veggie Team' - El Dorado County

In 2019, the UC Master Gardener Program launched a partnership with Motherlode Rehabilitation (MORE), a non-profit that provides services to adults with developmental disabilities and empowers individuals with disabilities to enhance their quality of life. Twice a month, MORE clients visited the Sherwood Demonstration Garden to learn about gardening and nutrition with UC Master Gardener Program volunteers, including Kitty Howard and the Veggie Team: Deb Helleseth, Karen McNeil, Elissa Bunn, Gail Fulbeck, Barbara Brydon, Muriel Stephenson, Dave Hale, and Suzanne Surburg.

“When COVID-19 hit, MORE participants could no longer visit the garden, so the ‘Veggie Team' pivoted,” explains program coordinator Tracy Celio. Despite not being able to meet in person, UC Master Gardeners continued to engage MORE clients. A team of volunteers developed learning opportunities and videos to share about various gardening topics and projects like how to build a birdhouse and growing succulents. “Our partnership with the UC Master Gardener Program has had a significant impact on our clients. It opened up a whole new hands-on experience, and our clients learned about where food comes from, how it grows, and the miracle of harvesting. UC Master Gardeners treated our clients with such respect that they felt part of the community. While in-person activities had to pause because of COVID-19, UC Master Gardeners actively supported MORE clients. We can't wait to return in-person to the garden!” says Susie Davies, Chief Executive Officer at MORE.

In addition to this community partner work, the 'Veggie Team' kept the Sherwood Demonstration Garden thriving in 2020. Their work enabled the UC Master Gardener Program in El Dorado to donate large quantities of vegetables to local food banks, launch community training on Facebook Live, produce videos for the public, and develop contact-less gardening kits for existing community projects.

Thurman Howard, UC Master Gardener Program volunteer in Riverside County has been instrumental in the creation of the Diverse Community Projects, an umbrella effort combining projects focusing on the needs and priorities of communities often underinvested by Cooperative Extension. Here Thurman works with a fellow gardener and member of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Tribe, to discuss management of the Soboba Elders Garden.

Thurman Howard – Riverside County

In 2020 UC Master Gardener Program volunteer, Thurman Howard, joined fellow UC Master Gardener volunteers in Riverside County to create a new program effort: Diverse Community Projects. Diverse Community Projects is an umbrella effort combining several existing projects with new ventures, designed to engage and support communities often underinvested by Extension. The project focuses on partnerships with organizations serving Black, Hispanic/Latino/Latinx, Asian and Asian American, Pacific Islander, Native American, and people with disabilities. "For many years UC Master Gardeners in Riverside County have been involved in reaching out to various communities to provide gardening assistance and information. However, we have become increasingly aware that several ethnic populations are either not served at all or who are considerably underserved," says Thurman.

According to fellow volunteer, Georgia Renne the team increased outreach to their existing project serving Women Infants and Children (WIC), a federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program. Currently serving nine WIC offices throughout Riverside County, the team is now working to expand its footprint. They have developed materials in Spanish, recruited bilingual volunteers and speakers, and partnered with Beaumont Head Start to provide education and bilingual assistance in a local children's garden. These efforts have increased UC Master Gardener Program contacts in the Latino community in Riverside by 1000%! In addition to work with WIC and Headstart participants, the Diverse Community Projects team, collaborates closely with Faith Temple, a predominately Black congregation located in an ethnically diverse community of Black, Asian, and Hispanic families. UC Master Gardener Program volunteers worked with congregants to develop a one-acre community garden and orchard and gardening programming in collaboration with Cal Fresh and the Faith Temple's garden committee.

Thurman worked with his team to support the 'Cultivating Inclusion Garden' located in Murrieta, Calif. to help address the need for vocational skills for people with disabilities. UC Master Gardener Program volunteers organize and train community volunteers on how to manage the citrus orchard and several raised beds for vegetables. Volunteers then work alongside adults and children with disabilities to care for plants and harvested produce to be donated to local food banks. From July 2020 to January 2021, this orchard produced over 2 tons of citrus for their local food pantries.

Finally, Thurman Howard's years-long personal relationship with the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians in the San Jacinto area resulted in the development of a community resource garden, the Soboba Elder's Garden. Thurman's approach to this partnership reflects his deep respect for community partners, humility, and understanding of the importance of trust-building. "At the beginning of this project,” says Georgia, “Thurman worked to visited with Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians tribal members twice per week to discuss soil building, project goals, and project budget.” As a result, the Soboba Elders' Garden today has become a huge success. The site now has multiple fields planted with seasonally appropriate crops, a robust composting and vermiculture program, and various types of irrigation. The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians has nominated several members to complete the UC Master Gardener Program training and funded a full-time coordinator to deliver garden produce to tribal members. Current plans include planting a summer crop of corn, beans, pumpkins, and yams or sweet potatoes as requested by the Elders. In the late spring of 2021, members continue to harvest crops daily with a bumper crop of carrots, beets, mustard greens, onions, and three varieties of lettuces.

About National Volunteer Month and Gardeners with Heart

During National Volunteer Month (April 1 - 30), the UC Master Gardener Program celebrates its 6,000 incredible UC Master Gardener volunteers and their contributions to California communities. Throughout the month, we will feature stories of special volunteers or Gardeners with Heart from across the state who use their skills to improve program delivery. Gardener's with Heart volunteers were nominated by their local county leadership for their stewardship of the UC Master Gardener Program during the pandemic period, their diversity equity and inclusion leadership, and their digital superstardom. To nominate a Gardener with Heart in your program or county, complete this online survey 

 

 

Special appreciation to UC Master Gardener Program coordinators Valerie Borel (Los Angeles) and Tracy Celio (El Dorado) and lead volunteer Georgie Renne (Riverside) for contributions to this story.

 

 

Posted on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at 10:00 AM
  • Author: Marisa Coyne
  • Editor: Melissa Womack
  • Author: Valerie Borel
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

LIVE: Planting Right with Plant Right Talk

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 FacebookTwitter, 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:

  1. Tracking the sale of invasive plants currently on the plant list and retiring those that have been mostly phased out of retail.
  2. Helping PlantRight determine whether or not to add candidate plants to the plant list.
  3. 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.

 

Posted on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 at 2:05 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Healthy Soils Week Celebration and Learning Opportunities

Learn and celebrate Healthy Soils Week with the UC Master Gardener Program and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Nov. 30 – Dec. 4! Healthy Soils week is full of virtual activities, at-home projects, and LIVE talks to join.  Growing and supporting soil health is something all of us can contribute to whether we have a full landscape to work in, a small patio, or a community garden plot. 

Why Healthy Soil?

Soil quality is critical to healthy plants, crops and is a vital part of our living ecosystem. Soil is alive with organisms that slowly grow or change depending on what is added or used.  Soil health, much like our own, is gradually improved over time so focusing on its constant improvement helps sustainability. Adding certain practices into your gardening routine, such as incorporating organic matter, can improve soil health and quality.

Tips to Keep your Garden Soil Healthy, LIVE on Dec. 3

The UC Master Gardener Program will celebrate healthy soils week by hosting a free LIVE talk on Tips to Keep your Garden Soil Healthy. No registration is required. The discussion will be live-streamed to Facebook and YouTube on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 10 am.

Guest speaker, Dustin Blakey, will be breaking down what gardeners can do to support healthy soil for years to come. LIVE talks are an authentic and interactive way to interact with our audience in real-time. Share the Facebook and YouTube Live opportunity on your social media and tune in to the UC Master Gardener Program LIVE broadcast! In the comments section, let us know what topics or questions you would like answered on Thursday, Dec. 3 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.

Other Events and Activities

California Department of Food and Agriculture and more than 20 partners have teamed up highlighting healthy soils on the farm and at home.  Find a full list of partners participating in healthy soils week and a calendar of this year's online activities at www.cdfa.ca.gov/healthysoilsweek/.

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.

Posted on Monday, November 23, 2020 at 3:23 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Congratulations! 2020 Gardeners with Heart

"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

Congratulations to all of the volunteers awarded as the 2020 Gardeners with Heart! UC Master Gardener Program is excited to feature special volunteers or Gardeners with Heart from across the state in celebration of our program's 40th year. Gardeners with Heart volunteers were nominated by their local county leadership for their creativity, strategic thinking, passion for the program's mission, and commitment to outreach. Please enjoy this celebration of the contributions of 52 of our 6,000 exceptional UC Master Gardener Program volunteers!

2020 Gardeners with Heart: 

  • Barbara S., Lake County

  • Bob C., Ventura County

  • Borah L., Los Angeles and Yolo County

  • Bob and Sharon Y. San Bernardino County

  • Cheryl T. El Dorado County

  • Cie C., Sonoma County

  • Darlene D., Contra Costa County

  • Debi A., San Bernardino County

  • Devra L., Alameda County

  • Diane G., Santa Barbara County

  • Diane J., Sonoma County

  • Doris M., Amador County

  • Electra D., Sonoma County

  • Esther M., San Bernardino County

  • Eve K., El Dorado County

  • Gail M., Marin County

  • Harry L., Ventura County

  • Irene B., Alameda County

  • Jan K., Sutter-Yuba County

  • Janet M., Contra Costa County

  • Jerry M., Lake County

  • Jessica W., Marin County

  • Jillian K. and Adam W., San Bernardino County

  • Joan S., Alameda County

  • Judie T., Nevada County

  • Julie D., Alameda CountyKarole W., Lake County

  • Karole W., Lake County

  • Kathy M., Sonoma County
 
  • Kay P., Butte County

  • Lee R., Ventura County

  • Lee M., San Joaquin County

  • Linda H., Ventura County

  • Linda G., Orange County

  • Linda D., San Joaquin County

  • Mary J., Contra Costa County

  • Mary Lou L., Orange County

  • Merry Jo V., Lake County

  • Nancie R., Alameda County

  • Nicole V., Ventura County

  • Norma Y., Orange County

  • Pam R., Santa Clara County

  • Pat S., San Joaquin County

  • Peg S., Yolo County

  • Penny F., Sonoma County

  • Roanna P., Ventura County

  • Robin S., El Dorado County

  • Robyn B., Contra Costa County

  • Sherida P., San Joaquin County

  • Sherry R., Solano County

  • Stacey S., Contra Costa County

  • Steve S., San Joaquin County

  • Sue L., Sonoma County

  • Summer B., El Dorado County

  • Ted H., Stanislaus County

  • Terri T., Contra Costa County



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Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 11:41 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

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

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