- (Public Value) UCANR: Promoting healthy people and communities
- Author: Debbie LeDoux
Lynn Brown-Summers and Tim Summers are a dynamic husband-and-wife team. Their differing strengths have made them an inspiring team in serving their local community wherever they are needed. UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Master Gardeners since January 2019 (Lynn) and July 2017 (Tim) and UCCE Master Food Preservers (since 2017), they enjoy spending time together gardening and preserving their own food.
Lynn's strength is to connect with like-minded individuals to accomplish mutual goals. She has the mind, heart, and soul of an activist, which comes as no surprise since most of her family members are involved in public service, politics, and publishing. Her mother, Cheryl Brown, is a former Assemblywoman of the 47th District and current California State Commissioner on Aging who has devoted most of her life to public service. In 1980, Lynn's father and mother founded Brown Publishing Company to produce Black Voice News. This weekly newspaper focuses on local news in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Lynn knows how to “make things happen” and the right people to help in that effort. As Tim says, “My wife is one of those forces of nature. Tell her what, you point her in the direction, and she will get it done.” A self-proclaimed “gardening nerd," Tim is the “nuts and bolts' implementation force of the team. He enjoys the hands-on part of their collaboration, and it shows through his gardening. Together, they are unstoppable in their goal to make the world better through the Master Gardeners' mission, “To extend research-based knowledge and information on home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices to the residents of California.”
Learning the researched-based approach to sustainable gardening taught in the Master Gardener program has helped Lynn and Tim fulfill their strong desire to help others. They believe that the program provides supportive credibility to their Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver presentations. It gives them a greater depth of knowledge and background of information to pull accurate and useful information. Lynn and Tim believe that research-based knowledge is especially critical for integrated pest management (IPM). They took a UC ANR IPM class a few years ago. They recommended that anyone interested take one of the online courses or workshops https://www2.ipm.ucanr.edu/master-gardeners/.
Before COVID restricted activities, Lynn and Tim were active in presenting Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver workshops at the Rialto Community Garden at 539 Acacia Avenue, Rialto. They are passionate about teaching people the safe way to preserve and store food they have grown.
Lynn and Tim are involved in so many projects that I am amazed at how they find the time and energy to keep “all the balls they are juggling in the air.” They are currently finishing a new (second) Rialto Community Garden at 150 Palm Avenue opposite City Hall. They are proud that they were asked by the City of Rialto to work on the garden for the past two years from start to finish. They served as the UCCE Master Gardener experts for the project, helping develop and implement a garden plan. They represented the community garden project as advisors, attending city planning meetings and spoke at city council meetings regarding the project.
They are also working with the Mayor of Rialto to start a seed bank there. There is a beautiful old adobe building at the Bud Bender Park that Lynn and Tim think would be a perfect spot to start a seed bank. The early 19th-century structure is the oldest building still standing in Rialto. It has been used for many purposes over the years. The internal temperature of the adobe structure is perfect for storing seeds. The Mayor would like to use it for the seed bank, but it needs some repair work. The project is currently in the planning stage “on paper." The city likes the idea and is reviewing the budget for available funds. Lynn and Tim don't easily give up, so if the adobe site doesn't work out, they will find another location for a Rialto seed bank. It may be at the community garden at Bud Bender Park if the idea to use the adobe structure doesn't work out.
Lynn thought having an American Girl Victory Garden workshop would be fun and educational for young girls and attendees to learn about gardening. Stations were set up where the girls made paper, planted seeds, and made a berry jam. The UCCE San Bernardino County Master Food Preservers made food to sample, such as finger sandwiches, cakes, cookies, and other goodies from the American Girl cookbook.
Several people donated American Girl dolls and books to the San Bernardino Public Library. Any of the children who were not able to afford the American Doll event could check a doll and book out of the library and journal their thoughts before returning the library items.
The American Girl Victory Garden workshop that Lynn organizes each year is a well-attended, popular event. The organizers were sad they were not able to hold a workshop this year due to COVID restrictions. However, everyone is looking forward to having another workshop as soon as possible.
Lynn and Tim are highly skilled at helping people feel comfortable to think outside the box to come up with creative gardening solutions. They recently discussed how property at the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in San Bernardino can be converted to a garden with a minister's alliance group. The AME Church does a lot of outreach on self-sufficiency, sustainability, and how to give back to the community. Having their own garden would be a promising avenue for them to sell their product and help the community.
The first step is to help them develop a design concept for the designated area that takes water constraints at the property into consideration and choose the best plants for their needs. They have asked the alliance group to consider planting berries or grapes. Lynn and Tim would also like to teach them how to preserve food and make jams and jellies. Knowing Lynn and Tim, they will make the garden a success!
I was so inspired by Lynn and Tim, their strong partnership, and their drive and passion for teaching the world how food insecurity can be alleviated. They were such an exciting and engaging couple that I could have spent many more hours chatting with them. UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers are thankful to Lynn and Tim for their dedication and support. They are an inspiration to us all!
Sometimes you meet people that energize you with their enthusiasm and friendly, approachable manner. I recently had this experience when I interviewed Kit Leung, this month's UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Bernardino County Spotlight Master Gardener. Kit became a Master Gardener in January of 2019 and has already made many valuable contributions to the Master Gardener program.
One of the many things that makes Kit so special is his generosity sharing his gardening knowledge with others. He believes that sometimes the world is changed by making a difference in just one person's life. He asks himself “what is my sphere of influence and how can I change the world in a meaningful way?” His generosity extends to creating opportunities to promote others. He is a star presenter who likes interacting with others and seeing the “light come on” in other people when he presents. It was a pleasure getting to know Kit. I hope you get the chance to meet him soon at a Master Gardener (online) event!
Kit is not only a great communicator through his presentations, but also through his writing. I interviewed him face-to-face via Zoom and a written questionnaire.
1. You are a great presenter, Kit! I have always enjoyed your Master Gardener presentations very much. Do you have any prior experience in public speaking and presenting? Do you have any tips for Master Gardeners interested in giving presentations but are hesitant to take that first step?
a. Thank you for your kind words. A lot of my work for my "day job" requires presenting virtually and, at times, in-person. I had to learn how to give presentations and speak effectively in front of groups through a Zoom/Webex call or an in-person workshop or presentation. It has taken me several years to become comfortable with presenting. More often than not, I still feel anxious and nervous before each presentation. For anyone interested in giving presentations, I would say some combination of the following could be helpful. Ultimately, it's up to each individual on what they would be comfortable doing, and it will take a little time to get comfortable with presenting:
i. Start off small by giving a short presentation on a topic before undertaking a larger endeavor, such as a full 1-hour workshop.
ii. Choose a topic that you are passionate about or that you are familiar with.
iii. Buddy up and co-present on a topic with another person.
iv. Prepare for each presentation and practice.
v. Solicit feedback after you present and make adjustments for future presentations.
vi. Don't be too hard on yourself. Learn from your missteps and move on.
2. What or who inspired you to join the Master Gardeners?
a. The Master Gardeners of Orange County, who were at the Farm + Food Lab at the Great Park in Irvine, inspired me to become a Master Gardener. I visited the Great Park to have an afternoon out in the early 2010s and came across the Farm + Food Lab. I spoke to a few Master Gardeners about composting and the apple trees they had planted and trained on espaliers. They made a positive impression on me because they were so friendly, knowledgeable, and encouraging. A few years later, when my son was born, I wanted to ensure he ate the most nutritious and freshest vegetables. So, I researched how to start a vegetable garden and recalled my positive experiences with the Master Gardeners of Orange County. I found out that all our local counties had Master Gardener programs, which encouraged me to research which Master Gardeners to join. I researched the local Master Gardener programs and found that the San Bernardino county program held training classes close to where I live. The county itself had many volunteer and service needs and opportunities.
3. What gardening experience did you have before joining the Master Gardeners?
a. I had roughly 5 years of gardening experience before joining the Master Gardeners. We had some unused space in our backyard where some small palm trees and unhealthy citrus trees grew. I converted this space into a vegetable garden to grow food for my family. I have had many years of mixed results but continue to love gardening in my backyard.
4. What is the most interesting gardening concept you have learned through being a member of the Master Gardener program?
a. There are so many. I learn something new every time I hear Maggie, Janet, fellow Master Gardeners, or people affiliated with Master Gardeners (faculty, industry experts, community partners, etc.) Integrated Pest Management stands out as an interesting gardening concept that I have learned about through the Master Gardening program. Knowing that we do not have to immediately spray for pests to manage them is very reassuring. I prefer to garden as naturally and organically as possible since my family and I eat the food we grow at home. Master Gardeners encourage the public to grow their own food!
5. The readers would love to hear about your volunteer activities with the Master Gardeners. Can you share your experiences with the readers?
a. I started off small and gradually eased my way into the volunteer role and increased my involvement over time. I really enjoy learning and trying different things, so my experiences have been all over the place.
i. Helpline: I started by taking Helpline shifts to familiarize myself with the types of questions we get from county residents and the public. This experience also helped me learn about the vast array of resources available to us as Master Gardeners and the public.
ii. Staffed event tables/info booths: I took shifts at various Master Gardeners information booths such as the Ontario Home Show and the San Bernardino County Museum October "Spooktacular."
iii. I worked with fellow Master Gardeners to develop information table materials and kids' activities related to worms and vermicomposting for the San Bernardino County Museum October “Spooktacular” Halloween event.
iv. Started a school garden: Converted an old unused gardening area into a usable garden for my son's elementary school (before the COVID shutdown).
v. Exam Grader: I worked with a fellow Master Gardener to help Maggie and Janet grade Master Gardener trainee midterms and finals.
vi. Online gardening presentations: I recently started working with Maggie to hold online workshops on various gardening topics like ‘Vermicomposting' and ‘Planning a Fall Garden'. vii. Vegetable planting calendar: Created San Bernardino county-specific planting calendar and monthly gardening task resource documents and handouts.
6. Have you done any gardening projects that you would like to tell the readers about? If yes, do you have any tips or advice for anyone who might want to do a similar gardening project?
a. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience working with Maggie on doing online presentations for our community members. This project has enabled our program to continue expanding the scope of our workshop offerings and educational opportunities despite the pandemic. It has set up the program to be even more successful at outreach to our communities. It has helped us become more agile in sharing information with the public and has expanded our reach during the pandemic.
7. What gardening activities are you most interested in?
a. I am really interested in sustainable landscaping, edible gardens, California natives, and vermicomposting.
8. Have you participated in any other community service or volunteer activities (besides Master Gardeners)?
a. Not really. I used to do annual volunteer activities through my company, like helping at food banks and Habitat for Humanity, but nothing formal recently.
9. Has your Master Gardener experience helped you participate in a gardening project or get chosen for a gardening project?
a. It has helped me to help start a school garden at my son's elementary school. My Master Gardener experience helped show some knowledge and credibility of gardening. It helped reassure the teachers and school administrators that the garden would be set up for success.
10. If someone is considering becoming a Master Gardener, what would you tell them about the program?
a. I would highly encourage them to become a Master Gardener. I would tell them that the experience is worth the time and effort, and our communities benefit so much from the work that we do. In these challenging times, volunteerism is so important to help support our community. Volunteering as Master Gardeners is a great way to promote growing your own food, sustainable landscaping, and healthy communities. Lastly, it is an excellent opportunity for personal development. As a Master Gardener, you have opportunities to improve your gardening skills and acquire new skills and experiences you can apply in other parts of your life. You will also meet other like-minded people and make new friends.
- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
Fall is upon us, and with the changing of seasons and weather getting cooler we also have an election and are still in the midst of COVID….one sometimes wonders where peace and solace can be found. Many of us have social media that is full of nature posts, plant groups and more, but being on social media can be a double-edged sword, and “reality” seems to seep in even if you to selectively curate your content. Today I just want to remind you of what you probably already know, that the garden is a great “neutral” go to place!
No matter what your political leanings the garden just “is.” There is no political bickering to be had in the garden, no statistics about daily infection rates in the garden…..just the plants….being, existing, and turning the power of the sun into leaves, flowers and fruits (which is pretty awesome if you ask me!!). This time of year, many of us reconnect with loved ones and family, even if it is online or in a modified way and conversation can be tricky, especially this year! My suggestion? Turn to gardening! Perhaps get together some interesting gardening facts, take some beautiful photos of your plants to share, or share resources with your family members who garden, or who are thinking about gardening (for example: did they know that each county and state has a Master Gardener program that can answer their plant questions?).
Does your garden look a little rough around the edges from the summers heat, fire ash and smoke? If so it can make your “happy place” seem a little sad. Not to worry, the summer is hard on the plants just like it is on us, and this is the time to get in there in rejuvenate it! Plant those natives (in So Cal this is the ideal time to do it!), get a compost pile started or get some worms for vermicomposting! Thinking of putting your garden to bed for the fall? Maybe plant a cool season veggie garden instead! Cool season veggies are some of the most nutritious plants we can grow, and they are also so much more flavorful when grown at home. Not sure where to start? Join our class on Nov 14th “From the Garden to the Table” to learn about growing cool season veggies, sustainable landscaping and pest management and also hear from our Master Food Preservers to learn about making freezer jams. Thinking of turning your inefficient yard into a water wise garden? There is info on how to do that on the 14th in the afternoon as well.
Elections and politicians come and go, this pandemic will as well, .but keeping our sanity through it all is key to survival and the garden, small or large, is here to help with that. If you have an older family member who might not be able to get outside, or do much bending, consider getting a tv tray or table and set potted plants up on a bench for them to “groom.” Kids can be great assets in the garden, looking for pests and finding beneficial insects. They can also get drawn in to planting and harvesting their own crops so send them out to plant some sugar snap peas today! Head racing with the “what if's” that come with “adulting?” The garden can help you unpack your fears, thoughts, and concerns by giving you some quite time: just you and the plants…plants that do not judge or confront. Consider them a canvas for your mind: focus on the plants, get into a grooming, planting, or pruning task and just let your mind go. You will find yourself thinking about this and that and the other thing, but your will also start to notice the different colors of green you see, maybe a pollinator flying by or a bug you've never seen before or a flower that is only 1cm wide, but is oh so beautiful, and all of these things will help your head and heart get centered again.
See the importance of gardening, but have questions? We are here to help answer your plant questions, from lawns to trees and peas to bees! Give us a call, or send us an email and unlike social media will stick to the plants and only the plants, giving you the tips and info you need to create and cultivate your own positive space!
- Author: Brenda Spoelstra
I became a University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardener in San Bernardino County in January of 2019. I had learned about it from a friend who is an instructor with the UCCE Master Food Preserver program. She knew I liked gardening and suggested I look into it to see if it was something I would like to do. At the time I was working for a City Parks and Recreation Department in Planning and Design and my interest was increasing public open spaces and parks and gardens, knowing how essential they are to a healthy lifestyle. In another way, I was looking for an opportunity to get involved in the community. My interest in gardening and garden design just seemed like a natural fit for the UCCE Master Gardener program.
Within the UCCE Master Gardener program, I have volunteered in the San Bernardino School District (SBUSD), informational tables at farmer's markets, and more recently, with a non-profit after school program in Redlands called Micah House. There are two locations but the Micah House program on Oxford Street has been my main connection in the community, working with the mothers of after-school students on their vegetable boxes.
(The UCCE Master Gardener program would like to express gratitude to Micah House Executive Director Alison Anderson and the Chapel Street Micah House team for opening their doors to allow us to offer our 18-week training class there. In turn, Master Gardeners partnered with Micah House staff, families of their after-school program, and the community at large to transform a grassy area in their front yard into a lovely drought-tolerant garden through a grant from the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District.)
In one of my first UCCE Master Gardener activities with the SBUSD, I quickly became aware that it would be imperative to know Spanish well if I wanted to contribute to the UCCE Master Gardener mission to, "develop and extend practical research-based information in agriculture and natural resource to the residents and workforce of San Bernardino County." The US census states that 54% of San Bernardino County is Hispanic, and that 37% of the population speaks Spanish as their first language.
Thus, the story of how I needed to re-learn Spanish led to becoming the on-site UCCE Master Gardener at Micah House on Oxford Street. It began when I reached out to an extended family member who previously taught an immersive Spanish program and is the program director at Micah House on Oxford Street, for Spanish tutoring. After a couple of sessions, she asked if I might be interested in leading some gardening workshops in their vegetable beds started by the previous program director. Well of course! One hiccup. The mothers I would be instructing in gardening speak only Spanish and I want this to be inspiring, not complicated.
In the fall of 2019, with interpretation help from the program director, we set off together in planning the cool season vegetable garden with four mothers of children in the program. We were able to discuss the appropriate cool season vegetables and they selected the desired plants to grow over the winter. None had grown any of their own vegetables but were superb at gardening techniques such as weeding and planting. Much of gardening workshops can be a physical demonstration and then accomplished by the attendees, and I'm thankful for that because at this point my Spanish is still not up to a working standard!
With Spring coming, the program director had an idea how to include the children. We had an activity for them to plant seeds in recycled egg cartons, to be grown indoors as starts for the Spring garden. Again, the mothers were in the lead with selecting the warm season vegetable types and decided on a salsa garden.
With the help of the seed supply in the UCCE Master Gardener office, the kids were able to plant onion and jalapeno peppers. The mothers decided what to plant, install, regularly maintain. Harvest from the vegetable boxes are generously shared with their neighbors. Even with a few Spanish words, my sub-par communication skills seemed to go a long way with building rapport within the community and the workshops seem to be exciting for the kids and the vegetables are growing well! Fast forward to January, they are now harvesting cilantro, radish, lettuce, kale, and soon beets, carrots, and broccoli.
I like the personal benefits of gardening, doing something outdoors while getting a little exercise. Also, the learning and the organizational skills built on from one season to the next as you learn more about how plants behave in changing seasons. Watching plants form and develop over time makes it an activity of patience, as well, along with the maintenance lessons and mistakes. Before becoming a UCCE Master Gardener, I had experience in developing my backyard from a dead lawn to trees, shrubs, and flower garden (along with vegetable patch gardening). I believe the most outstanding thing I learned is the number of people volunteering in the community and the free resources UCCE Master Gardeners provide. I had not heard of the program up until then, and I think the program has many more ways to develop and transform in the coming years.
What I like best about the UCCE Master Gardeners program is the access to the science-based peer reviewed information regarding growing, pest management, and resources on plants and their requirements. It gives more confidence to the advice and recommendations I give in the community, which supports the work, rather than just relying on someone's personal experience with gardening. I think the first thing I would ask people interested in becoming a UCCE Master Gardener is whether they have a personality that likes to engage with the community. You can't stay sheltered away from the public while being a UCCE Master Gardener and you can't just have an interest in more information to be an arm-chair expert without experience. We test our knowledge in the community with questions they have or with activities which go along with instruction.
You may not have a natural desire for teaching, but you will need to have some interest in passing along knowledge with an open mind and appreciation for varying levels of experience in others. I tell people just because I have the UCCE Master Gardener badge does not make me a master of gardening -- it's the process of mastering, which never ends. I have a list of community service, both domestic and international. I've been involved with a City's Arts commission, 5k founder and organizer, an overseas director's assistant on a construction project, installed California Native gardens, community garden volunteering, and various past volunteer work with churches and work.
The purpose of this brief article is, even though you may think a little isn't enough, your efforts extended to the community can go a long way and grow into something you may not have planned. Stay open to opportunities and activities; you just never know where 'yes' will lead you.
- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
Calling all Gardeners! Class is open!!
Have you been thinking about taking the Master Gardener training class but aren't sure if it's for you? Maybe this blog
Who would make a good Master Gardener?
-You!!! Seriously….this program succeeds because of diversity…….of mindsets, geographical location, educational background, culture, ethnicity, gardening experience, and perspectives. If you are reading this blog, you likely already have an interest in plants and could be a great Master Gardener!!
-People who want to help empower their neighbors, their community, and the residents of San Bernardino County by teaching them how to grow edible and landscape plants successfully. Our volunteers work throughout the county to teach people about three main topics: Growing Food, Sustainable Landscaping and Healthy Lifestyles and Better Living Through Gardening. Within those topics we can teach a lot of things, but the core of our program is sharing research-based information with the public so they can learn how to grow some of their own food and create their own gardens, green spaces, pollinator gardens and more, all while saving resources and protecting the environment and building community.
-People who love love love gardening! If you are passionate about gardening, you are halfway there!! Many of our Master Gardeners are shy at first about working information tables or giving presentations but they all say that when they focus on their love of gardening instead of thinking about “knowing everything” they find sharing with the public fun and rewarding (hint- we don't know everything, but we have a whole team of fellow Master Gardeners to help us, and in the class we learn how to find credible information to share on all kinds of topics!). There are also behind the scenes volunteer opportunities for those who are really not comfortable with being in front of people. We work to accommodate all comfort levels when it comes to sharing the knowledge you learn with the public.
-Community leaders who are looking to improve outcomes in their area. The Master Gardener program works with many community leaders to help be part of a positive vision/outcome for their neighborhood and what better way to know how Master Gardeners can help than to learn about the program firsthand. While there is a volunteer requirement as part of being a Master Gardener, there are a lot of way to get your hours in and we work with each individual to see what would work best for them.
- A wide variety of gardening topics like: sustainable landscaping, mulching, soil preparation and composting; growing food; plant pathology; plant propagation; integrated pest management; fruit tree care; how to properly water plants and what an ET rate is; all about irrigation equipment and use; what ACP, GSOB, ISHB are (and you will learn what those things stand for too!); all about beneficial insects, what they are and how to create habitats that can support them year round……just to name a few things this course will cover.
-How and where to volunteer within our program so you can start sharing your knowledge with the public and how to start projects in your community with the support of our Master Gardener committee chairs.
-We can spend a life time learning about plants and there will always be new things to learn and breakthroughs….so one of the things we really focus on is: how to research, where to go, how to determine if resources are credible, and what kind of questions to ask when you are looking things up
Besides learning all about plants, what will you do as a Master Gardener and what do we expect of you?
-Examples of our outreach are: Giving or supporting online presentations (and in person when it is safe to do so); work our helpline (by receiving training and answering questions by email and phone); work with school and community gardens; work on citizen science projects; volunteer to support our seed library; when it is safe to go back to in person activities we work at info tables and events sharing info with the public on our three areas of focus (growing food, sustainable landscaping and healthy/better living through gardening) and do demonstrations for the public on gardening techniques, irrigation set up and planting and more.
We just ask that you join our class with an open mind and heart and that you be prepared to take what you learn and share that information back with your community and the public (through the projects that we have going on, or projects that you work with us to develop). Our goal is to get all (and I mean all) of San Bernardino County residents gardening, whether that be in a community garden, a window sill garden, their back yard, or in pots on their patio…..and that goal takes a lot of passionate people!! All of the information we share with the public is research-based peer reviewed information and that's what you will learn about in the 18 week training class. In addition to the classes you take we will link you with experts and hundreds of research based publications so you will be well prepared to answer questions and direct people to resources (remember that we don't know everything, we just know who to ask and where to look to find credible, research based information).
Volunteering looks different for everyone and we understand that all of our UCCE Master Gardeners are sharing their time and passions with us in addition to living full lives themselves. So, you may volunteer on a regular basis with projects near home, or work a little bit each month, or you may be part of the dozens of Master Gardeners who help us with our spring outreach. Some volunteers spend many hours each month and get hundreds of hours each year and some volunteers are only able to get the 50 hours they need in the first 18 months (and the 25 hours needed each year after that). Both types of volunteers are so appreciated, and needed to keep our program running.
So, if you think that you might have time to give back to your community and want to improve the lives of people in SanBernardino County please consider applying to the Master Gardener. Becoming a Master Gardener is a lifelong journey that starts with taking the course as the foundation (or roots of a tree?) that will grow as you learn and start to work with and develop projects that you are passionate about. Please note that you are required to attend ar live information sessions offered via Zoom before your application will be accepted. August information sessions are on August 8 (2:30-3:30pm) and August 19 (9-10am). They will provide you an opportunity to ask your questions and find out more about the Master Gardener program. Register for a session on our website: http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/. We look forward to having you join our team as a fellow Master Gardener, or as a participant in our free upcoming classes for the gardening public listed in this newsletter!