- Author: Lauren Snowden
UC Master Gardener Programs in San Diego County, Contra Costa County, and Santa Clara County won the triennial Search for Excellence competition. In honor of their achievement, winning projects receive a cash prize to support local program delivery. Winners will present their projects at the 2020 UC Master Gardener Virtual Mini-Conference taking place online Sept. 29 - Oct. 1. Attend, enjoy, and learn more about these phenomenal 2020 Search for Excellence winners.
The Search for Excellence competition is an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the tremendous talents of UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state. County programs were invited to submit educational and innovative projects for consideration for work performed over the past three years. A panel of four judges from outside the UC Master Gardener Program read and scored fourteen submissions. Many of the judges expressed their gratitude and awe as there were so many projects with merit and clear alignment with the program's mission. Congratulations to all winners and contenders. - your work is inspiring and impactful.
San Diego County: Reminiscence Gardening
UC Master Gardener volunteers in San Diego County saw an opportunity to collaborate with residential memory care communities and Alzheimer's San Diego to provide sensory exploration and tabletop gardening activities for individuals living with dementia and their care partners. Currently, the Reminiscence Gardening Program can be found in nine locations. At each location, a team of UC Master Gardener volunteers engage participants in a way that encourages social interactions, stimulates garden memories, promotes relaxation, and relieves stress. With thoughtful planning and care, participants are paired with a UC Master Gardener volunteer who, for the next hour, guides and assists them through several activities including table-top gardening. Participants leave with their own “garden” to place in the activity room for all residents and visitors to enjoy.
Contra Costa County - Essentials of Vegetable Gardening: Lessons for Underserved Communities
UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County created a series of 18 focused gardening lessons that combine interactive talks with hands-on learning specifically designed for individuals with limited mobility, mental health issues (including addiction and PTSD), and language barriers. Topics include core lessons in vegetable gardening, such as soil and compost; how to care for plants; the role of pollinators; and IPM, plus optional lessons in propagation, succulents, etc. Through partnerships with Contra Costa County Department of Behavioral Health – Alcohol and Drug Services; Bi-Bett Corporation; Eden Housing; and the VA the program has been offered at senior centers, residential treatment centers and the Veterans Administration local campus.
Santa Clara County - Mornings at Martial Cottle Park: Lessons in the garden for school children
In partnership with the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, the Santa Clara County Parks Department, Cal Fresh Healthy Living, and local schools, two UC Master Gardener volunteers in Santa Clara County, with backgrounds in education, created a garden-based field trip program for second graders. The program's goal is to promote food and science literacy by using edible gardens linked to California nutrition and science education standards through dynamic, outdoor lessons at the UC Master Gardener Community Education Center and demonstration garden in Santa Clara. The four-acre Education Center is located within Martial Cottle Park in San Jose, Calif. Students rotate through four stations, covering topics on nutrition, plant life cycles, insect anatomy, and beneficial vs. pest insects. Students are taught garden manners and lesson objectives throughout the trip, families are encouraged to return to the garden during normal operating hours to continue their exploration and learning.
The UC Master Gardener Program provides the public with UC research-based information about home horticulture, sustainable landscaping, and pest management practices. It is administered by local UCCE county-based offices that are the principal outreach and public service arms of the University's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The UC Master Gardener Program is an example of an effective partnership between the UC Division and passionate volunteers. In exchange for training from the University of California, UCCE Master Gardener volunteers engage the public with timely gardening-related trainings and workshops. With programs based in 51 California counties and 6,297 active members, UCCE Master Gardener volunteers donated 328,540 hours last year and have donated more than 5 million hours since the program inception in 1980.