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.