- Author: Marisa A Coyne
- Author: Missy Gable
- Editor: Melissa Womack
As we close out the first month of the New Year, our hope for the UC Master Gardener Program is that 2021 will be a year of continued growth in gardening education and support for our neighbors, friends, and communities.
The online demand for trusted information about gardening is at an all-time high. Individuals and families are looking to access the therapeutic benefits of spending time outdoors and the health benefits of eating homegrown produce. The work of the UC Master Gardener Program is more relevant now than ever!
Annually we establish priority areas to focus on important issues. For the 2020 and 2021 program year, our priorities include the following:
- Support training and continuing education
- Support program excellence
- Support diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Celebrate our community
- Support advocacy and fundraising
The UC Master Gardener Program is guided by our program's mission, "To extend research-based knowledge and information on home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices to the residents of California" and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Strategic Plan.
California's strength is its diversity; our mission has always been to serve all communities in our state's population. This blog will outline key statewide priorities for 2021, focusing on our responsibility to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Support diversity, equity, and inclusion
Every five years UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) develops a strategic plan to establish a framework and help guide staff, academics, and volunteers to fulfill its land-grant mission of teaching, research, and public service. UC ANR Strategic Goal 6: Improve Diversity Equity, and Inclusion aims to increase access to and equity in UC ANR programs, research, and work environments for all populations in our state, to make a difference in the lives of all Californians.
National data indicates that Master Gardener volunteers are overwhelmingly white, college-educated, affluent, retired, and female-identified. We do not have data specific to the UC Master Gardener Program, but incomplete data from 2015 indicates that California's volunteer population is in line with the national trend. Therefore the UC Master Gardener volunteer population does not reflect the diversity of California's residents and gardeners.
Improving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Cooperative Extension has been and will continue to be a goal for the UC Master Gardener Program. To truly achieve our mission, we must improve our outreach to communities historically underinvested by Cooperative Extension, including Black, Latino, Native American, LGBT and disabled Californians. We must also uplift the voices of current program leaders who hold identities underrepresented in our program, and increase our staff and volunteers' cultural competency and equity awareness.
A look back at our progress in 2020
In 2020, we laid a foundation for our statewide diversity, equity, and inclusion work by introducing educational resources, revisiting current practices, and engaging in peer dialogues.
In early 2020, we introduced implicit bias resources and trainings on our statewide blog, UC Implicit Bias Training – Now Available for Volunteers. All UC Master Gardener volunteers are encouraged to take these online implicit bias trainings as part of their ongoing continuing education.
The UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator annual meeting focused on inclusive volunteer selection and recruitment strategies. Dr. Maria de la Fuente, County Director, Farm and UC Master Gardener Advisor in Monterey & Santa Cruz Counties, offered the keynote Increasing Diversity in the UC Master Gardener Program. De la Fuente's powerful presentation focused on workplace values and how they are influenced by culture. We also heard from Janet Hartin, County Co-Director San Bernardino County and Environmental Horticulture Advisor in San Bernardino, Riverside, and Los Angeles Counties, on how County Directors can help support diversity, equity, and inclusion.
In July, Elaine Lander, UC Integrated Pest Management Statewide Program Community Educator and Marisa Coyne, UC Master Gardener Program Statewide Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, hosted a discussion for coordinators, Racial Equity in the Garden, which provided an overview of a new racial equity resources webpage on the coordinator website and the UC ANR Diversity Equity and Inclusion page.
Please note: While this post focuses on statewide efforts. Throughout 2020, counties such as Alameda, Sonoma, Santa Clara, Orange, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and others undertook and sustained their own projects and initiatives to enhance equity at the local level.
Looking ahead to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the future
We've mapped out an active approach to raise the bar for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the UC Master Gardener Program by identifying barriers to engagement and addressing social justice shortfalls.
- Learning and Development: Foundational to the success of our goal, we are committed to promoting and participating in lifelong learning opportunities for our UC Master Gardener community that will improve our understanding of racial and social justice.
- Equity Assessment: In the coming months, a preliminary equity assessment, focused on racial equity, will be completed by the UC Master Gardener Program's statewide office and UC ANR's Program Planning and Evaluation team in order to evaluate our program's status and to identify next steps and future interventions.
- Inclusive Volunteer Selection: We will continue to expand on our effort to evaluate program resources through the filter of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The work started in 2020 to re-vamp the new volunteer application and volunteer position description will be completed and new templates released in 2021. We will also improve the accessibility of our digital education and training materials for people with disabilities.
- National Network: To ensure that we learn about different approaches as well as successes and missteps, we will continue to connect and collaborate not only within UC ANR but also with national Extension Master Gardener colleagues.
- Celebrating California Gardens: Together, with coordinators and volunteers, a blog series will be developed celebrating culturally important plants and foods, sometimes missing from UC Master Gardener curricula. For 2021, we look forward to celebrating Black History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and American Indian Heritage Month.
As UC ANR's Vice President Glenda Humiston said, “California's strength is its diversity; our UC ANR mission has always been to serve all segments of the state's population.” We are committed to making sure the UC Master Gardener Program's resources are relevant and available to all gardeners across California. Together, we can learn and grow.
Are you interested learning more? Check out UCANR's Diversity Equity and Inclusion page for anti-racism resources and information about gender inclusion. Are you a UC Master Gardener Program volunteer with a story to contribute to the Celebrating California Gardens blog series mentioned above? Reach out to Marisa Coyne, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your idea!
- Our peers in the Oregon State University Master Gardener Program write an excellent diversity, equity, and inclusion educational blog series that also summarizes progress on equity.
- The Michigan State University's Center for Regional Food System's statement on Racial Equity is a smart and accessible summary of historic, systemic, and ongoing racism in the food system.
- UC ANR Black and Allied Staff and DEI Alliance members will be hosting a Black History Month online educational program during Black History Month in February 2021. This event is open to all UC ANR volunteers.