The UC Master Gardener Program completed a UC ANR statewide program review in 2022 covering 2011-2021. Interim Associate Vice President Deanne Meyer and I extend a thank you to the ad hoc committee for their time, commitment and data-driven approach in examining the program and providing recommendations to UC ANR's Program Council. The time and effort of UC Master Gardener Program Director Missy Gable and staff to provide information for the review are also greatly appreciated.
We recognize the program's accomplishments over the past 10 years. The program has grown considerably in numbers and in its responsiveness to critical issues impacting Californians regarding climate change and food insecurity. In 2022, more than 6,100 UC Master Gardeners donated over 370,000 hours extending research-based information in the areas of sustainable landscaping, pest management, improving the health and well-being of Californians, and growing food in home, community and school garden settings.
Today, UC Master Gardener volunteers are a trusted source of objective information for the public, leading to numerous impacts improving environmental, biological, societal, and individual health and quality of life. The efficacy of this program is a credit to the volunteers, community educators, academics and other staff who make it possible.
To guide the program into the future, below is a summary of the direction and next steps for the program to pursue. The committee made recommendations regarding funding for additional positions, some of which are already in motion due to an allocation of Laird Funding directed to the UC Master Gardener Program statewide office. A full-time impact and evaluation coordinator has been requested through the most recent budget call.
Future Directions for the UC Master Gardener Program
- The UC Master Gardener statewide office will require that the program's standardized diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) materials and practices for volunteer recruitment, selection, and retention; project development; public education outreach; and partnership formation be used by all counties.
- The program's DEI and cultural competency training will be required in initial and continuing education training for volunteers.
- The statewide office should raise awareness of and explore the feasibility of expanding successful programs that address high-priority needs like improving DEI, such as climate-ready landscape trees and Grow Los Angeles Vegetable Gardens.
- UC ANR supports the program director's goal to produce a virtual (online) beginning UC Master Gardener class to standardize training across the state and close subject-matter gaps in counties lacking UC expertise.
- In future budget call processes, the statewide office should consider submitting a request for a full-time impact and evaluation coordinator position to support expanded UC Master Gardener Program evaluation efforts. Resources and processes created by this position should be shared broadly to assist other statewide programs with evaluation.
- The statewide office should participate in applicable UC ANR program team and workgroup meetings to the degree possible. This, and other efforts, should aim to strengthen collaboration among academics from diverse, yet relevant, disciplines to support developing and delivering statewide volunteer training resources.
- Strengthen connections between the UC Master Gardener Program and campus-based Cooperative Extension Specialists, UC faculty and Agriculture Experiment Station faculty.
- The statewide office should support and expand the pursuit of new funding opportunities at the local and statewide level, including shared positions and co-funded positions. The statewide office should continue to provide support to county directors looking to fund program coordinator positions through county budgets, partnerships and more.
- The program director should continue to work directly with and support community educators, who then in turn work to support and provide resources to volunteers.
- The statewide office should continue to uplift and spotlight the great work of local volunteers through the biennial report and other platforms and opportunities in collaboration with Strategic Communications.
- UC Master Gardeners have been actively working on pest detection, fire resilience, drought tolerance and more. To the degree that workforce development, urban gardens, school gardens, mental health projects, etc., are a good fit for the program and funding is available, the program should be open to considering such activities.
Future Directions for UC ANR
- UC ANR should support efforts to expand and enhance connections between the UC Master Gardener Program and campus-based specialists, UC faculty and Agriculture Experiment Station faculty.
- UC ANR will prioritize Informational Technology support to identify an off-the-shelf volunteer engagement software and virtual helpdesk software.
- Strengthen the partnership between Cooperative Extension Advisors, County Directors and all statewide program directors to support the program's content accuracy and overall delivery. Move toward having all statewide program directors be secondary supervisors and more consistently review all advisors with statewide program appointments (with rubrics for different roles: administrative vs. academic roles). This change will be developed with input from County Directors and Cooperative Extension Advisors and communicated widely.
I look forward to working with the UC Master Gardener Program as it pursues these and other opportunities that may arise. Best wishes for the ongoing success and growth of the UC Master Gardener Program!
UC Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources