- Author: Marisa Coyne
- Author: Melissa Womack
April 1 marks the start of National Volunteer Month, a celebration honoring all of the contributions that volunteers make in our communities. This month on the UC Master Gardener Program statewide blog, we will feature stories of educators making a difference in California's community, school, demonstration, and research gardens.
On Saturday, March 7, the UC Master Gardener Program in San Bernardino County welcomed a record number of trainees into the program as UC Master Gardener volunteers. Joined by their families and friends, the trainees held their diplomas high as program coordinator Maggie O'Neill and advisor and co-county director, Janet Hartin offered words of celebration. These 57 volunteers, a historically large class in San Bernardino, have been learning together for 18 weeks … but have never met in person.
"Once things return to whatever the 'new normal' is," says Janet Hartin, "I know they are looking forward to meeting each other face-to-face. Nonetheless, completing an entire training class online during a pandemic is an amazing accomplishment!"
What's more impressive is the impact trainees have already had in their communities, despite the shift to virtual learning. Graduating and first-year UC Master Gardeners volunteers are already helping implement and educate through several community gardens such as the 'Seeds of Joy' garden managed by trainee turned UC Master Gardener volunteer, Elizabeth McSwain. A recent graduate herself, McSwain has championed collaborations between other programs within the UC Cooperative Extension office in San Bernardino County, including the Expanded Food and Nutrition Program (EFNEP) and UC Master Food Preserver Program (MFP). These collaborations have created space for more than a dozen UC Master Gardener Program volunteers and trainees to practice their extension skills.
Several first-year UC Master Gardener volunteers are current or former K-12 educators and administrators. These instructors and education leaders were excited to become UC Master Gardener volunteers after seeing firsthand how UC Master Gardeners support school gardens and provide garden-based teacher training for classroom instructors. Now, these graduates will apply their strong knowledge of the opportunities and challenges of classroom learning to strengthen school garden partnerships. Many of these new UC Master Gardener volunteers led a recent Zoom workshop titled 'ABCs of School and Community Gardens.' Hartin was ecstatic about the school garden partnerships and momentum. "We're so grateful they chose to expand their knowledge of horticulture to administrators and other teachers in their districts and beyond," says Hartin.
In addition to extension and education, the first-year UC Master Gardener volunteers in SanBernardino are already providing leadership through the UCCE and Inland Empire Resource Conservation District partnership to enhance tree canopies and combat urban heat islands and climate change in underserved neighborhoods in NorthRedlands. They collect primary research, help tree recipients select the right tree for the right location, and provide education on long-term tree care. Many participated in the 'Trees for Tomorrow Start Today' Zoom workshop, which brought together over 300 planners, green industry professionals, and concerned residents who are working together to help abate climate change, cool urban heat islands, and enhance health through proper tree selection and care.
The strength of the UC Master Gardener Program is its volunteers and their ties to their communities. The first-year UC Master Gardeners volunteers in San Bernardino County represent the county's rich ethnic and cultural diversity, more than any previous graduating class. These newly minted garden educators bring essential skills, knowledge, and feedback not fully heard before, "deepening the quality and meaningfulness of our outreach significantly," notes Janet Hartin.
Program coordinator, Maggie O'Neill wholeheartedly agrees. "Our Master Gardener program volunteers work hard to extend gardening information to every corner of the county and make gardening accessible for all. San Bernardino County's UC Master Gardener volunteers have rich and varied backgrounds, but the one thing they all have in common is a passion for sharing what they love about gardening with the public. Whether their passions are with the science of gardening, or sharing how to grow fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs with those of us in need (...and that's all of us... we all need fresh produce!), or showcasing the garden can be a place of healing and renewal - our volunteers create a tapestry of educators that can work to elevate the people of our county."
2020 and 2021 challenged the UC Master Gardener Program in San Bernardino (and statewide) to shift the way we help people, exploring the possibilities that new technology brings. The new UC Master Gardener volunteers in San Bernardino are already demonstrating their ability to grow connections with non-profits, organizations, schools, community gardens, and grassroots organizations serving the County's residents online and off. O'Neill put it best in her closing comments, "We are each a part of the puzzle and together can do great things. Some of you can do things with your hands and can build great things in the community, some of you can speak the language of the heart, and you can heal, and some of you have great scientific minds and can extend knowledge."
Join us in welcoming the UC Master Gardener in San Bernardino County Class of 2021 to the UC Master Gardener Program community. Virtual hats off to all volunteers and trainees throughout the state who made this and other online training possible - Thank you!
During National Volunteer Month (April 1 - 30), the UC Master Gardener Program celebrates its 6,000 incredible UC Master Gardener volunteers' contributions. In addition to stories like this one, honoring the people, who help make online UC Master Gardener Program training successful, we will feature stories of special volunteers or Gardeners with Heart from across the state. Gardener's with Heart volunteers were nominated by their local county leadership for their stewardship of the UC Master Gardener Program during the pandemic period, their diversity equity and inclusion leadership, and their digital superstardom. To nominate a Gardener with Heart in your program or county, complete this online survey.
Special appreciation to UC Master Gardener program coordinator in San Bernardino (Maggie O'Neill) and advisor and co-county director in San Bernardino (Janet Hartin) for sharing this story.
- Author: Marisa A Coyne
- Author: Missy Gable
- Author: Melissa Womack
In February of each year, the University of California joins organizations across the country to mark Black History Month, a celebration of achievements by Black Americans and a time to recognize Black History as American history. This month invites engagement in personal and organizational reflection about the legacies of injustice and inequity in the United States, as well as histories of Black resilience and resistance.
In a recent blog post, we outlined UC Master Gardener Program priorities for the upcoming year, focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. In this four-part, Celebrating California Gardens, blog series we aim to highlight plants, gardening practices, and extension education history sometimes missing from the UC Master Gardener Program curriculum. Because we, the authors of this blog, are not experts but rather learners in Black History, we would like to showcase a list of events and continuing education resources developed by our colleagues. We hope you'll join us in deepening our knowledge!
Upcoming UC ANR Events:
UC ANR Black and Allied Staff, in collaboration with UC ANR Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Alliance members are hosting online educational programs and activities to celebrate Black History Month. All events are open to all UC ANR employees and volunteers.
Registration Link: 2021 UC ANR's Black History Month Meetings Registration
- Feb. 3, 2 – 3 pm - Keynote Speaker Sonia Lewis. "The Black Lived Experience is a Matter of History" with remarks from Glenda Humiston and John Fox
Sonia Lewis, founder of ASCRIBE Educational Consulting, will speak on "The Black lived experience is a matter of history." After nearly 20 years in the traditional classroom teaching history and social studies and managing a small magnet program, Lewis founded ASCRIBE Educational Consulting. Their focus has always been geared towards educational/racial equity and resource distribution. Since 2009, ASCRIBE Educational Consulting has centered on the development of programs and the writing of curriculum for marginalized and vulnerable student populations. In addition, Lewis' work involves speaking and training around the topics of equity, race relations, and social justice.
- Feb. 10, 2 – 3 pm - "Lived Experience" with Virtual Museum Piece & Discussion Intro by UC ANR's Mary Blackburn, Health & Nutrition Advisor, National Museum of African American Culture and History
- Feb. 17, 2 – 3 pm - Chanowk Yisrael, "The Importance of Food Sovereignty" Virtual Farm Tour & Discussion Yisrael Family Farms located in Sacramento, Calif.
Yisrael Family Urban Farm, founded by Judith and Chanowk Yisrael, is an urban farm located in Sacramento's South Oak Park neighborhood. Learn more about the farm's vision and mission on the UC ANR Urban Agriculture webpage or the Yisrael Family Urban Farm website.
- Feb. 24, 2 – 3 pm - Priorities & Experiences of Black Farmers, Discussion and Q&A
The UC Master Gardener Program gives thanks to the UC ANR Black History Month planning committee members Keith Nathaniel, County Director and 4-H Youth Development Advisor, Esther Mosase, Climate Smart Community Educator, and LeChé McGill, Human Resources Specialist, for curating this important event.
Black History in the Garden
Today, we honor plants and gardening practices significant to Black and African American gardening and cuisine, and the many contributions of Black gardeners and researchers to the field of horticulture. As learners of Black History, we are consuming articles and information that grow and nurture our understanding. Two such articles are “A Garden So Brilliant with Colors, so original in its Design” by Dianne D. Glave, published in Environmental History and “Sisters of the Soil: Urban Gardening as Resistance in Detroit” by Monica White, published by Indiana University Press.
Glave, a professor of African American Studies and a historian with expertise in African American environmentalism, provides insight into the relationship between African American gardening and Progressive reform (education shared by the Cooperative Extension system) in the early 1900s. She explains that “African Americans practiced two types of gardening that conflicted with and paralleled Progressive agricultural techniques: mimicking nature and cultivating the row system.” These techniques, suggests Glave, the gardens reject some Euro-American techniques and adapt others. In this way, we witness that the garden served as a space for subsistence, beautification, spiritual connectedness, and rebellion.
Similar to the stories shared by Glave, White's article also touches on gardening as a resistance strategy. White is a scholar of environmental justice as well as a historian focusing on African American farmers in the United States. Her study is one of modern-day African American women gardeners in Detroit. These women are gardening activists whose effort to create green space on vacant land is a protest against social, economic, and gender oppression that interferes with access to healthy food for poor people and communities of color. While 100 years separates the stories in these two articles, the determination, purpose, and vision shared by African American gardeners throughout the years is a poignant lesson learned for all gardeners and garden educators.
Are you a UC Master Gardener Program volunteer with a story to contribute to the Celebrating California Gardens blog series marking Black History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and American Indian Heritage Month? Reach out to Marisa Coyne, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your idea! We are committed to celebrating California garden heritage and history throughout the year, so it's never too late to reach out to share a story or provide your input.
Additional readings and resources:
- CalAgRoots, a project of the California Institute for Rural Studies, and partners launched the audio series, We Are Not Strangers Here: African American Histories in Rural California in January 2021. The podcast series shines a light on African Americans in the history of California agriculture and rural communities and Black people's relationships with food, farming, and land.
- The Michigan State University's Center for Regional Food System's Racial Equity in the Food System Workgroup hosts a library of recorded webinars featuring food systems leaders in the Black community as well as academics and faculty from Historically Black Land Grant Colleges and Universities. Webinar topics include Building Partnerships to Support Food Sovereignty in African American Communities and Land-Grant Institutions and Food Systems: Acknowledging historical disparities and exploring present-day equity initiatives.
- 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 email@example.com 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.
- Author: Lauren Snowden
UC Master Gardener Program partner PlantRight had an information packed LIVE talk about their efforts to phase out invasive plants in California. Alex Stubblefield, PlantRight project manager led the LIVE talk featuring their mission, partners, work and what we can do to help stop invasive plants. If you didn't get to join us LIVE you can watch the video below.
Here is a quick written recap of the LIVE talk:
What is an invasive plant?
An invasive plant is a plant that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration, and whose introduction is likely to cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health. Visit PlantRight's website for more detail.
What's the problem?
Invasive plants harm California's environment and economy in many ways. They can overtake crops or rangeland; harm wildlife by eliminating plants they need for food and shelter; clog waterways used for commerce or recreation; and increase fire hazards and flood risk.
What's the alternative?
There is no shortage of superior alternatives. The vast majority of garden plants are well behaved and will never become an invasive problem. Our plant list includes several suggested alternatives for each invasive plant.
How can I help?
Be a part of the solution by planting right. Whether you are a retail nursery, grower, landscape professional, or home gardener — everyone can play a critical role in preventing the spread of invasive plants. PlantRight has many educational resources and materials available online to read and share.
Plants to watch!
Although the list of plants PlantRight is currently working with is not all-inclusive there is a list of plants to watch. Find the current list of plants to watch on their website.
Attention UC Master Gardener Volunteers: Whether you join LIVE or watch the recording, be sure to record your continuing education hours in the Volunteer Management System.
- Author: Lauren Snowden
UC Master Gardener Program and PlantRight have partnered for a LIVE Facebook and YouTube talk about invasive plants on Jan. 19at noon. Invasive plants harm the environment and cost California millions of dollars to monitor and manage each year. Almost half of invasive plants in the state get their start through the nursery trade, and many invasive plants are still legal to sell today. Educating people on the impact of invasive plants is just a small piece of removing them from the environment.
What is PlantRight?
PlantRight is a program that works together with the nursery industry, conservation, science, and government agencies to identify and help nurseries voluntarily phase out invasive plants. For each invasive on the list, PlantRight suggests safer, regionally appropriate alternative plants. PlantRight's goal is to teach everyone from landscapers to home gardeners how toplant “right”. Learn more about PlantRight at www.PlantRight.org. Stay up on the latest from PlantRight by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
UC Master Gardener Partnership
The partnership between the UC Master Gardener Program and PlantRight supports planting the right plant in the right place. The right plant in the right place leads to a healthier environment and healthier plants. Because of UC Master Gardener volunteer efforts, PlantRight can survey plant nurseries all over California. Armed with clipboards, cameras, and data sheets, specially trained volunteers collect and report to PlantRight. The information volunteers gather is vital to PlantRight for three main purposes:
- Tracking the sale of invasive plants currently on the plant list and retiring those that have been mostly phased out of retail.
- Helping PlantRight determine whether or not to add candidate plants to the plant list.
- Informing industry outreach strategy with information about sales in different regions and store types.
UC Master Gardener volunteers play a vital role in educating the public on right plant, right place, and helping PlantRight survey California's plant nurseries.
Planting Right with PlantRight, LIVE on Jan. 19
The UC Master Gardener Program is celebrating this great partnership by hosting a free LIVE talk titled Planting Right with PlanRight. No registration is required. The discussion will be live-streamed to Facebook and YouTube on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at noon. Guest speaker, Alex Stubblefield, PlantRight Project manager, will be educating us on invasive plants in California and offering plant alternatives as well as the importance of the annual plant survey.
LIVE talks are an authentic and interactive way to interact with our audience in real-time. Share the Facebook and YouTube Live opportunity with your friends on social media and tune in to the UC Master Gardener Program LIVE broadcast! In the comments section below, let us know what topics or questions you would like answered on Tuesday, Jan. 19, or ideas for future LIVE topics. The event will be recorded and available for later viewing for those who can't make it. Attention UC Master Gardener Volunteers: Whether you join LIVE or watch the recording, be sure to record your continuing education hours in the Volunteer Management System.
Ask your local UC Master Gardener
For more gardening help and local county resources, click here to Find a Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers, staff, and our extended community's health and safety is our number one priority. Many UC Cooperative Extension offices are offering only phone and virtual services but are here to help, be sure to check your local program for resources. Thank you for your understanding.