Every three years, we look forward to connecting UC Master Gardener volunteers, staff, academics, and friends to network, learn, and share their projects and stories. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, all large-gatherings have not been possible to help slow the spread of the virus. After much thought, we have decided to postpone the triennial UC Master Gardener Conference from its originally planned 2020 dates to 2023.
The decision to further postpone the conference date was made after a careful review of the resort contract, current state and federal rules for group sizes, UC travel restrictions, and restricted activities related to COVID-19. The health and well-being of our speakers, staff, and UC Master Gardener volunteers is our top priority.
While we are sad we cannot meet in person in the upcoming year, the good news is that we were able to reschedule the conference at the same beautiful location, the Granlibakken Resort in Lake Tahoe, Calif. Oct. 2 – Oct. 6, 2023.
While postponing meeting in person was a tough decision, it has opened the doors to other virtual learning opportunities. This year, the statewide office hosted an online mini-conference, held on Sept. 29 – Oct. 1, 2020. The mini-conference highlighted Search for Excellence winners, Gardeners with Heart nominees, and covered several home gardening topics as well as home food preservation. The mini-conference was well received by volunteers and the public at large. Although not as robust as a full in-person conference, this proved to be a great alternative that supported both learning and engagement.
With the conference rescheduled, efforts can now shift to more emergent online training needs and projects to support new UC Master Gardener trainings and continuing education. We thank you for your support as we all work through this together! We are incredibly grateful for the understanding of UC Master Gardener volunteers, coordinators, advisors, and county directors as we continue to work hard to ensure that our future event is met with the same enthusiasm and learning opportunities as previous conferences.
Until 2023, we look forward to continuing to provide live and recorded training opportunities for UC Master Gardener volunteers and the public. Follow us on social media for live event notifications and check out our library of recorded webinars online.
- Author: Marisa A Coyne
Each year, UC Master Gardener program coordinators from across the state gather together to engage in professional development, share successes, troubleshoot challenges, and connect with UC ANR resources to improve program delivery. Originally intended to be an in-person session the day before the triennial UC Master Gardener Program statewide conference in Lake Tahoe, the 2020 meeting took place via Zoom on Monday, Sept. 27, 2020.
The gathering's core themes included diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as well as best practices for remote and/or virtual garden education and program administration.
Why we meet and the current gardening climate
Statewide program director, Missy Gable, began the annual coordinator meeting by providing a comment on program outlook for the 2020-21 year. Gable noted the increased interest in gardening content, citing that Google searches for gardening related terms increased dramatically during the pandemic period. A bit closer to home, she shared that submissions of the ‘Become a UC Master Gardener' interest form have risen by nearly 50% while counties have reported a huge surge in attendance at online workshops and events. She also highlighted the tremendous creativity and innovation of volunteers and program personnel alike, qualities that allow the UC Master Gardener Program to share gardening content in new and inclusive ways.
Increasing diversity in the UC Master Gardener Program
The 2020 annual coordinator meeting keynote was delivered by Dr. Maria de la Fuente, county director (UCCE Monterey) farm advisor and UC Master Gardener advisor (UCCE Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties). Dr. de la Fuente is a longtime UC Master Gardener advisor, first with UCCE Santa Clara and currently with UCCE in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties.
Maria's presentation was grounded in social psychology research but peppered with personal anecdotes related to inclusion leadership. De la Fuente highlighted the work of two Dutch scholars and father-son duo, Geert Hofstede and Gert Hofstede, who advanced a theory of national culture based on factors such as individualism versus collectivism as well as long-term orientation versus short term orientation. She suggested that understanding dimensions of national culture may help the UC Master Gardener Program, and UC ANR more broadly, connect with and serve all Californians including those from immigrant communities.
Inclusive volunteer selection
Like any hiring or recruitment process, the volunteer selection process can be a space where bias, stereotype, and preferentialism can occur. The UC Master Gardener Program is engaged in a process of attempting to reduce selection biases, ensuring that all prospective volunteers receive appropriate and equitable treatment.
Last August, the UC Master Gardener Program offered a webinar for program coordinators focused on inclusive volunteer selection. In this webinar, attendees explored best practices for improving volunteer selection materials such as program applications, volunteer interview questions, and volunteer position descriptions. The 2020 annual meeting built on this important foundational work. Coordinators, in breakout rooms, provided feedback and directly edited template applications, interview questions, and positions descriptions to update with best practices in volunteer selection. These edits will be reviewed by the UC Master Gardener Program statewide team, advisory committee and UC ANR colleagues with interest in and expertise around volunteer engagement and DEI.
Click here to view the August 2020 Inclusive Volunteer Selection Brown Bag Webinar via YouTube. Click here to view the UC Master Gardener Program statewide blog post on implicit bias and related continuing education resources.
Gardeners with Heart
During the annual coordinator meeting, coordinators had the opportunity to preview a special video featuring photos and quotes from/about special volunteers. These volunteers, Gardeners with Heart, were nominated by coordinators during National Volunteer Week in April 2020. Gardeners with Heart, use creativity, strategic thinking, passion for program mission, and commitment to diversity to improve our program delivery.
Anne Schellman, program coordinator in Stanislaus County, Randy Musser, program coordinator in Orange County, and Maggie O'Neill, program coordinator in San Bernardino hosted coordinator-led discussions about demonstration gardens and training in the COVID-19 era. In these discussion sessions, program coordinators and leadership shared suggestions about demonstration garden infrastructure, remote mentoring strategies for trainees and new volunteers, and tech innovations for program delivery.
Click here to learn about the Zoom annotation tools used during Anne Schellman's demonstration garden session.
Many thanks to all of the UC Master Gardener program coordinators, advisors, county directors, and lead volunteers who attended the 2020 annual meeting and special appreciation to our presenters and discussion facilitators.
A note on the annual meeting audience
The UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator Annual Meeting designed for UC Master Gardener program coordinators. We acknowledge, however, that some counties operate without paid staff. In these cases, representative UC Master Gardener volunteers who are involved in program management are invited to attend with approval from their environmental horticulture advisor (or similar) and/or county director. Academics with UC Master Gardener Program authority are welcome, however, the focus of this meeting is on supporting and celebrating program coordinators.
That's a wrap! The virtual 2020 UC Master Gardener Mini-Conference was a LIVE stream success. All nine sessions streamed directly to the statewide Facebook and YouTube channels, which made for lively comments and instant access to recordings. If you did not get a chance to join the conference live, or you just want to re-watch a session, they are all conveniently available on the statewide program's YouTube channel.
A special thank you to all of our amazing speakers, who were willing to try something new and speak online live! Although we would all rather be able to meet in person for a full conference, having the online format has made it possible to share gardening information more widely, and encouraged people interested in gardening or volunteering to connect with their local program.
Celebrating and recognizing volunteers
During the opening session, hosted by statewide director Missy Gable, volunteers who donated more than 5,000 volunteer hours were recognized and celebrated for their outstanding contributions to the University of California, our communities and our environment. Please join us in thanking and honoring volunteers in your county who reached new hour milestones since the 2017 conference:
Michael K., Santa Clara County
Rose P., Fresno County
Bev V., Calaveras County
Ann P., Riverside County
Elizabeth W., Sacramento County
Gail C., Fresno County
Bette L., Santa Clara County
Candace S., Santa Clara County
Leta B., San Diego County
Gail P. Sacramento County
Cheryl T., El Dorado County
Franc-i N., Santa Clara County
Thurman H., Riverside County
Allen B., Santa Clara County
Mindy C., Sacramento County
Gael P., Marin County
Isabel B., Orange County
Rita E., Fresno County
Phyllis T., Sonoma County
Kathryn R., Marin County
Gretchen Z., Santa Clara County
Cathy C., Amador County
Emma C., Contra Costa County
Alice S., Santa Clara County
Laura C., Sacramento County
Deb T., El Dorado County
Ottillia B., Riverside County
Sue M., Placer County
Judy C., San Diego County
Merry C., El Dorado County
Mary C., Santa Clara County
Judy A., Ventura County
Bonnie B., Nevada County
During the virtual 2020 UC Master Gardener Mini-Conference, the program was excited to feature special Gardeners with Heart volunteers from across the state. Gardeners with Heart volunteers were nominated by their local county leadership for their creativity, strategic thinking, passion for the program's mission, and commitment to outreach. You can watch the Gardeners with Heart panel discussion and a tribute video celebrating the contributions of 52 of our exceptional UC Master Gardener Program volunteers!
Search for Excellence
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 and the opportunity to present their projects during the mini conference. To learn more about these exceptional projects watch their sessions and read about them in the statewide blog.
The virtual 2020 UC Master Gardener Mini-Conference counts as continuing education (CE) hours for UC Master Gardener volunteers. Whether you join us live or watch the recording, be sure to enter your continuing education hours into the Volunteer Management System (VMS). Use the mini conference activity guide to determine how many continuing education hours you earned by session.
- Author: Melissa G. Womack
"If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” — Kofi Annan
2020 Gardeners with Heart:
Congratulations to the UC Master Gardener Program of Santa Clara County for winning third place in the Search for Excellence (SFE) competition. The SFE is an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the tremendous talents of UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state. A panel of judges reviewed and scored fourteen county submissions about mission-focused educational and innovative projects performed over the past three years. Santa Clara County's Morning at Martial Cottle Park project took third place by standing out with its quality of impact on the population served. One judge remarked “This project is clearly successful and beloved by the community. Congratulations on a wonderful and highly-sought after project that greatly impacts youth with both gardening and nutrition education.”
Working together with community partners the UC Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County created and taught a science and nutrition-based curricula for field trips at San Jose's Martial Cottel Park. Through dynamic, hands-on, outdoor lessons in a garden setting, second graders take part in a half-day of healthy food and science learning. Local grants helped pay for the cost of transportation for Title 1 schools and schools in low-income neighborhoods.
Centuries old oak trees, native plants, flowers, and raised garden beds serve as the backdrop for this extraordinary four-acre teaching and demonstration garden managed by UC Master Gardener volunteers. Students, teachers and chaperones rotate through four learning stations around the garden, every 25 minutes while being taught about a plants lifecycle, insects, pests vs. beneficial insects, and nutrition through growing and eating healthy fruit and vegetables.
Station 1. Plant life cycle
Photographs and harvested plant materials are arranged on a pizza pan to show the plant lifecycle. Students plant sunflower seeds in a garden bed and in a pot to take home and watch grow.
Station 2. Nutrition
Co-taught with CalFresh Healthy Living nutrition educators, students get to taste and sort vegetables, then plant and label seeds in a salad bowl. “Surprise” vegetables are pulled from a grab-bag to discuss the benefits of eating different colored vegetables.
Station 3. Insect anatomy and adaptation
Through song and drawings student learn about an insect's anatomy. Students get to use playdough to create insects and label its body parts.
Station 4. Pests vs. beneficial insects
Students are shown how to properly collect insects, they are then released into the garden to collect any insects they can find. After proper identification beneficial insects are released.
At the end of the day the students, teachers and UC Master Gardener volunteers gather together to review what they have learned. Families are encouraged to return to the garden anytime during the garden's normal open hours.
Partnering with the Community
Working together with the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, the Santa Clara County Parks Department, CalFresh Healthy Living, and local schools, UC Master Gardener volunteers engaged with low income schools and special needs classes, serving 25 classes and more than 600 students in 24 months. “I have a special needs brother and I think you all did a really good job. Don't change a thing!” said a teacher following a recent field trip. For some students their visit to Martial Cottel Park is their first time in a garden or hearing about how plants and food grow. UC Master Gardener volunteers are thrilled to be able to introduce these students to the wonders of science and horticulture.
Virtual UC Master Gardener Mini Conference, Sept. 29 - Oct. 1
Join us LIVE online for 2020 UC Master Gardener Virtual Conference, where you can learn more about this project directly from the volunteers involved. The conference is free and open to the general public, all levels of gardeners are welcome! Sessions will stream LIVE, Sept. 29 – Oct. 1 to the UC Master Gardener Program's YouTube channel and Facebook page. Registration is not required, just pick and choose what sessions you would like to attend. All session are being recorded and posted on YouTube but we hope you can join in LIVE.
Pssst! UC Master Gardener volunteers can earn continuing education hours for attending, click here for more information.
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.