- Author: Marisa Coyne
It's no secret that UC Master Gardener volunteers wear many hats. Fortunately for the UC Master Gardener Programs in Lake, Ventura, and Contra Costa Counties, three extraordinary volunteers bring their work experience with them into their home gardening volunteer efforts!
Merry Jo Velasquez – Lake County
Merry Jo Velasquez is a busy full time medical researcher, a volunteer with her local Resource Conservation District (RCD), and member of the Blue Ribbon Committee for the Rehabilitation of Clearlake, in addition to being an active UC Master Gardener volunteer in Lake County.
“Merry Jo knows how to do research, because that's what she does for a living in the medical field. Applying this skill to horticultural projects comes naturally to her,” says Gabriele O'Neill, program coordinator in Lake County. Merry Jo's ability to do research and her many connections with land-based organizations have been personally and organizationally fruitful. She authored a UC Master Gardener Program in Lake County publication for local gardeners titled the Lake County Ornamental Gardening Guide.
Her community involvement and warm personality helped build a strong connection between the UC Master Gardener Program in Lake County and the RCD, leading to collaborations on local restoration projects. Merry Jo's knowledge of California native plants made her an excellent fit for fellow volunteer Jerry Marquis' rehabilitation effort on of the grounds of a historical stagecoach stop and museum.
Balancing work and volunteer commitments is innate to Merry Jo – you might say she wrote the book on it!
Harry Lee – Ventura County
Harry Lee is a lifelong vegetable gardener, full-time accountant, and a UC Master Gardener volunteer in Ventura County. Harry joined the UC Master Gardener Program because he was looking for a volunteer opportunity that aligned with his interests and provided a contrast from his professional life in finance. Fortunately for his fellow volunteers, Harry did not leave his personal and professional skills at the garden gate.
Harry has extensive experience as an accountant and utilizes those skills as the Ventura County program's treasurer. Harry's experiential garden knowledge and commitment to research-based education materials make him an incredibly successful teacher, both for new UC Master Gardener trainees and members of the public. His impeccable home trials have also made him a great fit for helping Ventura County's farm advisors with research projects.
Harry's diverse skill set and comprehensive education, from number-crunching to bed preparation, have made him a true asset to the UC Master Gardener Program in Ventura County. “Harry wears more hats than anyone else in the program - literally and figuratively. The man owns a lot of hats! Harry's contributions to the program are innumerable and his commitment to the UC Master Gardener Program is unrivaled,” says Alexa Hendricks, program coordinator in Ventura County.
Darlene DeRose – Contra Costa County
Darlene DeRose joined the UC Master Gardener Program in Contra Costa County with a commitment of getting the program out into the community. Darlene was drawn to the UC Master Gardener Program during the same year she earned a certificate in ecotherapy, which focuses on reconnecting people with nature as a form of healing individual and collective suffering. With its focus on research-based education, the UC Master Gardener Program provided a platform and resources for Darlene to venture into the community and reconnect people with the world that surrounds them.
Under her leadership, the UC Master Gardener Program in Contra Costa County has grown to support more than twenty diverse community gardens - at residential treatment centers, sober living facilities, and affordable housing communities.
During her time as a UC Master Gardener volunteer, Darlene has assembled and inspired a dedicated group of UC Master Gardeners, inspiring them to commit to teaching their communities about growing food and empowering them to generate new ideas to accomplish this goal. “Darlene is simply amazing -- she's a great listener and innovator. She observes community needs, asks questions, and creates space for ideas to percolate, grow and evolve,” according to Dawn Kooyumjian, program coordinator in Contra Costa County. Darlene's ecotherapy training has had a positive impact on community members, fellow volunteers, and program leadership.
The UC Master Gardener Program is exceptional because volunteers like Merry Jo, Harry, and Darlene bring their unique skills and strength to the everyday work of extending home horticulture information to Californians. As we celebrate the work of volunteers during National Volunteer Week, we also celebrate the breadth and depth of knowledge brought by volunteers with careers.
About Gardeners with Heart
Special appreciation to UC Master Gardener program coordinators in Contra Costa (Dawn Kooyumjian), Ventura (Alexa Hendricks), and Lake (Gabriele O'Neill) for sharing the stories of these incredible Gardeners with Heart.
- Author: Marisa Coyne
A longtime elementary school teacher with a love of succulents, Jessica was attracted to the UC Master Gardener Program by a desire to share her interest in unusual plants and her experience in education. Jessica and a team of UC Master Gardener volunteers created an oasis of succulents with paths, benches, and educational signage. Jessica approaches every walk through the garden as an opportunity for a visitor to learn. As one volunteer observed, “Jessica is incredibly good at educating as she goes. Just working alongside her in the garden you learn a lot."
In addition to the original Mediterranean and succulent gardens, the ever-evolving demonstration gardens currently include a California native plant garden; a fragrant bee garden; a habitat garden with an emphasis on pollinators and beneficial insects; a diversity garden demonstrating water-wise practices and a moon garden - a quiet refuge of grey and white foliage designed to reflect the light of the moon in the dark of night. Along the way, Gail and Jessica have combined their strengths and unique skills to develop the teaching gardens, and assembled teams of enthusiastic UC Master Gardener volunteers to continue to support the project's needs.
Thanks to Gail and Jessica, the Falkirk Cultural Center demonstration gardens have become an interactive educational space where UC Master Gardeners conduct workshops and host educational events for the public. Using the seven gardens as an outdoor classroom, UC Master Gardener volunteers teach Marin residents about a wide variety of sustainable gardening practices.
Even though Gail and Jessica and their team have built seven demonstration gardens, they are not finished. Gail is currently designing an eighth garden at the Falkirk Cultural Center to demonstrate landscapes that help reduce the risks presented by wildfires. Jessica continues to educate new volunteers about succulent propagation and care – feeding a sense of wonder and curiosity that these volunteers will, in turn, share with Marin residents. Gail and Jessica's story of collaboration is further proof of Gail's sentiment -- that making something together IS more fun!
About Gardeners with Heart
During National Volunteer Week (April 19 – 25), the UC Master Gardener Program celebrates the contributions of its 6,000 incredible volunteers. The UC Master Gardener Program is excited to share stories of special volunteers Gardeners with Heart from across the state. Gardener's with Heart volunteers were nominated by their local county leadership for their creativity, strategic thinking, passion for the program's mission and commitment to program delivery. To nominate a Gardener with Heart in your program or county complete this online survey.
Gardeners with Heart will be celebrated throughout the year on social media, in blog posts, on our website, and in the 2019 annual report!
Thank you to UC Master Gardener Program in Marin County Co-Presidents Kathy Hunting and Rod Kerr for submitting Gail and Jessica for Gardeners with Heart recognition. Look out for more great stories of Gardeners with Heart throughout National Volunteer Week (April 19 – 25, 2020).
- Author: Melissa G. Womack
Gardens are not just about plants - they are also about people. Gardens create a learning space, help reduce stress and anxiety, and offer a place to connect back with nature. Over the last few weeks there have been many concerns voiced about garden spaces needing essential maintenance during the COVID-19 outbreak. While we recognize the importance of gardens in our communities, there is nothing more important than the safety of our volunteers.
The UC Master Gardener Program is taking all precautions possible to help minimize exposure and spread of COVID-19, following all guidelines and recommendations from Public Health officials and the CDC. Taking these recommendations carefully into consideration the following requirements have been developed to help volunteers and staff manage essential garden maintenance needs in their local community, demonstration or school gardens. Please connect with your local Program Coordinator, Advisor or County Director for approval before providing any essential garden maintenance activities. Allowable activities may differ county by county; approval must be given by the County Director.
UC Master Gardener volunteers and staff must obtain approval from their County Director prior to providing essential maintenance in demonstration gardens. All work is voluntary. Limit garden maintenance to only activities required to ensure survival of plants and infrastructure, including water systems and fences. UC Master Gardener volunteers age 65 years or older, or at a high risk for COVID-19, may not be considered for essential maintenance in accordance with state guidelines.
Working in Shifts
Work in the garden must be coordinated and staggered between volunteers to allow for required physical distancing. Shifts are scheduled in advance in the Volunteer Management System (VMS). If an assigned shift is missed, please contact your team to discuss reassigning duties. You must sign up for an alternate shift before returning to the garden. Physical distance requirements require six feet or more at all times. Individuals showing symptoms of illness, including: coughing, sneezing, feeling feverish or even experiencing seasonal allergies may not work. In addition, if any household members are showing symptoms of illness or you have been notified you have been in contact with someone that is suspected of having contracted or tested positive for COVID-19, you must follow public health guidelines for self-quarantining prior to returning to the garden.
Volunteers will bring their own hand tools to use, do not share hand tools. Personal work gloves must be worn when using larger tools and equipment housed at the garden – shovels, wheelbarrows, mowers, weed-whackers, hoses, irrigation equipment, etc.
Handwashing requires rubbing hands together with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, followed by rinsing and drying with a clean, disposable towel. More info: cdc.gov/handwashing
Individuals will wash their hands when arriving at the garden before beginning any work, and before leaving the garden. Hand soap and paper towels are available at the outdoor sink in the garden. Notify your UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator if the supply runs low. Disinfecting wipes will be available (as supplies allow) to wipe down large tools before and after use.
Wash hands properly before and after work breaks, before and after eating or drinking, or using the restroom. If you leave the site for a break, wash your hands before leaving the garden and upon returning. Follow all CDC recommendations, food sharing is strictly prohibited.
No other persons are allowed into the garden, including friends and relatives of UC Master Gardener volunteer and staff. All gates, where applicable, are to remain locked while approved essential maintenance activities are being conducted.
Harvesting and Deliveries to Food Bank
Harvesting produce from the garden and delivering to food banks requires prior approval from the County Director. Harvesters must follow protocols set by the food bank and local or state Public Health guidelines.
Disposable gloves must be worn when harvesting fresh produce. Refrain from touching your face, hair or clothing with the gloves. When harvesting tasks are complete and the delivery is loaded into a vehicle, discard all disposable gloves and wash hands before leaving the garden. Replace gloves when you take a break. Disposable gloves will be available on site.
Social distancing must be exercised when delivering to the food bank, wash your hands after making a delivery.
Seeking Approval for Essential Work
All essential work must be approved by UC ANR leadership. Contact your UC Master Garden Program Coordinator, Advisor or County Director.
Special thank you to Maria Murrietta, UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator of San Luis Obispo, who spearheaded the development of safety guidelines for essential demo garden maintenance. Many thanks for Maria and contributors Katherine Soule, Chris Greer and others for creating this great resource!
- Author: Lauren Snowden
UC Master Gardener volunteers are not only educators but are life-long learners who regularly engage in growing their skills and gardening knowledge. Although the current circumstance surrounded COVID-19 has disrupted our in-person public events and affected our daily lives, it doesn't mean we can't continue learning. Sharpen your mind from the comfort of your own home with these online learning opportunities for the gardener in you.
Online Continuing Education Resources
1. eXtension Campus (no log on required but recommended to be able to access most courses)
a. UC Master Gardener Program Recorded Training - This course acts as a repository of UC and UCCE trainings and was put together as a response to COVID-19
2. eXtension Learn (no log on required)
3. UC Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
4. Oregon State University (log on and registration required)
5. Xerces Society
Volunteer Development Resources:
1. Extension Master Gardener Social Media Training
2. University of California Implicit Bias Trainings
3. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension
Attend a training and enter your Hours
The amount of continuing education hours you enter should include the training and any supplemental reading you may be directed to complete as part of the training. All of the trainings suggested in this blog qualify for continuing education hours for UC Master Gardener Program volunteers.
Staying connected with one another is important during this time. Consider teaming up with a fellow volunteer to take the same training as you and then talk about what you learned after. Although we cannot be together at this time we can expand our knowledge and connect with each other through online learning opportunities!/h3>/h3>
- Author: Marisa A Coyne
The UC Master Gardener Program is proud to announce that two new UC implicit bias training courses are now available online to UC Master Gardener Program volunteers!
What's implicit bias?
Implicit bias refers to the unconscious short cuts (stereotypes or biases) our brains use when we are confronted with making real-world decisions, according to Jerry Kang, UCLA Vice-Chancellor. “We are all susceptible to automatic cognitive processes that throw our decision making off course,” says Kang.
While biases are normal, they can produce results that are unfair particularly for those who are not members of dominant groups.
To guard against the influence of bias in the interview and appointment processes, the University Office of the President and UC campuses developed resources and guidelines.
- Recommendations for building in enough time to engage in a quality process; Short timelines can increase the likelihood that confirmation or in-group bias will creep in
- Recommendations for using consistent procedures and rubrics for all candidates
- Recommendations that all hiring and selection committee members receive training about implicit bias, the consequence and impact of bias, and strategies for managing and disrupting bias
Training courses help guide new volunteer recruitment
UC Master Gardener volunteers, as agents of the University of California, and with guidance from program coordinators, advisors, and county directors, work to recruit and select new volunteers that perform educational outreach in their communities, sharing research-based information about home horticulture, sustainable landscaping, and integrated pest management.
Now, for the first time, all UC Master Gardener volunteers with recruitment and selection responsibilities will have access to TWO of the same critical training resources as staff and academics.
Training 1: UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion – Implicit Bias YouTube series
UCLA's implicit bias series consists of seven short videos developed by BruinX, the research and development arm of UCLA's Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. The video series defines and explores terms such as stereotype and schema, discusses the impact that bias can have on decision-making, and proposes countermeasures such as decoupling facts and assumptions.
Consider playing one of these short videos before each of your council, committee, subcommittee, or leadership meetings to build collective understanding of the reality and impact of bias.
The first video, linked below, describes how biases and heuristics can influence our decision-making and behavior without us even knowing it. These videos are free and available on YouTube.
Training 2: UC Managing Implicit Bias Series
The UC Managing Implicit Bias Series is a six-course online training series designed to increase awareness of implicit bias and reduce its impact. Each course is 15-20 minutes in length and covers a topic related to identifying, understanding, and managing the influence of bias. Because vocabulary is built throughout the series, learners are encouraged complete the modules in sequential order.
The UC Managing Implicit Bias Series is accessible to UC employees through their division-specific online UC Learning Center. The series is accessible to UC volunteers through the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) Human Resources website.
Volunteers - please follow the steps below to access the online course. Volunteers attempting to view the UC Managing Implicit Bias Series using other links will be unable to access password-protected online UC Learning Center resources.
For volunteer access to the course:
- Navigate to the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) Human Resources website's Systemwide Talent Management eCourse page.
- Click the name of the course you wish to take. Remember, learners are encouraged to complete the modules in order.
- Use the course controls and menu bar to navigate through all of the course pages. Below you'll find the landing page of the first course, “What is Implicit Bias?”
- Return to the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) Human Resources website's Systemwide Talent Management eCourse page and select the next course.
- Repeat until all six courses in the series are finished.
Consider hosting a session for volunteers involved in the recruitment and selection process. Play one or more of the videos to generate a discussion about reducing bias in volunteer application and interview procedures. The research about implicit bias is clear – awareness is the first step to interrupting and reducing bias in learning and working spaces. Now, volunteers and staff can take that step together.
- Training 1: UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion – Implicit Bias YouTube series - Contact UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to request support OR to let the Office know that you are using their resource WeListen@equity.ucla.edu
- Training 2: UC Managing Implicit Bias Series - Contact UC Systemwide Talent Management via their Contact Us page
- Project Implicit - Implicit Associate Test, Harvard University
- Implicit Bias Resources – Working at UC, UC Net
- Scholarship - Implicit Bias, UCLA
- Learn about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion - How do I, UC Davis