- (Public Value) UCANR: Promoting healthy people and communities
- 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!
Established in 1980, the UC Master Gardener Program has been extending UC research-based information about home gardening and pest management to the public for forty years.
Starting in Riverside and Sacramento Counties the program is now in more than 50 counties across California and functions as a volunteer based public service and outreach program under the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), administered locally by participating UC Cooperative Extension county offices.
Without the passion of volunteers, local communities, and support from UC academics the UC Master Gardener Program would not have grown into the extensive educational volunteer network it is today. Last year 6,154 active UC Master Gardener volunteers donated 446,237 hours, and 6.8+ million hours have been donated since the program's inception. Our volunteers are the core of the UC Master Gardener Program and are serving in a way that creates positive change for people, communities and our environment.
40 and Counting
Guided by our mission to extend research-based knowledge, the program is currently focused on three primary impact areas: sustainable landscaping, food gardening and community well-being. Through recently implemented statewide program evaluation and data collection efforts the first ever annual report was published in 2019. “The annual report spotlights volunteer and the impacts they are making in their communities every day,” says Missy Gable, statewide Director, “Our volunteers continue to set us apart. With the continued support and commitment from volunteers, UC, and local communities the program will continue to grow and support gardeners across the state.”
Celebrate with Us!
Join us throughout the year in helping celebrate the 40th year of the UC Master Gardener Program making a difference across California's landscape. This landmark anniversary is being celebrated through the use of the new 40th anniversary logo, events and special recognition throughout the state.
- Anniversary Logo:
Members of the UC Master Gardener community are encouraged to use the 40th Anniversary log on social media pages, email signatures, and in printed materials during the year-long celebration.
- 2020 Statewide Conference:
Volunteers, University of California Academics, and specials guests will be able to celebrate at the triennial Statewide UC Master Gardener Conference, in Lake Tahoe Sept. 28 – Oct. 2, 2020. Special themed commemorative conference pin, apparel, awards dinner and celebrations are being arranged for the conference.
- Photo Contest:
A special photo contest will also be held where everyone can participate and celebrate.
- State and County Recognition:
Proclamations at both the state and local levels will call attention to and recognize the achievement of volunteers and their commitment to the mission and community service.
- #GivingTuesday & Big Dig Day:
UC ANR's 2nd annual Big Dig Day will take place this year on Friday June 5, 2020 and focuses on raising funds to support local county programs or projects. Save-the-Date for #GivingTuesday taking place Dec. 1, 2020 and is primarily a social media movement to show support through volunteering or making a gift.
- Author: Lauren Snowden
It may seem odd to see seventy-five people at a hotel conference center learning about insects and rats on vegetables, but not if you are a UC Master Gardener. The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) in partnership with the UC Master Gardener Program just wrapped up the Vegetable Pests and Solutions train-the-trainer series. More than 340 UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state took part in the regional trainings offered in Fresno, Orange, Placer, San Luis Obispo and Sonoma counties.
The advanced UC IPM training offered a hands-on, train-the-trainer experience that increased participants' knowledge of insect pests of vegetables, vegetable plant diseases and disorders, and vertebrate pests of gardens and homes. One of the highlights of the training was Human-Wildlife Interaction Advisor, Niamh Quinn, showing a taxidermy collection of vertebrate pests at the Orange and San Luis Obispo County workshops. Being able to handle and observe the different markings, colors and claws on certain animals makes future identification easier as participants learned the signs to look for when identifying vertebrate pest damage in the vegetable garden.
UC Master Gardener volunteers were lead through exercises that mimic questions commonly received from the public. Some of the questions had a photo, others just a sparse description that volunteers worked together to solve using online IPM resources and materials provided at the training. The exercises were designed to challenge and expose the learner to different types of scenarios and tools they can use in the future.
Outreach and Education
The UC Master Gardener Program's mission is to extend research-based information, by attending advanced trainings such as this, volunteers are even more prepared to contribute to the program's mission. With exposure and practice using new resources and materials training attendees have the tools and knowledge needed to educate the public on vegetable pests and solutions including scripted PowerPoints, activities, handouts, and vegetable pest identification card sets. One attendee reported “As a first year UC Master Gardener, this training helped me become more comfortable and more confident researching answers for pest management questions.”
At the conclusion of the training volunteers convened with their fellow county volunteers to talk about their plans to take new found knowledge back into their communities. Some of the great ideas generated were:
- offer seasonal pest problems workshops
- include a “Need Help Solving Pest Problems?” flier for all events
- add IPM tips to newsletters and social media
- integrate IPM into presentations as appropriate or relevant to topic
- add signage for damaged or diseased plants with IPM solutions in demonstration gardens
- share IPM toolkit at farmers markets and demo garden events
How We are Making a Difference
One portion of the agenda was focused on how the UC Master Gardener community is making a difference. With 6,000+ volunteers serving more than 517,000 Californians per year the impact of the UC Master Gardener volunteer effort is truly amazing. Through statewide program evaluation efforts the impact in sustainable landscaping, food gardening and community well-being is now being analyzed and reported in the programs annual report. Volunteers can see the impact they are having statewide and be proud of being part of a group that social changes they are seeing in their local communities.
As active volunteers and life-long learners UC Master Gardeners are a powerful educational tool and inspiration for others not only in the garden but in the volunteer community. Statewide educational offerings like UC IPM's train-the-trainer series help hone the diagnostics skills while building confidence in the subject matter.
The next statewide training opportunity for UC Master Gardener volunteers will be the 2020 UC Master Gardener Conference, Sept. 28 –Oct. 2, 2020 at the Granlibakken, Tahoe. The conference is the beginning planning stages and taking speaker and topic suggestions, click here to suggest a speaker or topic.