In reference to Diane's verbiage to "white
middle class" as the composition of most MG organizations.... this is only
used to define the demographics to this group. This is the true makeup of the MGers in her area and as in my
area. You can call it "stereotyping" if you wish, but let the chips fall
where they may.
I appreciate Adam's earlier comments about
encouraging MGers to help those in need.
Don is also correct in having a great county
extension agent to work with your local MG group and your volunteer
projects. Very good point.
In my case...
Our County Extension Agent
was disappointed to the fact that the majority of the volunteer
hours turned in by the MG interns was going to our Botanical Garden (BG) and not
to the community as a whole. So... he told me that he was
going to require the next class dedicate 10 hours of their
40 volunteer hours to the CASA Community Garden (CCG). He invited me
to speak to the class to "get them acquainted" with the garden. When I
came to speak, he wasn't present. I introduced myself and told them the
purpose for my brief presentation and was looking forward to working with them
in the garden.
When they found out that this was a
requirement, all h_ll broke loose. I lost them because of all the
commotion. After I left, I found out that our Extension
Agent failed to tell the class about this
requirement. Most said they were not working in "that
garden" and if this was a requirement, they would quit the class.
So... the Extension Agent dropped it.
As previously stated... MGers are great resources
when they are committed to the effort. In most cases, they are good for
short term projects.
On the average, we normally get 1 (sometimes 2) MG
interns helping in the CCG. The class size ranges from 25 to 40 per
session. The current class
had 4 to sign up and after 4 garden sessions, 1 has
showed up to help.
One more fact (I promise), most of the groups that
help in the CCG, come back. Year after year. So I know we are doing
Thanks for all the input. Good or bad, we are
all in this together.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, December 01, 2003 5:10
Subject: Fwd: [cg] Master Gardeners as a
This from Monica Cox, Master Gardener and
Compost Specialist, Lane County, Oregon. Looks like the quality and
committment of Master Gardeners to community is like politics in the good old
USof A - LOCAL.
So, I guess it's something we all have to work on
locally - get all of those nice shoulders to the wheel.
for sending this to me. I forwarded it to the listserv to make sure that your
voice was heard.
Subj: Re: [cg] Master Gardeners as a CG resource
Date: 12/1/03 5:49:30 PM Eastern Standard Time
Sent from the
Wow- what a bunch of stereotyping! I
recently ran into this misconception about MGs at a local garden
symposium. One of the speakers made some offhand comment about the
Master Gardener volunteers being inadequately trained or ignorant about the
importance of compost tea and the soil food web, the unwillingness of
Extension agents to use non-chemical solutions to ag problems, etc. I
was dumbfounded - where did this self-righteous ignorance come from? I
have lived in Oregon for 30 yrs. and have been directly involved with the
Master Gardener program and as well, have known ag professionals
[personally, professionally, academically] during this time. Granted,
Oregon is progressive both environmentally and in addressing humanitarian
causes so perhaps the MG program here reflects that orientation. Lane
County has an MG program that promotes sustainable practices and the
composting segment is linked to a specialty program jointly taught by
Extension and the City of Eugene's Waste and Recycling program. There
are eight local community gardens, many started and maintained by Master
Gardener volunteers. Projects like these are encouraged as a
demonstration of the ability to apply what the training has provided.
There is a schoolgarden project, Latino families garden program, a healing
garden, an at-risk youth CSA, several community gardens sponsored by the
local food bank but managed by Master Gardeners and permaculture guild
members. Master Gardeners range in age from 18 to 70+; they are
students, professionals, unemployed or under-employed, housewives, and
retirees. I guess the program is only as "good" as the program design
and the opportunities that the individual MGs choose themselves. The
program is meant to be the volunteer arm of the US Extension Service, like
4-H but is educational in mission, as we serve as adjunct faculty for Oregon
State University's Horticulture Department, providing science-based
information to the public. Just because the information is
science-based doesn't mean that it does not promote organic practices.
We have soil testing done of our compost and compost tea trials so we can
educate ourselves as well as the public on this emerging science.
Sure, composting is ancient practice but now science can explain it
better. Just as our approach to herbal and alternative medicine
becomes acceptable to the mainstream, organic gardening practices also
become readily accepted when the science behind it can be explained.
It is a matter of education. When I invited this garden lecturer over
to our Extension booth at the garden symposium, he was embarrassed to admit
that he had no idea how well trained we were and he could find nothing wrong
with the information we were providing to the public on compost tea making
and the soil food web. He had just assumed that we were as he had been
led to believe: a bunch of middle class white women more interested in rose
varietals than in growing vegs. organically or with interest or involvement
in community efforts. So he got an education that day. And that
is why we're out there, in the public eye, teaching, demonstrating, creating
community gardens, and hopefully reversing stereotypes about the MG program
and the Extension Service. I sometimes perceive a defensiveness from
gardeners who are self-taught and seem to resent the term "Master" Gardener;
we simply have the advantage of academic training, which it is our mission
to share. What we need are gardeners who are willing to learn and to
teach and to use all available resources in meeting community needs, without
prejudging the resources available to them.
MG and Compost
Specialist, Lane County, Oregon