The Oregon Master Gardener Program is a training and volunteer program designed to transfer science based sustainable gardening information and techniques from Oregon State University into our communities. Typically, Master Gardeners participate in substantial college- level horticultural training, then choose from a variety of volunteer activities in which they can share what they’ve learned in the community, whether in formal settings, informal conversations at the Klamath Falls Farmers Market, or in gardens as they help and advise novice gardeners.
In 2018, the Klamath County Master Gardener program planned and marketed evening classes for the 2019 training season, in response to numerous client requests and suggestions that night classes would be easier for many people to work into their schedules. When that substantial training schedule penciled out into evening classes, however, it was still challenging to working family schedules, and there weren’t enough participants to make the class a success.
Leading the way
The Oregon Master Gardener program was one of the first in the nation, developed in the early 1970s — and until recently, had changed very little in its nature since that time. In May 2019, Master Gardener Program coordinators from all over the state met for two days and began a process that will align the Master Gardener program more closely with the needs, interests, and time constraints of today’s gardening public. Like all university wheels, the turning of the Master Gardener program into its more modern format will be gradual and slow: such is the nature of statewide programs that serve a wide range of people, communities, and gardening climates. However, a significant number of updates to the program this year demonstrate, statewide, coordinators’ commitments to making the Master Gardener training as easy as possible for interested participants to attain.
Shorter training season: The Klamath Master Gardener training season has shortened from 14 to just 10 weeks! In 2020, classes will start on Wednesday, Feb. 19 and wrap up on April 29. For those counting, that period includes an extra week off that coordinates with public school’s spring break — another accommodation for families. Trainings in Klamath County will be on Wednesdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (with an hour lunch break). The 10-week training will focus on core topics for gardeners, with the additional topics that were included in the 14-week session being moved into “advanced” trainings. Advanced trainings are sprinkled throughout the year — returning Master Gardeners attend 10 hours of training a year to remain current and sharp in gardening trends and topics.
Coordination across counties: Coordinators learned in the May 2019 workshop that the number of training and volunteer hours required in Master Gardener program varied considerably from one county to the next. Over time, we will bring all those counties closer to the same range of hours and requirements, so Master Gardeners across the state can have similar experiences. This practice will make it easier for Master Gardeners to transition from one program to another within the state. Oregon’s program is also easy for Master Gardeners from other states to transition into.
Options for making up classes: Close coordination with Master Gardener programs in Jackson and Josephine counties means if you must miss a class in Klamath, there is the possibility of making it up in one of those counties. This system won’t always work, because classes in those counties start earlier in the season — appropriate for that side of the mountains. But it’s an option, where it wasn’t before. Another possibility is making up missed classes by participating in the web-based training for the component that was missed. These options, attempted for the first time in the coming year, are aimed at making it as easy as possible for participants to make every class.
Volunteer — or not: The Master Gardener program is, at heart, a volunteer program. Master Gardeners greatly expand the impacts that OSU staff are able to make throughout the state. But the program acknowledges that not everyone is interested in volunteering — or may be considering volunteering at some later time. Plenty of people are just seeking great gardening information — especially in a climate like that in the Klamath Basin, is so different from many gardening environments. The Master Gardener program offers two options: volunteer 45 hours in the months following training, and the cost is $200. If the participant prefers not to commit to volunteering, the cost is $400.
Great information: The Master Gardener program is a direct link to OSU and a wealth of information, great speakers, and excellent training.
Bonus — the social aspect: Inevitably, great friendships develop between Master Gardeners, who always have at least one interest in common — gardening! If you’re looking to meet new people, there are some amazing, knowledgeable, and friendly people in the Klamath program, well worth knowing. We encourage gardening enthusiasts to give it a try.