master gardeners

Master Gardeners – COVID-19 Update

Master Gardener logoIn the 40 years of the UConn Extension Master Gardener program, we have never faced anything quite this … unknown. This isn’t a flood, or hurricane, with a clear finish. This pandemic is an onslaught: health, finances, social interactions, and daily routines are all impacted.

What doesn’t change is the incredible value of gardening; of digging our hands into the soil, of the warmth of the sun on our faces, of fresh food and beautiful vistas, of the sounds of the garden and the wild spaces around us.

As a friend, Gary Oppenheimer of AmpleHarvest, said recently, “Gardening has NOT been cancelled”. Our Master Gardener programming and volunteer work will continue as scheduled, although we will have to be creative in some areas.

Here’s where we stand today:

The 2020 Master Gardener class is continuing on schedule. We have moved the remaining five weeks to an all-online format with online discussions replacing the half-day in-class sessions. This allows us to stay on schedule and we will continue to add new content opportunities as we go forward.

As many of you are aware, the CMGA symposium has been postponed until fall. They will update us as more information becomes available.

We are in the midst of arranging Hot Topics. Originally scheduled for May, it is likely that we will now hold a virtual Hot Topics online. My hope is that it will be interactive. Stay tuned….

Outreach and Office Hours:  Many of our outreach projects will not be impacted by the social distancing restrictions, others will. We will adapt as needed to current and evolving restrictions and we will develop new opportunities that best respond to new needs in our communities. If you have thoughts on how we can best respond to the new reality, please don’t hesitate to share them.

Office hours fall within the current recommended group size. Many of our clients may not want face-to-face interactions; we are looking into options such as online “office hours” and promoting the use of email for communication. For anyone who has underlying health concerns (their own or an immediate family member) making face-to-face contact unwise, we will adjust and adapt.

In summary, this is a time of change, adaptation and creative thinking. There are a lot of unknowns, and it’s likely we will be dealing with this reality into at least some of the summer. We are, however, versatile. We are resilient. Gardeners are constantly adapting to the changes in the surrounding environment; this is just one more. Please do not hesitate to share ideas, issues and concerns with me or with your coordinators.

Getting outside into the fresh air and the sunlight is one of the recommendations for offsetting the negative reactions to social distancing. We’re ahead of the curve!

Keep Calm, and Garden on,

Sarah Bailey

State Program Coordinator, Master Gardener Program

Thank you Volunteers!

Hartford rain garden

During National Volunteer Week, we thank all of our Connecticut 4-H, UConn Extension Master Gardener Program, People Empowering People (PEP), and other volunteers who make our programs so successful each year! Our volunteers contributed over 100,000 hours, or $2.4 million to their communities served last year.

GMOs a Hot Topic for UConn Extension Master Gardeners

Carol Auer

By Leslie Alexander

Certified UConn Extension Master Gardeners and Advanced Master Gardeners are encouraged to maintain active certification. In addition to completing required office and community outreach hours Master Gardeners in Connecticut are required to attend one Hot Topics class each year. These classes are designed to provide Master Gardeners with updated and new horticultural and environmental information. Theses classes build upon the program’s class topics and help keep Master Gardeners informed and current. This year’s first Hot Topics class was offered to Master Gardeners on March 27, 2014 at the UConn Hartford campus. One hundred and twenty Master Gardeners showed up to hear Dr. Carol Auer a professor at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture present a lecture on the controversial subject of genetically engineered crops.

Titled Genetically Engineered Crops from Farm to Fork, Dr. Auer’s presentation updated the audience on current genetic modifications and new methods for incorporation into organisms, quizzed the audience on their knowledge of foods that contain genetically modified crops and discussed the risk assessment paradigm used by the Federal Government to determine potential impacts to humans and the environment.

Dr. Auer is a research scientist in the field of genetic engineering. In 2002 she received a Fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and spent a year with USDA in Washington at the Department of Agriculture working with policy makers who assess the risks and benefits of these genetic modification processes. She realized the complexities regulators face in assessing science in the application and review process for approving new genetically engineered crops. On her return to UConn Dr. Auer’s research changed focus, she is concentrating on the science behind ecological risk and benefit assessment of genetically modified plants with novel traits. At present, her interdisciplinary research program is characterizing potential ecological risks associated with the adoption of engineered grasses commonly used as turfgrass or bioenergy resources. These projects are providing new knowledge about grass gene flow, pollen aerobiology, interspecific hybridization, plant species distribution, plant communities, cultural landscape ecology, and habitat suitability modeling. Results from these projects are important for predictive ecological risk assessments, regulatory decision-making, and stakeholder education. She conducts an innovative teaching program for undergraduate and graduate students in the areas of plant physiology, molecular biology, forest ecophysiology, and research ethics. She served as Chairperson of the University’s Institutional Biosafety Committee for six years and maintains an active interest in biosecurity issues.

The Master Gardener presentation was videotaped and will be offered this spring and summer as part of the Hot Topics class in each county, allowing Master Gardeners statewide an opportunity to hear this fascinating presentation.