Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers are key to effective dissemination of horticultural information to the public. The goal of this workshop was to identify techniques to increase the capacity and effectiveness of EMG volunteers. The workshop focused on projects and tools that reduce the administrative burden of managing volunteers, increase the scope of issues that volunteers are prepared to address, and pool volunteer efforts and resources across county lines. Two online systems for managing and reporting EMG volunteer activities were described. Both systems are intuitive, user-friendly, and updated without the assistance of web managers. Regional web-based, advanced training on specific topics was used to expand educational messages of EMG volunteers and eliminate the costs associated with face-to-face training. Presentations were made using distance learning technologies and resources were shared online. Hosting agents tailored hands-on supporting activities to meet local needs. Volunteers expanded extension outreach by answering noncommercial landscape and garden telephone questions. Many of the administrative, logistical, and resource burdens associated with the EMG helpline phone service were overcome by working across county lines, standardizing training, centralizing supporting resources, and clustering volunteers into regional telephone helpline offices. Other projects and tools presented in the workshop focused on the need to affirm and/or foster the volunteers' connection with the university and the outreach mission of Cooperative Extension.
Ellen M. Bauske, Lelia Kelly, Kerry Smith, Lucy Bradley, Timothy Davis, and Pam Bennett
Sheri Dorn, Lucy Bradley, Debbie Hamrick, Julie Weisenhorn, Pam Bennett, Jill Callabro, Bridget Behe, Ellen Bauske, and Natalie Bumgarner
The National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH) is a diverse consortium of leaders who provide a unified voice for promoting the benefits and value of consumer horticulture (CH). NICH endeavors to unite national research efforts with the goals of the diverse stakeholders in the industry, the public sector, and the gardening public in an effort to advance knowledge and increase benefits and application of horticulture for cultivating a healthy world through landscapes, gardens, and plants, and an improved quality of life. Benefits of CH are broadly applicable, whether economic, environmental, or community- and health-related. A benefits approach to marketing sets the stage for unprecedented collaboration, such as that demonstrated by NICH. NICH members have developed three broad goals: recognizing CH as a driver of the agricultural economy; highlighting that CH restores, protects, and conserves natural resources through research and education; and cultivating healthy, connected, and engaged communities through CH. Three NICH committees (Economic, Environmental, and Community and Health Benefits) have focused their efforts on NICH goals for the past 10 months. The three committee chairs, representing ≈30 committee members, presented the results of their efforts and future directions for their committees. The Economic and Environmental committees have proceeded with campaigns to better market CH by promoting the benefits of plants and to increase environmental benefits by changing consumer behavior. After reviewing current research, the Community and Health Benefits Committee suggested that a gap exists in research related to specific benefits of CH and personal gardening (as opposed to benefits accrued by enjoying forests, horticulture therapy, indoor atriums, community gardens, parks, and other public places). The committee suggested that overcoming this gap requires strategic collaboration of skill and expertise from a more diverse group of industry representatives, specialists, and scientists. This approach has tremendous potential to affect the CH marketplace, especially when drawing multiple sources of value from the products and experiences.
Natalie Bumgarner, Sheri Dorn, Esther McGinnis, Pam Bennett, Ellen Bauske, Sarada Krishnan, and Lucy Bradley
Many fields of research converge to assess the impact of plants on human health, well-being, and nutrition. However, even with a recent history of horticulturists contributing to human–plant interaction work, much of the current research is conducted outside the context of horticulture and specifically outside of consumer horticulture (CH). To connect CH to research being conducted by other disciplines that explore the role of plants in improving human quality of life, a workshop was held on 1 Aug. 2018 in Washington, DC, at the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) annual conference. The workshop focused on current food science, nutrition, and crop-breeding efforts to enhance nutrition and flavor, and human health and well-being research related to nature and plant interactions in an increasingly urban population. Following these presentations regarding potential research linkages and collaboration opportunities, a facilitated discussion identified ways to improve future CH research and foster collaborative work. Action items identified included connecting research and vocabulary to help cultivate an interest in plants in younger generations; supporting awareness of collaborative opportunities with health, nutrition, urban planning, and public health practitioners; ensuring CH is known to administrators; and taking responsibility for initiating communication with colleagues in these areas.