Buddy message Blog
Please read and submit comments to Phyllis Henley or Mark Keaton.
IMPORTANT TO READ
Dear Master Gardeners,
You are receiving this email because you are your MG county president, thus a key leader in your local Master Gardener program. County Agents across the state are engaged in a Friends of the Division of Agriculture campaign to help get the word out about the importance of our programs -across the board-Master Gardeners, farmers, consumers, FCS programs, 4-H, and many more. I am trying to do something similar within our Master Gardener program and I am asking for your help.
The link to the letter is one that was written by Dr. Mark Cochran who is our Vice President for Agriculture for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. I was given a copy of the letter recently and was somewhat startled by the fact that the Master Gardener program is one listed that may be cut or damaged if the Division of Agriculture does not get enough funding in the current legislative session.
We need you to be our advocate and help us tell our story. Advocacy is pleading or arguing in favor of, or actively supporting, a cause. This includes educating others to the benefits of a particular service, organization or other activity. The best tool we have is our volunteers who are passionate about what we do. Extension doesn't have regular classrooms. Our classrooms are the meeting rooms where we do training and workshops, the gardens where we conduct educational tours or field days, and the county projects where volunteers come together to beautify and educate our state. I for one think that the Master Gardener program is extremely relevant and important, but it would not exist without our county agents and our extension programs.
One of the most important messages is that our funding is separate from the University of Arkansas. They actually have funding separated out for each unit of the UA System, and Extension falls under the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, not the UA Fayetteville campus. The Division of Agriculture budget encompasses Extension and the experiment stations. The Division of Agriculture is the "parent" company of us and that is where we are funded.
Personal contacts are always a better approach than a form letter or blanket email. If you personally know a state legislator, then we encourage you to make contact with them and ask for their support.
Share this information with your county MG's and friends who can help.
What kinds of information should you share with your local elected official? While numbers are important, elected officials often care more about the human impact.
How has the Master Gardener program and the Division of Agriculture Extension programs impacted your county and you? We also have included the hours of volunteer service given to the state through the MG program in a link - it has the entire state hours, but also each county individually.
Here are a couple examples of what I believe is impactful.
Ed Leamon Park in Van Buren County was a small park in Fairfield Bay. It was green space that wasn't used by many people. The Master Gardeners took it over as a project many years ago and today have a wonderful and beautifully landscaped park that is used by many of the local residents for a wide range of activities. The VB County MGs hold their annual plant sale there every year which has grown into a huge event. The local Chamber of Commerce got interested and now the entire community holds events on that weekend marketed as Bloomin' in the Bay with activities scheduled all weekend long. And it all started with the MG and their plant sale and project in a park! That shows quality of life improvement and economic impact to the whole town.
Another example: In Washington County the city of Lincoln donated 4 acres of land and water with the intention of creating a vegetable garden that could be used by entire community. The Master Gardeners were contacted and immediately got involved creating a MG sanctioned project. In addition they organized volunteers from many organizations across the community to help. This year alone, 676 yellow squash, 709 zucchini, 4,586 hot peppers, 675 bell and sweet banana peppers, 575 cucumbers, 112 onions, 26 gallons of okra, 5 gallons of black eye peas, and 8 1/2 gallons of green beans were distributed to 944 needy families. This all happened in one year with the support and leadership of the Master Gardener program!
Personal success stories have impact and meaning. Consider some examples from your county that you could share with your members. This is not something we need to think about once when we are writing a report and advocating for an organization in which we believe. This is something we need to think about in all our projects and activities every time we do them. We all think that everyone knows about the Master Gardener program and the local extension office, all parts of the UA System Division of Agriculture, but I am often told we are the best kept secret around. We need to be a secret no more. It is time we shout from the rooftops about who we are and what we do, because we are important!
To summarize: the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service is part of an independent land grant institution within the UA System with federal-state-local cooperation. We have county offices in every county who are able to disseminate research based information to consumers in their counties. We are an impartial source of science-based solutions to relevant problems.
Thanks for all you do for the Division of Agriculture and the Master Gardener program in particular. If you have any questions, please let me know.
Janet B. Carson
Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist
Arkansas Master Gardener Coordinator
Letter from County 76 President
2016 MG Program Numbers
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