An Open (Love) Letter to Extension Master Gardeners (EMGs)

Dear EMGs,

I literally count my blessings, each and every day, to work with such an amazing group of individuals.  You inspire me to work harder and to be a better person in so many different ways, a few of which I’ve listed below.

1)      EMGs are Lifelong Learners: Now in my 40s, I still remember that moment when I learned how to read.  A new world opened up to me that day, as I set about reading every entry in my family’s set of encyclopedias.  My goal at that time was to learn everything there was to possibly learn about this world.  As you might imagine, this endeavor didn’t make me the most popular girl in middle or high school.  However, within the EMG community, I feel like I’ve found my kindred spirits!  You’ve been through school, done time in study hall and have taken your fair share of tests.  However, you still choose – many of you, year after year – to attend EMG training classes.  You challenge yourself to continually learn new information, and to apply what you have learned when answering questions and solving gardening problems.  I totally respect and admire your commitment to lifelong learning!  You keep me on my toes, and encourage me to keep moving, keep learning and keep challenging myself!

2)      EMGs see the World in a Unique and Different Way: One of my best friends in graduate school was a polymer clay artist.  She once took me to an artists’ workshop, where everyone was asked to start the day by stating their talent.   The facilitator went around the room, as each person confidently identified themselves: flutist, sculptor, dancer, painter, photographer, writer.  When it was my turn, I flatly stated that I had no talent.  I was way too shy to be a performing artist.  Instead, I was a bookish graduate student in the sciences, where I was being taught to write precise and technical prose.  My proclamation of being without talented evoked what I interpreted to be gasps of horror from the audience.  ‘Everyone has a talent’ the facilitator replied.  ‘Take some time to think about it, and we’ll get back to you.’  Panicked, I racked my brain for something, anything, within me that could pass as a ‘talent’.  Then it hit me.  When walking through the woods or a garden, I see things that most people don’t notice.  I know that the brown leaves of a locust tree in mid-summer means that locust leaf miners are feasting.  I see frothy foam on meadow plants in early spring and know that spittle bugs are active.  Leaves drooping on a rhododendron tell me that I need to at least consider that Phytopthera root rot might be to blame.  I know that not all insects are ‘bugs’, and I can tell the difference between a lacewing and a lacebug.  When I shared this insight with the group, I received a standing ovation.  Yikes.  It was unexpected – but not unwarranted.  EMGs see the natural world as dynamic and diverse.  Whereas many folks walk through a garden and see ‘plants’, ‘bugs’ and ‘birds’, EMGs see Rudbeckias, hairstreaks, and flickers.  It’s almost a secret language that we speak, when we talk about our garden.  But, the very best part of our secret is that we don’t keep it to ourselves!  We teach school children, new gardeners, and long-time veterans about the cool things we’ve learned in our EMG training classes and from other EMGs.

3)      EMGs are Selfless in their Service to Others: EMGs are givers.  The latest numbers that we have on our impact are astounding.  In 2009, over 94,000 EMGs donated over 5 million hours of volunteer service, valued at $101 million dollars.  Over 685,000 documented pounds of EMG-harvested produce were donated to food banks and food pantries around the nation.  You teach others how to garden in ways that bring beauty to our neighborhoods, feed our communities, and preserve our natural resources.  When you go to bed at night, you can do so knowing that your volunteerism makes a real and positive difference in this world.  You literally embody the values that I try to emulate each and every day.

Thank you, EMGs, for all that you do.  You never cease to amaze and inspire me.  During National Volunteer Week, I wanted to highlight how thankful I am for your service –  but I hope that you know how very grateful we are to work with you, each and every day, to make this world a better place.

With sincere admiration,

-Gail A Langellotto
Statewide Coordinator
Oregon State University Extension Master Gardener Program

{Editor’s note: You’ll may also enjoy reading Gail Langelotto’s blog post celebrating how OSU Master Gardeners volunteer their time and talent to their local communities in 2011.}


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6 Responses to “An Open (Love) Letter to Extension Master Gardeners (EMGs)”

  1. Trina Studebaker says:

    Loved reading this. It’ beautifully true! I’m actually getting ready to work the phones today for Washington County.

  2. We can be equally proud of Gail, who works harder than humanely possible to make all this a reality for us in Oregon.

  3. Gail Miles says:

    I’ve never thought of you as not having talent. You’re one of our most popular instructors, because of the way you present the information and the way you respond to the students. You’re also a talented writer as evidenced by your blog and this thoughtful tribute. I really appreciate you and all of the work you do for us.

  4. Sarah and Gail – you’re way too kind. I love what do, so it makes it easy to be passionate about the work. Trina – hope you had some fun and interesting questions on the MG phones today. I’m starting to get questions about pests that are just beginning to emerge here in Oregon. For me, when the pests get going is when the real fun starts!

  5. Pat Patterson says:

    Gail, you are an inspiration to all of us. I still remember when you first came to Oregon, just in time for the madness of Mini-College. You pitched right in, even with the mundane jobs and fitted our needs like a glove. You still do.

  6. It’s wonderful to be able to volunteer for an organization that has so many passionate members. A lifetime of interest in plants and gardens has been enhanced by the wonderful education the program has provided, and my personal life has been enriched by meeting so many like-minded people.

    I have long believed there is an artist in each of us. We should define art beyond pre-conceived notions and archaic definitions; everyone has a voice and something to contribute to the beauty of this world.

    Thank you Gail for everything that you do, and the enthusiasm that you bring to the table.