Extension Service Wants to Come Back from ‘The Dead’

An invaluable resource for Eugene gardeners is at risk of being forgotten.

The Lane County Extension Service (LCES) struggles under last year’s loss of funding while furthermore suffering from reduced community awareness of the program’s existence.

In May 2010, county budget cuts and the vote against the tax levy led to the near discontinuance of the LCES. One service provided through LCES is the Master Gardener program, which provides highly trained volunteers as a resource for garden-related questions either through a telephone hot line, in person, or by email. The program also holds a variety of classes and workshops for the public, catering to beginner and experienced gardeners alike.

Master Gardener Compost Specialist explaining about worm compost

While the loss of funding hit the program hard and many Master Gardener volunteers left, there were those who remained, driven by passion as they continued to provide their services. Nevertheless, they were faced with a great reduction in resources.

After the county funding was cut, the Lane County Extension was forced to evacuate their office at 950 West 13th Avenue located on the north end of the Lane County Fairgrounds. The loss of classroom space and the large parking lot where they held their annual plant sale left the volunteers scrambling to find a way to continue to generate funds on their own.

Meanwhile, with the demolition of the fairgrounds office building that Eugene residents associated with the Master Gardener program, the service lost “a home that everybody knows of”, said Pat Patterson, Master Gardener since the program began in 1976.

“A lot of people think we’ve gone away”, said Rosanna MacArthur, Compost Specialist and Master Gardener since 2009.

A home garden in Eugene

Such is not the case. While the service has undergone much scaling back, they still offer  classes on topics such as pruning and composting. The Master Gardener training program still remains intact.

They are also finding support from outside sources who “[went] out of their way to help us in any way they could,” said Patterson. That included grant money through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, classroom space provided by Eugene Water and Electric Board, and a new office on Grant Street, provided by Rainbow Valley Design Inc. at a reduced rent.

Working on a plot in a Eugene community garden.

Nevertheless, the volunteers want to be sure that they aren’t forgotten as this is a resource that is particularly great for Eugene with the number of gardeners in the community. The Master Gardeners are a phone call away and ready to help with such topics as how begin a garden, plant identification, controlling garden pests or advice on composting.

The goal of the Master Gardeners is to bring awareness back to this resource so they can make use of the services offered. “Our primary mission is to educate the public,” said MacArthur, but the service can’t do that without the funding necessary to cover costs of running the program. While they have been fortunate to have help in this, the ideal method to keep the service in operation would be to make it self-sustainable.

Edited by Chris Scotti

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About Stacey M. Hollis

Aspiring Environmental Field Journalist taking on the world of birds on an island 23 miles out to sea.
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