Saturday, April 20, 2013

Garden Rant, Again.

Another open letter to the folks at the Garden Rant, who have another post up about perceived shortcomings of the Master Gardener programs across the nation.

Let's see if I can unpack the logic here.
  • We don't like the name - it implies undeserved accreditation to people who take advantage of it for other than volunteer purposes. Change it to something else, like Extension Volunteer. Besides, Jerry Baker uses the title, and his stuff is nonsense.
  • There's a policy that all Master Gardeners sign, that they won't abuse the title by touting it professionally, or using it to imply endorsement of (any) product. Ranters don't think highly of that policy, when politely asked to discourage violation of the policy. Besides, lowly Lowe's employees (you know how *they* are) abuse the policy, so we get to, too.
  • There should be better management over the various programs in the states in order to avoid situations like the DC one that Susan was a part of, but exercising management is considered heavy-handed, because it was directed at a Rant-inspired event.
Sorry Susan. Your continued rants against the Master Gardener program come across as sour grapes. It's reminiscent of professional journalists griping about the phenomenon known as blogging back in 2002.

Face it. The publishing world is being challenged by a new paradigm. No longer do publishing houses, editors, and their professional writers have a monopoly gateway filter on getting good gardening advice to the public.

Now, in a world of free, internet, social media access, with accreditation given by Land Grant Universities, Extension Educators, and their Master Gardener volunteer support staff, can make their science-based, objective information stream widely available, and directly to the public, skipping the value-added gateway function of your profession, which (apparently) you find threatening, hence the sneers and attempts to discredit the program. I think you'll be as successful as professional journalists were in 2002. I'm completely willing to accept the marketplace decisions on the value of the Master Gardener program. Are you willing to do the same with your product?

Learn from your colleague on the Rant, Master Writer (my appellation) Amy Stewart. A talented, entertaining writer will always have an audience and buyers of her product. And I doubt I'll ever give up reading my favorite gardening columnists, like George Weigel, Adrian Higgins, Barbara Damrosch, and Margaret Roach, so long as their newspapers and publications don't adopt a business strategy with a subscription model firewall.

Lee Reich, Jeff Gillman, Linda Chalker-Scott, and others will always have me as a buyer of their book product (even The Troll, Greg, despite his antipathy.)  I'll even endure the ads and solipsistic book promotions on the Rant, since I don't begrudge at all, attempts to increase income in order to keep the free ice cream flowing. I skip, however, Rant reviews of gardening books. I'm even beginning to question the value of their endorsed speaker list, because of that experience. Fluff PR has no credibility with me, and I will continue to challenge Rant advice (like organic lawn fertilizers are better than their synthetic counterparts, even when they violate recommended NPK ratios that pollute, because the Organic Industry is our friend and I like them, but I dislike the big companies, because they're big), when it conflicts with my training as a Master Gardener.

I also wonder how self-defeating this crusade is. Master Gardeners probably (purely an anecdotal guess) represent a major part of the garden book, and high-end, plant-buying clientele. And yet, you continue to insult us with cherry-picked examples that support your narrative. Odd.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps I should post a photo of our MG handbook (you know the one, about 4" thick) and the schedule of college level classes we took all last fall.

    It is disappointing that her experience with the MG program was a dud. Methinks that no reply will ever change her mind but it is discouraging to see her disparage all of the hard-volunteering (15 MG working in the pollinator garden this morning for 3+ hours) MG, esp. in Franklin County, PA.