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President’s Message

By Beet 2022 07 July


The Future of JCMGA [1]

Dear JCMGA members,

Your Board is planning a special retreat to be held on Friday September 23, 2022. This event will be designed to be an “all-hands” meeting, with all members invited and encouraged to attend, and will be in lieu of the annual membership meeting. The topic will be “The Future of JCMGA.”

The plan is to make this an “in person” event in the auditorium on the SOREC[2] grounds. We will try to have an adjunct ZOOMÔ section if we can figure it out.

The idea originated when a few veteran MGs[3] approached me. They feared for the survival of the organization because so many things have changed during the pandemic and the membership has drastically declined and the program may be under a review by OSU. While I do not fear for the survival of the group, as I see us working away determinedly and adjusting to many challenges, I do agree that we should get the membership as a whole more involved and should try to influence our future rather than being entirely reactive. So, I will work enthusiastically towards this all-hands initiative with the appropriate MG Working Groups. Please, could you put September 23 on your calendars? More details will follow.

Meanwhile, I would like to share some observations: On June 18, the Member Services Working Group put on a “Par-Tea” for members and former members to get reacquainted. It was a wonderful afternoon; the tea service was “set up to a T” and very pretty. About 10 people rejoined with the special offer. Great job, MSWG!

As I was strolling around and introducing myself to a few people and chatting, I became aware that a common reason for them losing touch was because they did not feel entirely welcome. I am afraid the pandemic and recent happenings in the news may have something to do with this. Everybody seems to be on edge. But this is still not a good situation. I admit that I am sensitive to this issue as I feel that I have been stereotyped since I volunteered to be President. I was more or less called a bully, considered too dense to recognize errors on a website, instructed on time management and efficiency, not invited to welcome the new students. I tried to invite myself, but first the sign-up procedure for the classes was broken. When that was fixed, the link to the classes did not work in our county. That is when I just gave up on inviting myself. And at the “Par-Tea” I was told it would be better if I used a paper cup to drink my tea because the pretty cups were very fragile.

Now I know I’m nothing special, if this kind of stuff is happening to me it is also happening to others. And I inadvertently stereotyped someone myself. We must try to avoid this behavior by realizing that we may have unconscious, perhaps even unfocused biases because we are on edge; by being polite and staying polite; and by maybe even being kind! And we need to treat all our students as “adult learners” (as Dolly Travers put it so nicely when she was helping reorganize the Plant Clinic). Adult learners need to know how, but also why. They have busy lives and their own style of doing things. Let’s never talk down to them and they may stay members! Also, never turn down someone volunteering! Really, that is not asking a lot, is it? Just be decent. Lake Woebegone decent.

If you have any comments or advice or ideas about my observations or for the all-hands initiative, please email them to me at the following address: 

[1] Jackson County Master Gardeners Association

[2] Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center

[3] Master Gardeners

Pyrethrum – A Very Incomplete History……or how the Dalmatian Daisy helped build the Panama Canal

By Beet 2022 06 June

Dalmatian Daisy – Chrysanthemum cinerarifolium

Gardeners are all familiar with one of the oldest insecticides still in frequent use, the extract of the dried flower heads of Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium or a powder produced from the dried flowers. The plant has had other names such as the common one, “dalmatian daisy,” and the scientific names Tanacetum cinerariifolium or Pyrethrum cinerariifolium.

What has that daisy got to do with such a heroic construction project as the Panama Canal? In the right hands, it could keep the construction workers alive! The right hands in this case were those of military sanitation officer William Gorgas. He was transferred to the Panama Canal Zone from Cuba, where he had cleared the island of yellow fever and malaria during the Spanish-American War. With the then-new knowledge that mosquitos were the carriers of those diseases,  he started a systematic program of killing mosquitos with pyrethrum, sulfur, and the elimination of standing water.

The United States had acquired control of a 10-mile-wide strip across Panama through gunboat diplomacy in 1903, while also buying the remnants of a failed French attempt to construct a canal. 

Work on the Panama Canal started in 1904 with sanitation officer Gorgas present until the canal’s completion in 1914. With about 4,100 sanitation workers, he made war on the mosquito. The workers’ housing was improved with screens on windows, a city drinking water plant, and apparently with sulfur fumigation. There were quinine dispensaries along the construction zone for treatment of malaria. The pyrethrum was mixed with kerosine oil to make it stickier and it was applied liberally to mosquito habitat. Workers ceaselessly drained any standing water as much as was possible. Within 2 years, yellow fever had completely disappeared and malaria cases had fallen by 90%. Less than 10% of the workforce died through disease or accident during construction, compared to a 25% death rate during the French attempt, which was only 40% completed. 

Pyrethrum is still the first insecticide I think of when needed in the garden, as it is comparatively less toxic to humans than alternatives and breaks down quickly from sun, air, and water. If you use it, read the label and use precisely according to instructions. It still is a poison, after all. 

Luck Favors Go-getters in 2022!

By Beet 2022 01 January


Hi JCMGA members, this is your message for January from your President Elect. 

I was told an article for the Garden Beet was due by December 17 and during this transition period from one president to another, I am trying to do as I am told.  Hopefully there was no miscommunication and you won’t get two presidential messages.  If so, enjoy!

Lynn Kunstman was “reelin’ in the year” in her December article, so I am going to stick with the fishing metaphor and am “casting out the bait,” attempting to catch some lucky breaks for us in 2022.  We all know that luck favors the busy go-getters and since we all fall into that category, we can be hopeful and look forward to great things in 2022. 

To get the ball rolling:  Please don’t neglect to renew your membership. Please go to the JCMGA website, membership renewal page.