The Latest Dirt - Sept 2023
An Interview with Terri Takusagawa
By David George
Photo by Greg Doyle Terri Takusagawa prepares for a New Volunteer Training class.
What was your career background and education before joining the program, Terri?
“I worked as a manager in the IT group of Bank of America during my career, first in Los Angeles, then Hong Kong for a year, and finishing up in Concord for many years. I retired from B. of A. in 2015 and applied for the Contra Costa Master Gardener program the following year. Oh, and I have a Psychology degree from CSU Long Beach and ended up one class shy of a biology/entomology Bachelor of Science degree. I like bugs!”
Cool, me too! So, after you were certified as a UC Master Gardener, which roles have you volunteered for so far?
“I attended the 2016–2017 New Volunteer Training class (Class of 2017 — Best Class Ever!) What I wanted to do after certification was to play the field and try volunteering for different roles to see which interested me most. I worked on the Help Desk and at various Ask A Master Gardener booths and helped with Great Tomato Plant Sale propagation. I also joined the Hospitality team, which organizes and staffs our year-end party and annual business meeting. I’ve staffed the reception desk at the holiday party since 2017. It’s a great way for a new volunteer to get to know the more experienced CoCoMGs. My first year in the New Volunteer Training classroom was in 2018, then I became co-lead in 2019 with Joie Spinelli and in 2020 with Debbi Cooper, and in 2021–22 with Kirsten Mollo before leading the 2022–23 class. Oh, and I’ve volunteered in Continuing Education. I’ve led the CE project for the past three years.”
Wow! What have been the most enjoyable aspects of your volunteering? Any funny stories?
Photo by UC Master Gardener CoCoMGs Bob Archer, Sunil Deo, Terri Takusagawa and Greg Doyle at the San Ramon Farmers Market.
The funniest story I remember is when a lady approached our AAMG farmer’s market booth a while ago and claimed that an army of tomato hornworms had marched across her street! (Terri laughs) “We got a kick out of that one.”
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
That would certainly be modifying and reorganizing the New Volunteer Training classes to an all–Zoom virtual format during the pandemic. It was decided to cancel the 2020–21 class, so we worked on mastering the Zoom technology, using breakout rooms and the like during that time. It’s a powerful tool, and we had a great team of volunteers who managed different aspects of building up the curriculum and format. We were learning as we went and using the monthly Zoom sessions with the recently graduated Class of 2020 as guinea pigs helped. Kirsten Mollo brought many fresh and innovative ideas to enrich that year’s online format. In retrospect, moving NVT online was a lot of work but a positive challenge, not a negative one. As a result, we could cross-pollinate the technology into the CE and (Virtual) AAMG projects, too.
That was a lot to accomplish in a short time, Terri. What projects are you planning to focus on going forward?
Photo by Fletcher Oakes Terri Takusagawa shares a lighter moment during the 2023 NVT graduation ceremony.
You still have a lot on your plate! In conclusion, what advice can you share with our newer volunteers?
“Get out there and get engaged! Try new projects to broaden your understanding of the whole program. Meet and work alongside the wonderful volunteers in our program. You don’t know how fun it is until you try it. Playing the field at first worked well for me. Leadership roles will come along with time. You’ll find out how fun it is. Yes, your gardening skills will benefit, but you’ll soon understand that our primary reason for existence is to educate the public. That’s where our focus should and always will be.”
Thanks, Terri, for your amazing volunteerism in the program and your perspectives on getting involved and having fun. With your energy and project plans, we will see you a lot over the coming years!