Six months and exhausted

By Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
GardenComm President

Six months. Working sporadically. Seasonally. Some days not at all. Yet, I’m exhausted. Exhausted.

I don’t know what to do next. I don’t want to do anything and I want to do everything…run the sweeper, change the sheets on the bed, pick up the papers on the floor, deep clean the kitchen, take a shower, do the laundry, fold the laundry, work on GardenComm business, write blogs and next month’s newsletter, return calls and emails, water the plants, mow the lawn, deadhead the plants, walk the dog, make a list so I can cross things off.

I try to accomplish at least one task each day and congratulate myself on the effort. It might be wash a load of clothes. Tomorrow I’ll move the load to the dryer. Some days I might complete two tasks. That’s a good day.

Another good day recently was when my sisters (the twins) and I had a delicious confab in my front yard. The weather was perfect and my sisters brought carryout from our favorite Mexican restaurant. I’m so grateful for them. It was a wonderful relief to be with people, even if 6 feet apart.

Learning stuff

Like a lot of people during this time of pandemic, I’ve been trying to figure out how to earn money. I need to refresh my website to let more people know that I’m available for Zoom programs and that I have some new ones. If it weren’t for Zoom, I would not have had contact with friends, family and colleagues. I’ve been meeting garden coaching clients, but it’s outdoors, we all wear masks and stay socially distant.

So what do we do? We think of new opportunities. These energize us, get us focused and moving forward. 

I’m researching a quick-and-dirty winter arrangement plan…one, maybe two styles pre-arranged, delivered, something people could plop into an existing container or use as is. I had some success doing this with pots of spring edibles, but I had too many SKUs. 

I’m also exploring and hope to develop soon a membership group. I’m working with Katie Elzer-Peters and The Garden of Words team to get the infrastructure set up, marketing ideas and other advice. One of my sisters will help with some of the administrative tasks. I have Noelle Johnson to thank for her GardenComm webinar this summer about this very initiative.

What I wrestle with is: Will people pay a fee to get access to me to answer their gardening questions? To get my insight? They sure as heck don’t mind emailing me all the time, or asking on social media.

My plan is to offer a weekly member benefit. It might be a downloadable tip, plant of the month care sheet, an hour-long, live Facebook meeting w/the group to talk about gardening, answer questions, have occasional guest experts (such as for houseplants, succulents). Wondering if number of questions should be limited.

Professional development

And then there’s GardenComm. So many challenges for our group, especially financial. Just like with us self-employed folks, cash flow is king. That’s why our webinars are so important for us in two ways. 

  • They keep our mind sharp, help us stay in touch with what’s going on in the biz, teach us ways to improve our revenues and provide an opportunity to be with our GardenComm friends and colleagues.
  • They build GardenComm’s reputation as a solid source of professional programming that is meaningful, helpful and many times, invigorating and inspiring, just like our in-person conference sessions are. 

So, please consider sharing webinar info among your colleagues and various social media groups you are involved with. Feel free to forward any ideas for programming.

Regional or Connect Meetings are another important way to stay connected. These meetings also have gone virtual, with several members in some regions Zooming once a month at a regularly scheduled day and time. Don’t mean to sound preachy, but our experiences with GardenComm are better when we’re involved and participate.

Finally, I folded and put away three loads of laundry yesterday. Today, I finished this blog, had a GardenComm Executive Committee meeting and met with a coaching client. Two good days in a row. Stay well and safe.

Power Circles Activated!

By Kathy Jentz

A few years ago, C.L. Fornari introduced the power circle concept at the annual Gardencomm meeting and posted sign-up sheets on various topics from publishing your first book to hosting a radio show. Many of these groups were short-lived or had little follow-through, but several came together and met regularly. A few are even still active now.

I find these power circle groups to be one of the best member benefits of being in Gardencomm and can attest that being in them has brought me networking connections, learning experiences, and increased income.

What is a “power circle,” you might ask? Basically, it is a blend of a mastermind group and an accountability circle. A set of colleagues can explore topics and share tips, wisdom, and research—and not everyone has to do it individually on their own! You have a trusted group you can bounce ideas off of and who can help you amplify your efforts.

For the past few years, I have been helming a power circle for a small group of garden bloggers — all members of the Garden Communicators International (Garden Writers Association). We have monthly phone calls on various topics ranging from marketing tips to affiliate marketing to content ideas. In between meetings we communicate via a Google group and store documents on a shared Google drive folder. The group is has recently refocused and expanded both our topic focus and membership.

The members of the power circle are the ones who shape it and decide how often it will meet, how it will meet, the discussion topics, size of the circle, etc. I recently joined a power circle on using Zoom and that group meets bi-weekly and there is a power circle on podcasting that also meets twice a month. Some topics have more urgency.

I’m also in another power circle for garden speakers. We have monthly meetings via Zoom on various topics ranging from one-sheet critiques to tax tips. We each take a turn being that month’s topic facilitator and none of us is expected to be the “expert” on that topic, but to do a bit of research and lead the conversation on it.

One of the power circle members, Carol Michel, writes, “One thing I think makes this group stand out from the other Power Circles I was in is the use of Zoom. Seeing everyone and not just hearing people on the phone I think improves our ability to share. It also helps that everyone takes a topic to lead. Even if you don’t know much about the topic, being willing to go out and research it is helpful. And we all know the teacher learns more than the student. Plus, the Google Group is helpful for storing documents, more so than sharing a Google Doc.”

If you want to start up a power circle on any topic, my recommendation is to post that desire on the Gardencomm Facebook group page and on the Gardencomm website’s Communities Portal forum. You could also form a group by directly contacting several Gardencomm members and inviting them to join.

Your next step is to set up a Google group or other way of keeping in contact and posting meeting notices. Then, you would schedule your first meeting. At that, you can brainstorm future meeting topics and ask for volunteers to lead each of those discussions.

I find it easiest to have one person who is the “facilitator” or leader of the group who keeps track of inviting folks to shared Google group, posting the group’s meeting schedule, sending out meeting reminders, and following up after meetings, if needed. This is a bit like being the group’s “mom” and can get a little tiresome being the chief nagger, but without this key position a power circle can easily fall off people’s radar and cease to exist.

About the Author:

Kathy Jentz is editor of Washington Gardener Magazine and a long-time DC-area gardening enthusiast.  To book her for a garden talk, find her at: http://greatgardenspeakers.com/listing/kathy-jentz-4c818b5cdacc5.html.

 She also edits the IWGS Water Garden Journal and is a columnist and guest blogger for several other publications. Her latest foray is as the social media voice for horticultural brands. She can be reached at KathyJentz@gmail.com.

Meet GardenComm Virtual Conference Speaker, April Thompson


April Thompson

April will be featured at the GardenComm Virtual Conference on Wednesday, August 12. Her topic, Market Segmentation: Communicating to Different Horticultural Audiences will show us how to identify and appeal to audiences with different horticultural needs and levels of expertise. This is the type of marketing session anyone can benefit from, but until then, let’s learn a little more about April:

Tell us a little about what you do and how long have you worked in the horticulture industry?
While I have only technically been professionally working in this industry one year, I was a founding member of a community garden in my neighborhood in DC 10 years ago and worked with agricultural development in sub-saharan Africa supporting value-added product marketing for farm businesses on and off over the past 15 years.

What is the first garden-related experience you can remember?
My love of flowers and plants has deep family roots. I have fond memories of the black-eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s lace in my grandma’s garden on my father’s side, and of working in my grandparents’ greenhouse and florist shop on my mom’s side. 

Talk about a mistake you made in your garden once that turned into an unexpected learning experience.
One mistake that turned out to be a learning experience was harvesting and eating broccoli leaves thinking I was growing collards. It opened my mind to the possibilities of the various plant parts that can be eaten from the garden (rather than just the parts commercially grown for sale), and alternative garden eats is now something I write and teach about.

If you could only give one piece of advice to a new gardener, what would it be?
One piece of advice for new gardeners would be to pay attention to your soil health – you need to make sure to have a healthy ecosystem in your soil for your plants to be healthy too. Bloom, our fertilizer product, is all about improving soil health and giving plants the nutrients they need to thrive. 

What’s a good teaser we could provide to audiences about your session content that might pique their interest?
Teaser – there is arguably nothing more important in communications than knowing your audience, yet we often fall prey to our own unchecked biases about our audiences in communicating. My presentation will help you come away with practical tools and tips to identify segments of your audience and find out what makes them tick.

What is your favorite plant to grow?
I love growing common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), as it not only supports monarchs, bees and other important critters, but is edible throughout the season. As a forager, I like eating its tender shoots, leaves, buds and immature pods as well as making concoctions like cordials and vinegars and eye-catching bouquets from its aromatic flowers. As a perennial, they will come back year after year. I opt for perennials as much as possible. My little asparagus patch has been producing for years now!

Meet GardenComm Virtual Conference Speaker, Katie Elzer-Peters

Katie Elzer-Peters
The Garden of Words

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Katie Elzer-Peters got her professional start in public gardens and has now worked in the horticulture industry for over 20 years

Katie’s knowledge extends far beyond the garden, of course. She’s the woman behind The Garden of Words, LLC, a green industry digital marketing agency that helps companies develop websites, sell gardening products, publish books, scale up, and do email marketing.

Let’s learn a little more about Katie!

Tell us a little about what you do and how long have you worked in the horticulture industry?
I run The Garden of Words, LLC, a green industry digital marketing agency. We help companies large and small (including sole proprietors) develop websites (including ecommerce), sell gardening products online and at brick and mortar stores, publish books, scale their companies, and do email marketing. I have worked in the horticulture industry for about 22 years. I began working in public gardens and then transitioned to marketing. I’ve loved plants since I learned how to walk and talk.

What is the first garden-related experience you can remember?
I remember getting in trouble for putting sand from my sandbox in my mom’s flowerbeds. I told her “it improved drainage.” I was also completely obsessed with purple- and white-striped petunias as a kid. My first plants I really remember growing from seed are zinnias. I used to plant gobs of them. (We’re talking 6 to 8 years old here.)

Talk about a mistake you made in your garden once that turned into an unexpected learning experience.
Uh, all of gardening in the South! Right after I bought my house here I planted WAY too much too closely together. I did not realize that plants will legitimately engulf your house if you let them here. I learned to a) give more space, b) seriously shop for the compact varieties, and c) give my garden a good chop 2 to 3 times per year.

If you could only give one piece of advice to a new gardener, what would it be?
You will kill tons of plants. Everyone kills tons of plants. Don’t try once, fail, and give up. Keep trying and learning.

What’s a good teaser we could provide to audiences about your session content that might pique their interest?
I want to help people make their online footprint work efficiently and effectively without sucking their lives away.

What is your favorite plant to grow?
My favorite plants to grow are coneflowers and rudbeckias. I just love them so much—and so do the butterflies. They also last ridiculously long as cut flowers. I have a few that are on day 12 on my desk!
Register Today

Click here to see details and register!

Meet GardenComm Virtual Conference Speaker, Diane Blazek

Diane Blazek
Executive Director
All-America Selections/National Garden Bureau

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Diane will be featured on Tuesday, August 11 and Wednesday, August 12 during the GardenComm conference as she unveils plant varieties that are new to the market now, or will be introduced in the upcoming season.

Learning about new plants is something we all love, and learning more about Diane is just as fun! So we asked a few questions so everyone can become better acquainted with her.

Tell us a little about what you do and how long have you worked in the horticulture industry?
I am the Executive Director of two separate non-profit organizations. I’ve been in the industry since 1993 (27 years!) and my role is pretty diverse ranging from legal matters and financial management to speaking engagements and social media management.

What is the first garden-related experience you can remember?
Sitting in the shade of our maple trees in the yard, with my mom, scraping carrots and shelling peas so we could can them for winter eating.

What is the first plant you ever grew successfully?
I grew “Cockscomb” celosia (cristata) around our patio after my dad made new garden beds for us to use.

Talk about a mistake you made in your garden once that turned into an unexpected learning experience.
Which one? Ha! There are so many. In the beginning, not understanding the importance of soil composition or how useful fertilizers can be. Then, as I learned more about breeding, I started to realize the importance of different varieties. You really need to track which “red petunia” you use so you can track your favorites and/or the best performers.

If you could only give one piece of advice to a new gardener, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid of failure. Just learn from your mistakes and failures. Keep a good journal to track it all.

What is your favorite plant to grow?
Herbs! Specifically basil. It’s so easy to impress my husband by growing basil then making pesto to freeze for later. I love impressing him with my gardening skills but don’t tell him how easy it is to grow basil!!!!

Normally we’d ask Diane for some teaser content for her session, but since it’s about new varieties, that could give away too much! So make sure you’re registered for the conference so you can be among the first garden communicators to see these fascinating new plant varieties.
Register Today

Click here to see details and register!

Meet GardenComm Virtual Conference Speakers Abra Lee and Ellen Zachos


Starting today through Thursday, you will receive a dailyGardenComm Virtual Conference “Speaker Spotlight” email featuring one or more of our speakers. The series content includes responses to personal and industry questions we have asked all our speakers so you can get to know them better (sort of like chatting with them at a meal or in the hallway – a pivot for 2020).  

We are thrilled to kick-off our Speaker Spotlight Series with our opening session co-presenters,Abra Lee, owner ofConquer the Soil, a community that celebrates horticulture beyond plants andEllen Zachos, the Backyard Forager, a Harvard graduate, author of seven books, regular columnist for Edible New Mexico, and co-host of the Plantrama podcast. 

Abra and Ellen’s discussion,Finding Your Purpose, Forging Your Path, will explore the well-developed specialty, singular passion and unique voice each of us have to answer WHY people should listen to you. And when you’ve figured out your WHY, when you’ve found your purpose, your people will find you. And isn’t that why we all do what we do?

This isn’t a quick and easy fix. Finding your purpose takes time and dedication. But once you’ve defined your WHY, once you’ve discovered your purpose, work is no longer work. The joy of doing what you love is priceless. 
Please enjoy the below Q&A with Abra (responses noted as AL) and Ellen (responses noted as EZ). 

Tell us a little about what you do and how long have you worked in the horticulture industry?

AL: I write and speak for the company I founded named Conquer the Soil where I provide an experience in horticulture beyond the world of plants. My audience is people that are fond of culture, history, pop culture, and the arts. So I discuss these things with them through the lens of horticulture. 
I have worked in this industry for 20 years.

EZ: My first career was on Broadway. After leaving the cast of Les Miz, I went back to school at the New York Botanical Garden and earned certificates in ornamental horticulture and ethnobotany. I taught at the NYBG on a wide range of subjects, and founded Acme Plant Stuff, a boutique garden design/install/maintenance company specializing in rooftop gardens and private greenhouses. In 2014 I moved from NYC to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I continue to enjoy an entirely new plant palette. 

What is the first garden-related experience you can remember? OR What is the first plant you ever grew successfully?

AL: My first garden-related experiences happened in my childhood. On the weekend we would go down to my Mama’s hometown of Barnesville, Georgia. It was rural and the the dirt road country and I loved it. Here I was exposed to gardening on our family farm.

EZ: My yiayia was an amazing gardener. She died before she could teach me (although I bet she knew how to forage because she was a sturdy Greek peasant), but I remember she grew a peach tree from a pit and gave it to my dad, who planted it in front of our house. I don’t know how old I was, but we moved out of that house when I was 9, so I’m guessing I was 4-5. That peach tree produced the sweetest, most delicious peaches I’ve ever eaten.

Talk about a mistake you made in your garden once that turned into an unexpected learning experience.

AL: I remember being an intern and on my first week on the job and skinning the bermuda grass (cutting it too low) with a mower. My supervisor was irate with me. I learned a) stay calm everybody it’s just grass —and— b) when I became in charge one day I would never ever talk to my team like that.

EZ: I once planted a large window box for a client with a small terrace and no irrigation. I’d never take on a terrace client without irrigation now, but I was young and foolish. I incorporated some water retaining polymer granules. I thought that was smart. What was NOT smart was that I didn’t hydrate them before mixing them into the potting mix. I watered the planted window box and went home. The next day I got a call from my very confused client. As the granules absorbed water overnight, they expanded, and the soil and plants spilled out over the edge, making a huge mess. 

If you could only give one piece of advice to a new gardener, what would it be?

AL: Poke around and try a little bit of everything. Garden tours, different plants, flower shows, various products, bonsai, etc. You will find your lane and find your people if you give yourself the freedom to experience all kinds of different stuff.
EZ: Don’t beat yourself up when something dies on your watch. It happens to all of us, and that’s how we learn.

What is your favorite plant to grow? OR, In your next life, if you were to come back as any plant, what would it be?
AL: Orchids have done wonders for my self-esteem. I am pretty proud that everytime I have been gifted an orchid I get it to rebloom multiple times. Since I have a 0% fail rate with that plant (and fingers crossed I keep it up) it is my favorite one to grow.

EZ: Oh my god, I am going to pretend you didn’t ask me what plant I’d like to be in my next life. First of all, there is no next life. Second, I do not want to be a plant.

What’s a good teaser we could provide to audiences about your session content that might pique their interest? 

It isn’t until you are brave enough to stand out that you start to fit in. Join this candid discussion on how we ran out of darns to give and freed our brands by embracing our true identities in the garden industry.
We all look forward to seeing you online August 10 – 13. More conference information here.

Interested in Sponsorship for visibility and access to the GardenComm Network? Click here to email us today.

Zoom Presentations

A Recipe, From My Experience

cl raving about plantsBy C.L. Fornari

When the pandemic hit, I needed a way keep the garden center where I work connected with our customers. I wanted to be sure that whether the nursery could remain open or not, we would keep people excited about plants and gardens.  As a speaker, I also saw that the presentations that were booked for the spring and summer would need to be done virtually. And finally, I am still promoting my latest book and since book signings needed to be canceled, I needed a way to hold virtual book groups and promotional talks for Sand and Soil.

This led me to do a deep dive into the Zoom software, and I quickly learned to fly by the seat of my pants as I presented events for my IGC, book discussions, and talks to garden clubs. Here is my advice to those who are looking to do the same.

  • Investigate the various options for Zoom plans based on whether you want to record your presentations and the anticipated size of your audiences. Note that the free version doesn’t give you the option to record your talks.
  • My first mistake was in making my first IGC event a meeting instead of a webinar. Zoom meetings are limited to 200 people and, holy mugwort!, my first call had 250 people wanting to join in. We had 50 very unhappy customers who couldn’t take part.
  • Make sure your computer has the privacy settings to allow for Zoom to share the screen and your microphone.
  • Set up your event so that attendees can’t enter before you do, and so that they are muted on entry. If you don’t do this, you’ll be surprised at the number of people who don’t understand how to mute themselves. All of the background noise from those attendees will be distracting to others.
  • If you’re presenting solo (without panel members or a moderator) limit attendees’ questions to the “Chat” feature. Tell them at the beginning how to see the speech bubble at the bottom that opens the chat window. Explain that if they find the stream of chat distracting, they can click on that bubble again and the window will disappear.
  • Turn off the Q&A feature in advance so you won’t be distracted by those who ignore chat and put questions there. Turn off the ability for attendees to raise their hands as well. This helps to keep your multi-tasking to a minimum.
  • When setting up a webinar, click the box that enables a practice session. This allows you to open up the link in advance without recording or allowing attendees to access the meeting before you’re ready. You can open the link, check your settings, and even practice screen sharing one last time before starting the actual broadcast.
  • Click on the speech bubble to open your window for viewing chat before you launch the meeting. Then you won’t have to think about it later.
  • If you’re going to publicize the meeting link in public places, be sure to require registration and the use of a password. This will help prevent troublemakers from crashing the meeting. Even with a password it’s good to only send the link for registration to the members of the group you’ll be addressing. (The links for each garden center cocktail hour are sent out in our newsletter the day before the event. This has the added benefit of building our mailing list. I also make a new link for each garden club event and those are only sent to the program chair a week before the presentation.)
  • Practice! You can set up a false webinar or meeting, and log onto it as if you’re giving a real presentation. Use this time to explore all the options for attendee controls, testing sound and sharing your screen. Record your practice session so you can go back and review it. Those practices and the recordings are worth the time you will spend to create them. Be sure to practice from beginning to end, as if you’re actually giving your virtual talk. You’ll become comfortable with sharing your screen, and with stopping that sharing to move on to questions.
  • When you set up a webinar in advance, check the box that says “automatically record.” Then you don’t have to remember to press record once the event starts.
  • Log on one or two minutes before the event is due to start. If you log on earlier and start the meeting (taking it out of practice mode) you’ll be recording your image poking around, and wasting time. This is fine if you don’t want to use the recording unedited in the future, but if you want to use the link for others to view, they’ll have to sit through your pre-presentation fumbling before getting to the content.
  • Although you can use your normal PowerPoint or Keynote presentations, you might want to alter them to one image per slide. You’ll want to remember that unlike in an in-person presentation, you’re competing with everything else that’s going on in the attendee’s environment, so simpler and more engaging images work better. I’ve always been a follower of Seth Godin’s “only six words per slide” advice, and with Zoom presentations this is even more important. Remember that some are viewing your talk on a tablet or even a phone, and small images and text won’t be legible.
  • If you have text, place it to the LEFT of a photo, not to the right. Place any text that’s on a photo on the left as well. This is because the image of the speaker or panel members appears on the right in Zoom and those may partially cover any text that’s in that area.
  • Position your laptop or computer camera so that it’s slightly above you. Some PC’s have the camera at the bottom of the display (???) so if you have that type of computer you should be sure to place it higher so that the world isn’t looking up your nostrils. Make sure your image pretty much fills the screen; if you see more wall behind you than face, move closer. Your audience won’t be able to see your expressions once you start your presentation unless your head and shoulders fill the screen.
  • Be sure that a light is above and in front of you. A light just above your face level and at a 45-degree angle is also good. Do not have a window or bright lights behind you because that throws your face into shadow.
  • Look at your camera, not at your image on the screen. Find where your camera is and look at that, since that is how you’ll be making “eye contact” with your audience.
  • Be enthusiastic. Amp up your voice a bit, and make sure your audience can hear how enthusiastic you are. Smile at the camera, even when you’re going through your slides or other visuals.
  • Many find a microphone to be useful. If there aren’t panel members who are speaking along with you, headphones aren’t needed. But if others will be unmuted, headphones prevent their voices from being picked up by your computer or microphone and echoed back into the conversation.

Final thoughts and suggestions:

  • Be sure to list your availability for virtual presentations on your website. As soon as I did that I started getting requests from garden clubs all over the country who needed virtual speakers.
  • Decide ahead of time if you’ll make the presentation recordings available to those who hire you. I decided that I would not, since once I send that link out I have no control over who or how many people access it. I tell my audiences that a virtual presentation is like a live talk: it’s a “you have to be there experience.” However, when I’m presenting a special talk that is crafted for a particular event having it recorded may be a part of the agreement. Just know that those who hire you will want to know if recordings are available.
  • Consider joining a GardenComm Power Circle about Zoom presentations. If you’re interested, email me and I’ll start putting members in touch with each other for this purpose. My contact information is in the GardenComm Membership Directory.

Meet the Author

C.L. Fornari is a plant geek who is dedicated to putting horticulture back into popular culture. To that end, she speaks, writes, broadcasts and podcasts about plants and gardening. Her website is: www.GardenLady.com

cl_fornari_onair

From the United Nations to Your Own Community

CB6.9.20
By Cris Blackstone

The UN General Assembly recently adopted seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With the pandemic foisting a new lifestyle on many people, and gardening taking more prominence as evidenced by increased sales at garden centers nationwide, many of these seventeen goals have garnered more focus than ever before.

Goal 1 is “No Poverty” and from there, the other sixteen goals cascade with equal importance. Many of these goals may resonate with gardeners including permaculture, improving physical, mental, and emotional health through gardening, growing food, revitalizing communities, etc. The list goes on and on. No matter where your garden avocation leads you, strong partnerships with neighbors, municipalities, media sources, and regional governments each contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

As Garden Communicators, we know the most up-to-date information coupled with the most accurate historical research and evidence is important. Taking the UN Sustainable Goals as a blueprint for what we hope to accomplish is a topic GardenComm’s Sustainability Committee members discuss and hope to share and promote through our individual work as authors, artists, and presenters. It can feel like a big leap from the worldwide perspective presented through the United Nations, to our own efficacy locally, but remember the popular bumper sticker, “Think Globally, Act Locally.”

One way to learn more and react to more local information is to learn from the Agriculture Commissions many states have instituted for individual municipalities. State Ag Commissions are heavily involved with specific SDGs such as goal no. 9 relating to “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.” Soil is the ultimate infrastructure. State Ag Commissions and Conservation Districts know all too well the importance of no-till practices, cover cropping, preserving topsoil, caring for microbes beneath the surface for plant health, and avoiding erosion. These are all topics we consider as garden communicators, and see in print and hear in podcasts frequently.

Agriculture Commissions are also now growing in popularity in many communities, using many of the SDGs as their driving objectives. Massachusetts, Washington State, and California are pioneers in establishing local ag commissions.

From activities such as Victory Gardens 2.0 promoted by the National Garden Bureau to edible front lawns, agriculture commissions are a good source for garden communicators to learn from and reference. Agriculture Commissions in my home state, New Hampshire, are particularly creative and involved with both outreach and education. The Durham NH Ag Commission, for instance, promotes the Edible Front Lawn initiative. Citizens are encouraged to plant their front lawn with edibles – vegetables are grown in place of traditional lawns, sometimes in raised beds and sometimes simply where the grass was. Signs in each lawn state the fact that it’s an Edible Front Lawn, and tours are offered during years when the town holds Farm Days, including the neighborhoods where these edible front lawns are prevalent. The Durham Ag Commission also helped sponsor a winter-long e-mail course for people to learn about soil testing, site evaluation, locating perfect plants to use, and even fermenting techniques to use what was grown in new ways. Lee, NH, has another very active and vibrant Ag Commission. They sponsor a lecture series featuring expert presentations on soils, pollinators, and vegetables, honey, and edible flowers, which includes a nutritionist’s perspective as a part of a panel discussion. Ag Commissions across NH are encouraging towns to join the national Bee City USA program, and create awareness through presentations, posters and local television programming.

The GardenComm Sustainability Commmittee encourages you to become familiar with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and consider researching your city, state, or regional Agriculture Commissions to see what valuable information is available there, as you Think Globally, Act Locally, to do your part to help bring awareness to these current topics.

Meet the Author

Cris Blackstone is the Education Coordinator for the New Hampshire Landscape Association, a Certified NH Landscaper, University of NH Natural Resources Steward, and Master Gardener. She co-hosts “The Environmental Hour,” once-monthly radio show in seacoast NH/Maine. She serves on municipal, county and statewide Conservation Commissions or Districts and is a frequent workshop presenter or facilitator on topics from herbs to indoor plant care. Her photography work includes juried events and accompanies many of her freelance articles.CB