Message From the Director

Fall is a time of harvest and giving thanks. In Florida, we are always a little out of sync with the rest of the country when it comes to harvest as many of our crops go in the ground in October and we continue to harvest throughout the winter! While we may be out of sync with the rest of the nation when it comes to the harvest, we are completely in sync when it comes to reflecting on the many things we have to be thankful for at the Arboretum.

One of the most impactful developments this fall is the official kick off of our Learning by Leading™ program, as featured in the lead article of this newsletter.  I am thankful to have had the opportunity to visit the University of California Davis last March with Jennifer Elliott, our program director, for an immersion experience with the leaders at the UC Davis Arboretum who created this extraordinary student learning and leadership development program. It has been amazing to see our initial cohort of student co-coordinators (co-co’s) demonstrate their ability to co-create new initiatives with us, and to provide training and guidance to the student volunteers and interns they oversee. These student leaders have allowed us to leverage our existing resources and increase our capacity while giving them genuine leadership experience.  We can’t wait to see how much more we can accomplish as this program expands in the future.

Two of our leadership groups, Arboretum Gardens and Bee Campus USA, are learning and applying principles of landscape horticulture and design.  The students have benefited from regular meetings with our campus landscape architect, Chris Kennedy, who has introduced them to basic principles of landscape design, while they work with senior staff on final plant selections and layouts.  The pollinator garden designed and planted by our Bee Campus co-co’s in the business administration 1 building courtyard is a great success.  It completely transformed barren boxes of black lava rock into beautiful native pollinator gardens. The sense of accomplishment resulting from this project provides a great confidence boost to these students as they prepare to design a much larger and more prominent pollinator garden that they will plant next spring.

We established our new organic community farm and garden last March, but this fall will be our first full production cycle, and we celebrated our garden opening with a kick-off event featuring Knightro, our favorite campus character.  Our two farm and garden Co-Co’s, Mayerlin Fishbach and Michelle Winter, have done a great job getting the garden planted and cultivated. They are successfully managing this larger garden while still overseeing production of our original garden!  Our greenhouse co-co’s, Andre Simoes and Jena Osmani, have had several successful pop-up plant sales this semester, each time raising more funds and quickly running out of plants.  They are laying the groundwork for our future nursery and expanded plant sales that could generate significant funds for promoting our program.

Our next important event this fall semester is our boardwalk dedication where we will unveil the newly installed sign for Whittier’s Walk, and officially dedicate the Arboretum boardwalk to our founding director, Dr. Hank Whittier. The event will include the planting of a small garden designed by the Arboretum Gardens team led by co-co’s Nicole Prieto and James Bardo.  We hope some of our friends and supporters will be able to join us for that event on the morning of Saturday, November 23.  We greatly appreciate the support of Baker Landscaping who donated funds for the dedication sign.

We hope that all of you are having an enjoyable fall and that you will be able to celebrate the harvest season and continue to give thanks with us for our incredible students and exciting programs.

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