UGA Campus Kitchen keeps food on the table with help from UGA Public Service and Outreach

On a rainy Monday morning in March, staff at the UGA State Botanical Garden of Georgia are in the children’s garden harvesting bushels of kale, collards, parsley and beets they no longer need for educational programs this spring. They are vigilant in maintaining a safe distance from one another, even outside in the rain.

A few hours later, employees from the UGA Office of Service-Learning deliver the produce and food donated by Trader Joe’s and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia to the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel, where kitchen employees prepare meals. The meals are stored in vegetable coolers at UGArden, a student run farm on South Milledge Avenue that supplies produce to Campus Kitchen year-round.

The next day, the UGA employees and volunteers deliver the prepared meals and bags of groceries to 53 food-insecure families in the Athens area, placing the packaged food on doorsteps, ringing the bell, and standing six feet back while residents answer the door. In all, they will deliver enough for 170 meals.

During a typical week, hundreds of students volunteer with the Campus Kitchen organization, which provides meals to older Athens residents, most of them grandparents raising grandchildren. With students no longer on campus, their food security was threatened.

“All of our clients experience food insecurity on a regular basis and that could be heightened during this time,” said Andie Bisceglia, who coordinates Campus Kitchen within the Office of Service-Learning. “Some of them are also mobility limited and really rely on this food.”

Fewer than 10 UGA employees now run the program, following protocols for food safety and social distancing. They can’t handoff tools when harvesting the fresh vegetables, for example. No more than 10 people at a time can be in the kitchen preparing meals, following restrictions set by Gov. Brian Kemp. They had to change the location where they prepare the food when the original location, Wesley Woods Senior Living Center, was closed to outsiders to protect residents there.

While the Georgia Center is temporarily closed because of COVID-19, its employees enthusiastically offered their assistance and the center’s kitchen.

“I think we all have a part in this and I’m just happy that we could help,” said Darrell Goodman, food and beverage director for the Georgia Center, who also is on the board of the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. “I know how many people this is helping right now, and seeing the impact directly is very satisfying. It makes me feel proud of where I work.”

Produce from the children’s garden likely would have gone to waste since programming has been temporarily halted.

“We already had a ton of produce and we met as a team to decide who we wanted to give it to—Campus Kitchen made sense,” said Cora Keber, UGA State Botanical Garden education director. “Being able to contribute to the community is just a really powerful way to use this space.”

Beyond being able to continue the program through the semester, Campus Kitchen now has a plan to carry through the summer.

The community can rely on UGA to help serve the community, according to Eve Anthony, CEO of the Athens Community Council on Aging (ACCA). Campus Kitchen works with ACCA to identify the families it serves.

“This is another time where we know our grandparents are taken care of because of Campus Kitchen,” Anthony said. “Campus Kitchen is a community partner that we can count on when we need them the most.”

Shannon Brooks, director of the Office of Service-Learning, says there was never a question that UGA would continue to provide meals, as it has since 2010.

“We decided early on as a staff that this was a priority and that our senior clients depend on the meals that are provided through Campus Kitchen,” Brooks said. “I think this says a lot about UGA’s commitment to public service. There’s a reason people are in the jobs that they’re in. They have that mentality that this is what we do. It’s part of our DNA as public service professionals at UGA.”


Writer: Aaron Cox,, 417-483-5919

Contact: Andie Bisceglia,, 860-716-2519

New ways to support the State Botanical Garden

Visitors to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia can now provide financial support to the free attraction by leaving cash or checks in donation boxes on the garden grounds.

Two outdoor donation boxes were installed recently, at the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden, which opened almost a year ago, and at the head of the Orange Trail, near the garden’s main parking lot.
More than 3,500 people visited the children’s garden on its opening day, and overall visitation increased by 34 percent in 2019. Contributions to the box at that garden will go toward maintaining the 2.5 acre site.

Each year, thousands of hikers, walkers and runners take advantage of the five miles of trails on the garden property to improve their health, rejuvenate their spirits and experience the wonders of nature. Contributions to the trail head box will be used exclusively for the upkeep and expansion of the trail network at the State Botanical Garden.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is part of the University of Georgia and relies on state and private funding for its operation.


Support the State Botanical Garden Online today:

Support the Children’s Garden



State pollinator protection efforts focus on pollinator plant availability

As part of an ongoing effort to help support Georgians use more native plants in their landscapes, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has partnered with the State Botanical Garden at the University of Georgia, the Georgia Green Industry Association and the Georgia Department of Agriculture to launch the state’s first Pollinator Plants of the Year Program.

“We are excited to be part of the effort to get this amazing program in place for Georgia gardeners,” said Becky Griffin, UGA Extension school and community garden coordinator and pollinator protection expert. “Extension has strengths. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia has strengths; the Department of Agriculture has strengths and the private sector has its strengths. We have a better chance of meeting our goal of providing more pollinator habitat if we work together.”

The collaboration will connect Georgia’s robust greenhouse industry with experts in native plant cultivation and pollinator health to produce more ready-to-plant natives and to encourage Georgians to turn part of their home landscape into pollinator habitat. This year the groups will be reaching out to greenhouse growers to encourage them to produce specially selected landscape plants. Next year the focus will be on teaching gardeners how to incorporate and maintain the pollinator-friendly plants.

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State Botanical Garden development reaches new heights with topping-out ceremony

The Center for Art and Nature at the State Botanical Garden moved a step closer to reality as donors and UGA staff held a ceremonial “topping out” of the facility last week.

Deen Day Sanders, who gave her collection of porcelain and decorative art to the garden to be housed at the museum, was the first to sign the large white steel beam that will be installed at the top of the building.

“It’s an exciting day because we’re beginning to see it come to fruition, and now you can begin to dream about what it will be,” said Sanders, a longtime supporter of the garden, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach.  “It will be not only a place where you can enjoy beauty and nature, but also a place where the spirit will be enriched.”

After donors Mike and Betty DeVore, Public Service and Outreach Vice President Jennifer Frum, State Botanical Garden Director Jenny Cruse-Sanders, Senior Director of Development Brooks McCommons, members of the construction team and garden staff signed the beam, it was lifted by a crane to the top of the structure, where it will be installed.

The Center for Art and Nature (CAN) Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum is part of a trio of construction projects underway at the garden. Also in progress is construction of a main entranceway that will include an elevator to improve access for visitors in wheelchairs, pushing strollers or who have trouble navigating stairs. Donors to the new entrance and accessibility project include Sanders, the Callaway Foundation, Tom Wight, Jim Miller, and Mike and Betty Devore, the Garden Club of Georgia, Inc. and donors from across Georgia.

“I just feel that it’s important for everyone to easily access the garden,” Betty DeVore said. “There are people, either young or old or infirmed, that have a hard time traversing down to the garden. This is going to allow easy access for all.”

The third project is a Discovery and Inspiration Garden that will surround the CAN to allow visitors to explore the relationship between art and nature. The garden will have native plant beds, a pond and a great lawn where classes and special events can be held. Chuck and Suzanne Murphy provided funding for the Discovery and Inspiration Garden.

“I cannot imagine us not having this here,” Cruse-Sanders said of the new facilities. “It is a perfect marriage of art, gardens, botany, and everything we love about the botanical garden. The new entrance and accessibility project will create a beautiful front door for this garden and bring more visitors to the garden to enjoy what we have here.”

The topping-out ceremony is an ancient construction tradition that signifies the project reaching its last beam or the building’s highest structural element. Those involved in the project sign the beam, symbolizing their permanent place in the building and hopes for success of the building and safety for the construction teams working on it.

Writer: Emilie Gille,, 706-583-0964

Contact: Jenny Cruse-Sanders,, 706-542-6131

New developments at State Botanical Garden will increase educational opportunities, improve access

The University of Georgia broke ground on a trio of projects Aug. 23 at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

The projects—the Center for Art and Nature Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum, the Discovery and Inspiration Garden, and a new entrance—will allow visitors to explore the relationship between art and nature and increase accessibility to garden exhibits and facilities. They will be constructed simultaneously, with completion anticipated in 2020.

“None of this would have been possible without the generosity of many people,” UGA President Jere W. Morehead said during the groundbreaking ceremony. “I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all of the donors whose gifts are bringing these projects to life—those who are with us today and those who are celebrating with us from afar.”

The Center for Art and Nature Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum will house significant holdings from the Deen Day Sanders collection, with an extensive concentration in porcelain. This state-of-the-art facility will be the first of its kind to integrate decorative art within a garden setting and nature through the quality, diversity and evolution of porcelain and other decorative artifacts.

The center will have permanent galleries, visiting exhibitions and classroom space.

“We want to make it an educational, unique experience. I can’t think of another garden where they use ceramics and porcelain in this way,” said Sanders, a longtime supporter of the garden. “The University of Georgia has a decorative arch, landscape design, and it has many, many ways to draw the information that you need to put together these displays. I think it will all work together.”

Surrounding the Center for Art and Nature will be the Discovery and Inspiration Garden with narrow plant beds at eye level for every age so that visitors can get an up-close look at native plants for pollinators. A pond will support the life cycles of frogs and dragonflies, along with other creatures. Classes will be held on a great lawn, which also will serve as a venue for special events.

The entrance and accessibility project will be the main gateway to the garden from the parking lots above. The C. Burke Day Jr. Memorial Walkway, funded in part by members of the Garden Club of Georgia Inc., will lead to an overlook that provides a glimpse of the new Center for Art and Nature, the Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center & Conservatory, and the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden. Visitors will travel across an elevated walkway to an elevator or to stairs descending to the visitor center plaza.

Chuck and Suzanne Murphy provided funding for the Discovery and Inspiration Garden.

Deen Day Sanders, the Callaway Foundation, Mike and Betty DeVore, Tom Wight, Jim Miller, and the Garden Club of Georgia Inc. contributed to the entrance and accessibility project.

“Together, we are continuing the legacy of those who first envisioned this garden, and we are weaving new, innovative ideas into our mission,” said Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. “Building these projects together allows us to be conscientious stewards of the site and donated funds, and reduce disruption during construction.”

Writer: Kelly Simmons,, 706-542-2512

Contact: Jenny Cruse-Sanders,, 706-542-6131


Creating learners and leaders at the State Botanical Garden

Students volunteering at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia are doing far more than just checking off their UGA-mandated experiential learning opportunity, they are using what they learn to teach other students who follow in their footsteps.

As a Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellow, James C. Anderson II created mentor leadership training materials for the State Botanical Garden’s Learning by LeadingTM program, aimed at empowering students and helping them become career-ready. The program starts with freshmen, bringing them into the garden to complete a series of leadership development activities and completing service projects over two semesters.

The next year, they coordinate the activities for the new incoming students. During the third semester they develop a signature project at the garden and connect with a mentor. Finally, they spend their last year as an apprentice or intern at the garden.

The PSO Faculty Fellowship has been a welcome change for Anderson, a faculty member in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“A lot of what I do is very theoretical-based and academic,” he says. “Being able to tap into the experiential learning and service mission of the university is so important.”

Upon completion of Learning by Leading, students will have a vast experiential learning transcript—and feel more prepared to pursue science careers.

Projects vary. Students in the education department designed activities for different stations in the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden. Volunteers lead children through the activities at each station as they tour the garden. At one station they dress up like birds and create bird nests.

The ultimate goal of Learning by Leading is to retain students in the areas in which they work in the garden so that they will consider pursuing careers in that field.

“By getting these experiences while they’re still learning, they will connect to mentors and want to pursue these careers,” Anderson says.

In his position at CAES, Anderson researches effective mentorship. At the State Botanical Garden he led staff through six leadership modules, to help them become capable and confident mentors. He plans to adapt these modules and present them as a faculty learning series across campus.

Students tour the SBG and learn about the projects they will be working on through the

“It’s so critical we have student-faculty mentorships that are strong and effective,” said Leslie Edgar, department head of the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication Department in CAES, where Anderson works. “Everything he’s doing at the garden fits beautifully into his research agenda. I think he’s able to use his focus and leadership abilities in was he hadn’t thought of before—it leverages him to be an even better faculty member.”

The Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Fellowship Program provides departmental support for tenure-track and tenured professors to immerse themselves in the work of a PSO unit for one semester. The experience offers opportunities for fellows to enhance their academic courses, conduct research and apply their academic expertise to outreach initiatives. An anticipated outcome of the fellowship experience is the sustained involvement with Public Service and Outreach after the semester ends.

Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964

State Botanical Garden research director named to CAES professorship

UGA horticulturist James Affolter, who oversees research at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, was named to the newly endowed Larry R. Beuchat Professorship for Annual and Perennial Ornamental Plant Research.

The professorship in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences was created through a generous gift from Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus Larry Beuchat. The research-focused position will be located in the Department of Horticulture and housed at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at the University of Georgia. The goal of the position is to promote ornamental plant research and a partnership between the Department of Horticulture and the State Botanical Garden, a 313-acre “living laboratory.”

Some of UGA’s top revenue-generating new plant varieties, including more than 20 commercial and home garden blueberries and half of the hydrangea grown in the United States, are the result of research from UGA’s horticulture department.

“I wanted to express my gratitude to the university for having been afforded the opportunity to be a faculty member and contribute to the advancement of food and agricultural sciences,” said Beuchat, who joined the Department of Food Science and Technology on the UGA Griffin campus in 1972. He has since published about 530 refereed scientific journal articles and five books, with most of his research at the UGA Center for Food Safety focusing on how food safety issues relate to foods of plant origin. “I wanted to support and fund programs that would advance ornamental plant science while simultaneously assisting students in the program.”

Beuchat’s interest in plants developed at an early age when he helped his parents tend their gardens on the family’s dairy farm and sell the flowers, fruits and vegetables at a local farmers market. He earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Pennsylvania State University.

Affolter joined the CAES faculty in 1993 and was promoted to full professor in 2005. As director of research at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, he manages three full-time employees who have a combined total of more than 50 years of experience in the garden’s research and conservation program. The garden’s plant conservation program is recognized as one of the best in the country and has received awards from the American Public Gardens Association and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, among others.

“One of the goals of this endowment is to strengthen ties between the State Botanical Garden and the UGA Department of Horticulture,” Affolter said. “This mission is near to my heart since I have served as the director of science and conservation at the botanical garden for more than 25 years, and the most satisfying part of my job has been fostering an interest in plants in undergraduate and graduate students.”

Affolter leads the applied research program at the garden which focuses on native plant production, habitat restoration and protecting endangered species. The Beuchat endowment will fund UGA student participation in the research and outreach programs at the State Botanical Gaerden of Georgia’s Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies. This includes the introduction of new and underused species to home landscapes and commercial nurseries, he said. The gift also will fund research comparing the ecological value of various native plant selections used to promote biodiversity and for habitat restoration projects.

“The center is key to the growth of our plant introduction programs at the botanical garden,” Affolter said. “The renovated complex consists of a greenhouse, headhouse, high tunnel, raised beds and classroom, all essential for the success of our research program.”

UGA CAES graduate, and undergraduate, students receive hands-on training and conduct research in the center. Funding from the Beuchat professorship will be used in part to help support their research which often focuses on the potential value of native ornamental species in home gardens, pollinator gardens and habitat restorations.

“The funding the professorship provides will accelerate our research efforts and create new academic opportunities for UGA students who have a passion for horticulture and botanical gardens,” Affolter said. “I look forward to strengthening the research program even further with the resources and recognition that accompany this professorship.”

Affolter has worked in university botanical gardens since receiving his doctoral degree in botany from the University of Michigan in 1983. He served as curator of the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley from 1983 until 1990, then as director of Cornell Plantations — the botanical garden, arboretum and natural areas of Cornell University — from 1990 until 1992. He is the founding chair of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, headquartered at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, which is a network of more than 40 botanical gardens, government agencies, and environmental organizations in Georgia that study and preserve the state’s endangered flora. He is a board member and past-president of Botanic Gardens Conservation International-U.S., part of a worldwide network of more than 700 institutional members – mostly botanic gardens – from 118 countries. The U.S. branch works with more than 100 member gardens and conservation organizations to raise awareness and scientific understanding of native and threatened plants in North America.

A common thread throughout Affolter’s career has been his interest in using university botanical gardens as platforms to create interest and knowledge of species that are new to the Green Industry. The recognition and resources associated with the Larry R. Beuchat Professorship will enhance these efforts and meet the goals of the endowment, he said.

For more information about the UGA horticulture department, go to
To learn more about the State Botanical Garden, go to For more information about planned gifts to the CAES, go to

Contacts: James Affolter,, (706) 542-6144
Larry Beuchat,, (770) 412-4740;

The Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden opens to the public

Come and enjoy a spring celebration with special activities, performances and food trucks

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia welcomed more than 200 people to celebrate the completion of the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden Monday morning with a dedication and ribbon-cutting at the new nature-based educational environment.

The ceremony marked the conclusion of a project that transformed a parking lot at the State Botanical Garden, a UGA public service and outreach unit, into an interactive, outdoor classroom, allowing visitors throughout the state to experience natural Georgia environments with their own hands.

“In nearly every speech I give, I always try to remind people that we are a land-grant and sea-grant university, and with that comes a responsibility to make our resources available to individuals and communities throughout the state,” said University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead. “This botanical garden, and especially the children’s garden that we’re dedicating today, is such a great example of that goal.”


The new 2.5-acre garden contains a variety of fun, immersive locations, including a chestnut tree house, fossil wall, giant water-misting mushrooms, vegetable garden, a replica of a North Georgia cave, and more — all designed to be learned from, crawled through and touched.

“We are here to welcome you to more than a garden space built to engage children, students and families,” said Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden. “The Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden is a journey of discovery across Georgia’s rich natural resources – and a celebration of the University of Georgia’s service and outreach across our state.”

The children’s garden project began in earnest 12 years ago with a $1 million donation from the family of Alice H. Richards in 2007. The namesake of the new garden, Richards was a charter member of the State Botanical Garden’s Board of Advisors and an ardent supporter of the botanical garden.

Alice’s son Jim, one of several members of the Richards family in attendance, felt his mother would have been proud to see her dream of a children’s garden become a reality.


“We’re very proud that her vision when she came to the board has come to fruition,” said Jim Richards. “My mother would adore this spectacular, clean, crisp day as we move out of winter, and be so pleased and very proud of this children’s garden, which she dreamed of from the time she became a State Botanical Garden of Georgia board member.”

The children’s garden will officially open to the public with a grand opening on Saturday, March 23. The celebration will feature live music, food trucks and a variety of performances at the Theatre-in-the-Woods stage.


Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden Grand Opening


Aaron Cox Public Relations Specialist • 706-542-3631


Cora Keber State Botanical Garden Director of Education • 706-542-6158

Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden reaches full bloom

There were many things Alice Huffard Richards was known for—her tenacity, her love of children, her knowledge of Latin plant names, among them.

And her pruning shears, which were an old pair of scissors always within reach.

“She’d go to visit a friend and pause to prune the flowers before she went in. She’d even pull over on the side of the road and prune or deadhead flowers that needed some love—and she would do this anywhere and everywhere,” says Jim Richards, one of Alice Richards’ seven children. “She was renowned for always having her scissors in the car with her.”

The Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia will be dedicated today, memorializing her commitment to plants, children and Georgia. The first $1 million toward the garden was given to UGA by Alice Richards’ family. The balance, about $4 million, was raised through private donations, including money from all 80 members of the State Botanical Garden advisory board, of which Richards was a charter member, and every employee of the garden.

The centerpiece of the State Botanical Garden, a UGA public service and outreach unit, the children’s garden is a 2.5-acre interactive outdoor classroom where visitors can learn about Georgia history and natural resources, native plants and pollinators, and healthy foods.

The garden features a replica of Ellison’s Cave in Walker County, the 12th deepest cave in the United State, mastodon fossils from 40 million years ago, granite mined from Elbert County and a pitcher plant bog are a few points of interest visitors can expect to see, touch and explore at the new children’s garden.

“The garden is designed to showcase Georgia and the valuable natural resources in our state,” says Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden. “We are so excited to share these themes with communities in Georgia and beyond, as a way of achieving our mission for service and outreach.”

Hailing from Carroll County, Georgia, Alice Richards dreamed of creating a children’s garden in Athens from the time she joined the State Botanical Garden in the early 1980s, when the board of advisors first formed. Her family helped make the new garden a reality after she died in 2007.

Alice H. Richards and Sylvia M. Gibson

But her impact goes beyond the children’s garden, back to 1968, when the State Botanical Garden first opened.

“She asked me why she should join the garden’s board, and I said, ‘you love flora and fauna, but more than that, you love conserving land and leaving things better,’” says Susan Duncan, who recruited Richards to join the original board of advisors. “You have the opportunity to create something wonderful.”

Richards was as comfortable recruiting new board members to the garden board as she was on her hands and knees, planting, trimming and watering in the flower garden. When the master plans for the State Botanical Garden were being drawn up, she proposed the initial concept for a children’s garden—a place to nurture and enrich the lives of the next generation.

“I have heard from people who knew Alice that she loved children, and that she was a nurturing and caring person,” Cruse-Sanders says. “It is fitting that the new garden that we have created to engage and bring wonder to children and families is filled with that same spirit.”

“She would be amazed and delighted if she could see it now,” Jim Richards says.

The Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden is set to open March 23 with a festival-style spring celebration featuring food trucks, music, dance and aerial performances at the Theater-in-the-Woods stage and free fun throughout the entire day.

Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964
Contact: Jenny Cruse-Sanders,, 706-542-6131

Certificate in Native Plants Takes Root in Tifton

South Georgia residents can now earn the Certificate in Native Plants from UGA’s State Botanical Garden of Georgia without making a four-hour drive to Athens.

Beginning this year, the Certificate in Native Plants curriculum, established at UGA in 2007, is available in classrooms and gardens in or near Tifton, which is home to the UGA Tifton campus.

The premise of the program is the same: to educate landscapers, gardeners and citizens about the importance of preserving and protecting Georgia’s native plant species. Because Tifton is located in the Coastal Plain region of Georgia, students in that program will focus on native plants commonly found in flatlands, marshes and swamps, such as fire-dependent longleaf pine woodlands and carnivorous pitcher-plant bogs.

“As a landscape architect, I want to be able to work within all the systems of an area—the climate, geology, topography, soil—and understand how those conditions work together to support the different plant communities you see,” said Katherine Melcher, an associate professor in the UGA College of Environment and Design, who is helping teach the curriculum in Tifton. “If you’re thinking of this native plant growing here, it’s because of all these factors, like how there was an ocean here thousands of years ago.”

About 500 people have taken courses in the Certificate in Native Plants since it was first offered in 2007. Nearly 10 graduate with certificates each year.

Students learned about the various ecological regions of Georgia and spent time at the Gaskin Forest Education Center exploring the area and identifiying the native coastal plain plants, like the longleaf pine.

To earn the certificate, students must complete four core classes, six electives, a volunteer service project and two field trips. The schedule is flexible—students can complete the work in a year, or stretch it out over a period of years. They can take classes in either location.

Bonnie McCoy, from Merriweather County, began taking classes in Athens and is now finishing the certificate in Tifton.

“Growing up on a farm, I always wanted to know more about plants,” McCoy said. “Now I’m in a place where I can do more of what I want, and I’m so thankful to have two options to take classes.”

 As a result of the certificate program Georgians are becoming more informed and want to help with conservation efforts around the state, said Cora Keber, director of education at the State Botanical Garden.

“More and more people are asking local growers for native plants and choosing to plant native species in their yards and public gardens,” Keber said.

James Lewis began the Certificate in Native Plants program as soon as it launched in Tifton.

For the past 11 years, Lewis was a professor at the Defense Acquisition University, a federal institution that prepares an adaptive and accomplished workforce for the U.S. military. About a year ago, he decided to pursue his passion for plants and open a nursery, Flat Creek Natives LLC in Perry, Georgia.

“We specialize in native plants, and this program is helping me understand which native plants do better in which parts of Georgia,” Lewis said.

“Native plants are Georgia’s legacy, they’re our history. Intuitively, they are better for the environment and animals.”

Learn more about the Certificate in Native Plants in Athens and Tifton


Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964

Contact: Cora Keber,, 706-542-6158