“It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it,” our production coordinator Amanda Clark always says.
Amanda joined the Moore Farms Botanical Garden team in December of 2016 as our grower and has been a crucial part of garden operations. Now filling the production coordinator role, her main goals are to get the nursery and greenhouses organized to fit fresh and exciting new plants. She’s also working closely with Evan Cook, our plant recorder, to ensure all plants are in the database correctly and the inventory and record keeping is up to date. Additionally, she oversees MFBG’s four greenhouses and one-acre nursery.
On any given day, you’ll find Amanda processing propagation requests from the horticulturists, transitioning plants from house to house or out into the nursery, ordering production materials, and growing annual, perennial, ornamental and collection plants. No day is ever the same, which is something that Amanda embraces.
“I’m learning every day. This is a great place for career growth and education,” she explains.
The production coordinator position supports the garden in all facets. “I interact with every person at the garden from maintenance to horticulture to education,” Amanda says. “The center of the garden is plants—and they start here.”
One of her big projects is preparing for plant sales and festivals. “Even just for the May plant sale there are over 2,000 plants that are grown and propagated by the production center.”
As she moves forward in the production coordinator role, Amanda is looking forward to the potential of an in-ground nursery for trees and utilizing RootMaker® pots. “These are special pots that encourage more fibrous roots through air pruning,” Amanda explains. “I’m really excited about every aspect of this job,” she says with a smile.
Although it seems like a serene job, and walking through the greenhouse seems like you enter another gorgeous, green world, there are certainly challenges to be overcome.
“Sometimes I’m the chaos coordinator because of all the moving parts with so many people and so many plants,” Amanda laughs. “I also have to be really good at reprioritizing and staying on task.” Most of the departments at MFBG rely on the production center to help make their ideas come to life with plants sometimes they are last minute or unexpected designs.
Talking to Amanda, you’d never know that she hasn’t been in the industry all her life. She confidently handles every task and her face lights up when she talks about her work and shows off all her plant ‘babies.’ “Propagation is the most fun,” she says. “I start from a tiny seed or cutting and care for it as the magic happens. It’s very rewarding to see my plants graduate into the garden,” Amanda finishes proudly.
“But believe it or not, I actually went to massage school right after high school and was a massage therapist for eight years,” Amanda says.
Following this, she went to Mohawk Valley Community College for biology education and became a supplemental instructor as she proved herself as a student. Amanda continued to Utica College where she worked in their greenhouse and assisted her botany professor with field research in the ecology of plant populations in wetland areas. Inspired by this work she transferred to SUNY ESF for environmental biology.
“It really prepared me for this job because I learned about how to identify and care for plants,” she says.
Even though her formal training might have come later, she says she always wanted to play in the dirt. She grew up in Camden, N.Y. on her parents’ 19 acres in the woods. Her mom was a grower in a small commercial nursery. “I basically grew up in the greenhouse and garden,” Amanda told me. However, this was a much different growing season than what she encountered when she moved south a few years ago.
“We’ve lived in South Carolina for three years now,” Amanda says. “There are so many opportunities and it’s a great place to raise a kid.” She and her husband enjoy time with their son and often let him play in the dirt in their own home garden, just as Amanda got to as a child.
She also enjoys photography and any kind of craft project. “Having a four-year-old is kind of it’s own hobby,” she laughs as I ask what she does in her free time.
“I’m also always singing. I make my own music,” Amanda says. “Don’t I Dionicio?” she calls jokingly across the potting area.
Amanda is loved at the garden for her extreme helpfulness and love of life. “I’m just so happy to be here,” she says gratefully. “I think it’s important to celebrate the little victories. If you wait for it to be perfect, it never will be.”
Next time you’re at the garden, catch Amanda teaching a class on propagation or seed collecting or keeping our production center in tip-top shape. The horticulturists are experts at designed beds and maintaining areas that visitors often see on tours, but sometimes getting the production perspective can increase appreciation for the beauty that is Moore Farms.
By Events and Marketing Coordinator Roberta Burns.