Master Gardener Coordinator
Laurel is a self-proclaimed plant appreciator who has spent the majority of her life immersed in the flora and fauna of the PNW bioregion. She loves working with farmers, gardeners, and most recently became a member of the statewide WSU Integrated Pest Management Team where she visits farms to help troubleshoot and participates as an expert alongside local farmers in regular ‘Dirt Talk’ conversations that are held to support small farmers in Clallam, Kitsap and Jefferson Counties.
“I always tell people I like working with plants over people and animals because if you kill one you can hide it in the compost pile.” Ok, so she has a sense of humor!
Growing up in North Seattle her mother was a Master Gardener. She referred to her as a ‘crazy gardener’ who grew all sorts of unusual edibles in their yard. Growing up Laurel became reknown for eating “lots of weird green things” her mother grew. Watching her mother grafting trees inspired Laurel to dream of one day becoming a Master Gardener.
When Laurel went to Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts, she didn’t understand you should study something you love and that is easy for you to engage with. She started by studying environmental politics and economics and quickly switched to a focus on environmental science and wetlands . Laurel says the only botany class she took was a winter tree identification class, but that working in the college conservatory and doing research on carnivorous bog plants captured her heart.
After college, she worked on a biodynamic farm in Norway for a year (until she got kicked out of the country for having the wrong visa.) Once back in the US, she worked for the 10,000 Year Institute in Forks, WA where she did fish surveys and studies, plus basic vegetation assessments. Following that job, she worked on a botany survey crew at the Olympic National Park for 2 years and loved it because she got to “live in the woods and study the flowers” in the summer and work on farms in the winter.
Laurel’s dream was realized when she became a master gardener in 2006, although she confesses that she didn’t finish contributing the required 100 hours before moving away. She blamed that on moving to Oregon to go to graduate school where she studied horticulture and entomology in conjunction with prairie and rare plant restoration.
This time when Laurel came back to the peninsula, she joined Master Garden as the coordinator for a spell but would move on to work for the Lower Elwha Clallam Tribe and Olympic National Park on the Elwha River restoration project. There she was the assistant manager the Native Plant Nursery for five years, managing daily operations and coordinating volunteers.
She says, “I love lots of things. I am not an expert at one thing specifically, but I have a variety of skills.” She shared that her dad, who also worked for University Extension loved to hire folks with a diverse background, that was favorable. In a world that seems to place great value on narrow expertise, what a refreshing message.
Laurel has been the Master Gardeners coordinator now for 4 years. She loves helping farmers and gardeners solve plant and insect mysteries. She is passionate about sustainable food systems, caring for the natural world and figuring out how to be most helpful to the audience she serves.
She tells me that the volunteers do a great deal of the work. It encourages her how many of them have become the go-to garden experts while she handles emails, promotions, hands-on trainings and putting out fires.
Working with the Master Gardeners is a love of hers, as is supporting local farmers. With the recent addition of Integrated Pest Management, she has also added weed management and insect identification to her skillset, as a side project for WSU’s Small Farm Program. “With the farmers, I like that I can go out and help a problem that they cannot deal with on their own.”
Laurel is likes that “our job is to do what is most helpful for whatever community we are working for, the whole purpose is to find what is most helpful and provide that resource.”
Thank you Laurel for your great work!
You can reach Laurel at firstname.lastname@example.org