President's Message

Nancy L. Hargroves

May 2017

NGC 2017-2019 President Nancy L. Hargroves

Thank you for your confidence in me to perform the duties of the President of National Garden Clubs. It is a great honor.

As I reflect on my journey to this night, it seems inevitable that I would be involved in an organization with horticulture and design focuses. I grew up on a farm that raised and shipped vegetable plants, and on that farm was my grandmother’s florist shop. So horticulture and floral design have been a part of my life since day one.

A change of administrations is also a time for reflection. It is a time for three things: a time to look back, a time to evaluate where we are, and a time to look ahead.

I want to thank Shirley and Renee for the wonderful look back that they gave us in the installation ceremony. They have shown what a rich history this organization has and what this organization has accomplished in eighty-eight years.

It’s also a time to thank the former presidents for their leadership that has guided this organization to have such a long, productive length of service to our members and to our communities.

A little more history is that I am the last 4th Vice President. Someone asked me once did that make me feel superfluous when we did away with the position? No, I replied. The organization saw the need for change and made the change. Which brings us to a time to evaluate where we are.

The changing world around us will continue to be a challenge for our organization – just as it is for all volunteer organizations. People say that they can get all the gardening information they need from the Internet. They can Google how to prune a rose bush or how to make a floral centerpiece for their dining room table. But nothing beats the hands-on experience of actually doing either task.

I have a classic example for you from my second day of work as Assistant Supervisor of Food Services for Roanoke City Schools in Roanoke, VA. The US Department of Agriculture sent to all school lunch programs surplus turkeys for us to serve – tractor-trailer loads of frozen whole turkeys!

That second day on the job I was told that we were going to have a meeting in the afternoon for all the school cafeteria employees to teach them how to debone a whole turkey. I asked which school kitchen we were using? Answer – the auditorium. No kitchen. No actual turkey to use for demonstration purposes. No PowerPoint presentation. AND, by the way, I was told a supervisor from the state department of education would be attending.

So I proceeded to explain this verbally. I used my own body as a prop hoping the absurdity would stick in their mind when they actually got into the kitchen with a knife and a turkey. Was that all they needed to know? No, they also needed to know how to safely defrost a frozen whole turkey. But if you Google deboning a whole turkey and don’t put in the word frozen – you don’t have all the information that you need to know.

Those cafeteria employees can attest to you that there is value in hands-on learning – not just someone telling you how. I told them how at one point you have to crack the back bone away from the breast; but you have no idea how much strength that takes, the angle that is better, what happens if the backbone cracks in the center before it breaks away from the ribs, and on and on. Garden club meetings, workshops, and projects give you the hands-on experience with people who have done it before. The Internet cannot do that for you. I haven’t seen many computers out planting beds at the neighborhood entrance sign or planting petunias in the barrels on the main street in town.

Another of our organization’s challenges is fast changes in everything due to technology and events in the world. But I firmly believe that garden clubs will continue to exist because a lot of our clubs’ work is in the community and communities certainly benefit from our work.

So how does a community that has a garden club benefit? In these communities - garden clubs are the vision, plan, and manpower behind community beautification. Whether it is flowered-filled planters and barrels or tree-lined town streets, manicured public buildings, welcoming neighborhood and community entrances, partnerships with public departments of transportation for roadsides, or holiday designs in public buildings – a garden club’s presence is evident.

In these communities - garden clubs started and promoted recycling many years before it was a national movement. It is now a way of life in our country – not a project.

In these communities - garden clubs know the importance of working with youth for the future of gardening, conservation, and the environment. They are an additional resource for teachers to work with youth in after-school programs and school classrooms. National Garden Clubs and individual garden clubs provide college scholarships for students in horticulture-related fields.

In these communities - garden clubs realized early on what gardening did for the soul. Garden club members have been interacting with people in nursing homes and retirement homes long before we called it “Garden Therapy.”

In these communities - garden clubs are often the conscience of the community. Their voices speak up to save a tree, to save a park, and to prevent too much development.

Gardening touches everyone in some way. It can be beauty, color, solitude, food, memories, therapy, land value, exercise, to attract wildlife, or just the thrill of making something grow.

Gardening teaches life lessons:

  • To everything there is a season
  • Appreciate beauty of the world
  • Sharing
  • Patience - waiting for a plant to grow or a vegetable to ripen
  • Optimism and hope – to plant a seed, bulb, or tree is to believe that tomorrow will come and many tomorrows after that.

A community full of people who have learned these life lessons is a good community!! Communities with a garden club are usually a more beautiful place, a “greener” space, and are a community with a conscience.

Margaret Mead is credited with statement: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” Garden club members are fiercely committed. Aren’t gardening people the happiest, friendliest, and most generous people you know?

Yes, we have challenges ahead of membership with competition for people’s time and garden clubs no longer being the only source of gardening information. We are fortunate right now that there is an emphasis in our country on vegetable gardening, community gardens, and healthy lifestyles that wasn’t around 15 years ago.

Now it’s time for our third step – It’s time to look ahead. Just as we heard in the installation service about our significant projects, we are now at the beginning of a major new project.

NGC 2017-2019 President Nancy L. Hargroves attends her first board meeting

I truly believe that the service to our communities that our garden clubs give assures our future. That belief is the basis for the theme and projects of the administration: PLANT AMERICA. The words of this theme can either be a command to service or a description of what NGC clubs do in communities all over the world. This theme can cover any and every aspect of gardening, horticulture, garden design, and community service – even water issues, as one cannot garden without water! It applies to every kind of garden: Blue Star plantings, vegetable gardens, community gardens, container gardening on town streets, neighborhood plantings, etc.

There will be a singular focus on gardens and gardening. Often a national organization has many projects to appeal to the interest of a broad base of members. But after being in existence for 88 years, we’re a little like the legislature – we keep adding things but we don’t remove anything. If you ask someone why they joined a garden club, nine times out of ten they will tell you it is to learn about gardening.

Gardening will be at the center of every facet of this administration from its theme to its projects. Each state was asked to consider using the same theme so that we can have a unified feeling of all states working together.

Due to the success of The Frightened Frog in the previous administration, there is a new NGC book for Youth on gardening, The Saved Seed. Its premise is to teach a young child that seeds come from nature, not in a package at the store.

NGC – sponsored tours will be visiting gardens in the United States.

This administration will begin another important time in our organization with the launch of the new project of club grants and a fund to support them. A new grant program entitled PLANT AMERICA Community Project Grants will provide financial support for new or existing club projects of NGC member clubs in their respective communities. The first grants will be given during the 2017-2019 administration. It is the hope that this grant program becomes as significant a project for NGC as its scholarship program.

National Garden Clubs needs to sustain itself and its member clubs for now and in the future. An additional benefit of the grant program is that it will be a membership tool – a reason for clubs to stay with us, as they can apply for money to help finance their projects. It can help answer the question: “What does National Garden Clubs do for us?”

Not only will the grants be of help to NGC’s member clubs, it is an additional opportunity for visibility for National Garden Clubs in these communities where grants are used. Signage and publicity for the projects of the grant recipients will be emphasized. A logo has been designed for the project for use on the website, signs, and other products as a graphic visual reminder for this project.

There is a company that also believes in the club projects in communities. They, too, see the value in bringing neighbors, cultures and generations together to share the experience and the joy of gardening. They want to join our effort to PLANT AMERICA TOGETHER. In recognition of the valuable resource that clubs contribute to their communities, 20 garden clubs will be awarded grants of up to $250 of Organic Plant Foods and Potting Soils. Not only are they providing grants for their products for our clubs’ projects, but they have added a page to their website for garden clubs and are using our PLANT AMERICA logo. This company has been in existence since 1929 and I’m sure almost all of you in the room have used at least one of their products, Holly-tone®. The company is Espoma. Help me welcome and thank John Harrison, Vice-President of Marketing for Espoma, and Bonnie Satterthwaite, Territory Sales Manager for Espoma for supporting National Garden Clubs.

National Garden Clubs is an organization composed of dedicated members in our state garden clubs who accomplish great things for our communities and our nation. I look forward to working with all of you, and my life has been enriched by knowing all of you.

I’d like to end with this quote from Marina Schinz, as it very beautifully states how we all feel and what all of our members strive for every day: “To create a garden is to search for a better world. In our effort to improve on nature, we are guided by a vision of paradise. Whether the result is a horticultural masterpiece or only a modest vegetable patch, it is based on the expectation of a glorious future. This hope for the future is at the heart of all gardening.”

Nancy L. Hargroves
President 2017-2019
National Garden Clubs, Inc.