The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum—Feeding Body and Soul
Do you have an interest in plants, gardening, bees, butterflies, children, sharing your knowledge, working with like-minded people, having a meaningful and rewarding volunteer opportunity? Check any of the above, and this interview is for you! Fern Albertson volunteers with The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, where she has found all of those interests fulfilled and her soul fed.
Have you eaten a Honey Crisp apple lately? Or perhaps you’ve tried the new First Kiss apple. Both of these, along with 28 others, were developed through the research at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The history of today’s 1200-acre premier facility had its beginnings in the 1800’s with government assistance and insistence to develop apples hearty enough to grow despite the Minnesota winters. The push was to attract settlers to the area by providing a viable economic opportunity. Today’s Arboretum now attracts 500,000 visitors each year! Thirty-five thousand of those come specifically to the Learning Center, where Fern volunteers.
As a volunteer, she works most often with school children and children coming in the summer through the Y or Parks and Recreation day camps. Working with a curriculum that also meets state education standards, Fern, along with other volunteers has been teaching the children about bees and butterflies, as they observe the resident pollinators at work in the gardens of the Arboretum. She also takes children “shopping” at the Green Grocer. If their grocery list includes sugar or chocolate, for example, the young shoppers have to find the plant sources (sugar cane and cocoa plant) growing there. The lists are varied, but the lesson is pointed: Our food comes largely from plants! The Arboretum’s educational programs change regularly, inviting return visits and keeping the volunteers engaged as they too continue to learn.
Fern is one of 900 volunteers the Arboretum relies on. Some, like Fern, lead programs or give tours; others help maintain the gardens or drive the trams. Several assist the researchers—like the ones who developed Honey Crisp and gave us our First Kiss!
Arboretums and botanical gardens are scattered all across the nation. Click Here for a list of facilities around the country. You might find a garden or arboretum in your local area where you can check volunteer opportunities.