Gardening Toward a Sustainable Future

Ally Baler and Anna Snyder work on posters for the environmental art contest in conjunction with the Paramount event in Adam Mulcahy’s junior science class. Photo: Theresa Curry.

Master Gardeners Plan 30th Anniversary Event at Paramount

Two of Crozet’s master gardeners were at a conference—the yearly “Master Gardeners College”—last summer in Blacksburg when they had an idea. Fern Campbell and Beverley Thierwechter, who both have had major leadership roles in the Piedmont Master Gardeners organization, came away convinced they should share what they’d learned with their own community.

The 30th Anniversary of the Piedmont Master Gardeners was coming up, and the women hatched an ambitious plan to reach as many people as possible with practical ideas for thriving in our changing environment. More than a year later, their careful planning has resulted in an ambitious program, “The Future of our Landscapes in a Changing Environment,” at the Paramount Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 8.

“This is our main mission as master gardeners, anyway,” said Thierwechter, who’s also one of the organizers of the popular community gardens near Lickinghole Creek. “Our commitment in return for all the training that goes into being a master gardener is to educate the public.” Their co-sponsor in the event is the Virginia Cooperative Extension Program, which provides the training for master gardeners all over the state. The program is designed to move the conversation past the general feeling of alarm over our future to a productive discussion of practical responses.

The women had especially liked the presentation given by Dennis Dimick in Blacksburg. Dimick, a former National Geographic editor, agreed to speak at an anniversary event, and his availability, as well as the Paramount’s schedule, set the date and time. 

Natalie Gomez, Cecilia Dagner and Bella Karr (in the foreground) are among members of the Environmental Science class at Western who submitted posters.

Dimick’s presentation, “Living in the Human Age,” will focus not only on the effects of our expanding footprint and growing prosperity on the natural world, but on potential responses that might contribute to a more positive future. 

Next, the women recruited Jeremy S. Hoffman from the Science Museum of Virginia. Dr. Hoffman will talk about how climate change affects life cycles in nature. He’s a veteran of many TED talks on the redesign of landscapes to increase shade and cool down vulnerable neighborhoods. He also speaks about other ways to make our cities more resilient in the face of rising temperatures.

Local businesses and nonprofits with a stake in sustainability signed on as sponsors, and the Paramount provided invaluable direction. “It’s a good thing they did,” Thierwechter said. “We’re gardeners, not event planners.” To expand the number of local experts providing guidance, they chose Frank J. Reilly, Jr., principal scientist of the Reilly Group, as master of ceremonies, and added a panel with representatives from U.Va., the Green Infrastructure Center, and the state’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries serving as panelists. 

Schoolchildren were not forgotten in the planning: Those returning to school quickly grabbed paints and pencils to create environmental art posters in time for the deadline for the related contest. They’ll be on display at the entrance of the Paramount beginning at 3 p.m., and will be judged by the speakers and Laura Call Gastinger, a botanical artist. Concessions will be available as people review the posters and visit the displays by sponsors and others with an interest in the topic. The formal presentations will begin at 4 p.m., followed by the panel.

For those who love an after-party, there’s one just a few blocks away, but it’s not merely a social event. Sustainability U.Va. is sponsoring a discussion and reception after the Paramount event. It’s at the Three-Notch’d Brewing Company at IX Art Park, 520 2nd. St. SE. It will be a family-friendly event with free refreshments as well as the brewery’s craft kitchen menu.

To order tickets, at $10, go to the There’s no charge for those younger than 18. For information about the program, visit 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here