Jessica Farmer is one of those fortunate individuals who, through a combination of foresight, focus and possibly a bit of luck, ended up in her dream job.
“Just outside my office door at the Center for Urban Horticulture is Yesler Swamp,” she enthuses, “a quiet, shady oasis that provides me with instant wonder and relaxation.”
Just about a perfect location for a person who has been passionate about plants and nature since high school. Farmer is the Adult Education Supervisor for the UW Botanic Gardens. In that role she develops programs to involve adults in Botanic Gardens programs, coordinates volunteers, oversees social media, writes the monthly E-Flora newsletter and creates regular blog postings.
Farmer’s involvement in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) in her hometown in Iowa sparked an interest in horticulture and led to her working in the high school greenhouse, and later in a retail nursery for a summer.
“After that I was hooked,” she admits.
She went on to gain a bachelor’s degree in horticulture at Iowa State University, specializing in public gardens. Internships at the Reiman Gardens (Iowa) and Morris Arboretum (University of Pennsylvania) let to a position at a tree nursery outside of Chicago.
“After a few years of that I wanted to get back into public horticulture, so I returned to graduate school–this time in Seattle. The fantastic resources at the UW allowed me to volunteer at the Arboretum, study at the Center for Urban Horticulture, and I also got a concurrent Master of Public Administration degree through the UW Evans School (of Public Policy and Governance).”
“I loved that I now had the chance to combine my interest in plants with courses on public management and program development,” she concedes, “it has given me a whole new tool set that has helped me professionally and expanded my work.”
Farmer’s roots with the UW Botanic Garden run deep. Her thesis adviser was Sarah Reichard, now UW-Botanic Gardens director. And her student office was at the Center for Urban Horticulture.
When she is away from work, Farmer likes to garden (of course!) and prepare food from what she’s grown–lately she has gotten into canning and fermenting foods. She also loves spending time in Seattle’s urban parks with friends and getting out to the mountains to backpack.
“One of my favorite nearby spaces at the Arboretum is the Loderi Valley,” she explains. “I love to walk among the towering rhododendrons, with their beautiful curved trunks and lush foliage overhead.”
“It is a most exquisite, magical place,” she says.
And her favorite plant?
“At the moment, it is the Garry oak (Quercus garryana) that comes to mind–oaks exude images of strength and endurance,” she says. “And I especially love to imagine the young one planted in my backyard–how it will grow strong and fill the space over time.”