Friday, August 20, 2010

SNRAS Dean promises botanical garden will remain open

Georgeson Botanical Garden.

Regardless of social media claims made Aug. 20 that the Georgeson Botanical Garden, a program of SNRAS/AFES, would be closing, Dean and Director Carol Lewis stated adamantly that the facility will definitely remain open.

“The garden will be whole,” Lewis said. “We are very proud of the garden and we will do everything we can to maintain it.”

GBG fits perfectly with some of the school’s main areas of focus, including economic development with GBG’s peony and berry work, and food security with the research done on foods appropriate for production in Alaska, Lewis said.

She explained that the school has been facing financial challenges and recently did provide layoff notices to three staff members (none at GBG). The school’s research technicians who are funded through federal formula funds were placed on eleven-month contracts for the current fiscal year and faculty members who receive formula funds through approved projects were given nine-month contracts with only one additional month added rather than the three additional months they had been provided in the past. Faculty have the opportunity to pursue funding from external grants and contracts and quite a few are already funded in this manner.

“We are working our way out of this budget shortfall,” Lewis said. “We have tremendous support from people around the state and we fully expect to see brighter days ahead.”

The Fairbanks Experiment Farm, founded in 1906, is home to GBG, which has been in operation since 1989. In addition to being a beautiful place for the public to visit and hold events, the garden is home to 350 varieties of flowers and 150 vegetable varieties. The overall vision of the garden is to demonstrate the depth and breadth of responsible natural resources management in Alaska.

Pat Holloway, GBG director, said the garden is a center for horticultural knowledge in subarctic Alaska, providing information to growers interested in sustainably managing lands for garden culture, producing plants commercially or for home use, exploring new crops and new markets, preserving traditional plant knowledge, expanding uses of native plants, conserving and rehabilitating plants on wild lands, and promoting good stewardship of horticultural resources.

“We conduct applied plant research that adds to this body of knowledge and we share results of our efforts through formal and informal education for all ages, published works for the local and scientific community, and internet networking,” Holloway said.

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