AHS and River Farm: Outlook for 2022
A Message from the AHS Board of Directors
Greetings from River Farm! On this cold and snowy mid-winter day in early February, the view of the meadow down to the Potomac is truly spectacular, a picture-perfect display of winter splendor. A bald eagle took flight from its nest and floated majestically across the pale winter sky, adding a touch of excitement to the serene scene. The eagle stands as an important symbol of courage and strength for reaching great heights and achievements – and is always an inspiring sight to see at River Farm. As we celebrate our 100th anniversary year in 2022, highlighting 100 years of promoting American horticulture and 50 years stewarding River Farm, we take lessons from the garden in winter: appreciating the time to reflect and plan, planting ideas (as well as seeds and bulbs), clearing and pruning, caring for the grounds, the trees, the flowers – as always, looking to the verdant seasons ahead. The metaphor of the garden applies to many things in life, including our current organizational work – and we’re excited to share our progress and updates as well as the outlook for the year ahead.
The starting point – our mission and vision. The AHS governing principles to celebrate and promote American horticulture – which at 100 years have stood the test of time – are the foundation of our organization and guide all our work. As we launch our next 100 years, the time is ripe for re-invigorating our overarching vision and mission to ensure it reflects our members’ and stakeholders’ values and goals. First and foremost, our goal is to build upon our country’s rich horticultural legacy and common roots while creating a sustainable future focused on beauty, nature, and knowledge. Second (and equally important), is our commitment to protecting and sharing our headquarters – historic River Farm – as a national treasure and example of forward-looking American gardening. We are taking formal steps to embed these commitments in our governing doctrines and to include them in our refreshed vision and mission statements, to be finalized in the very near future.
At River Farm: the buildings, grounds, and gardens. The revitalization of River Farm as the home base for national horticultural programs is a key focus for us. It begins with an assessment and evaluation of the entire property, the establishment of priorities, and the creation of specific action plans. Recently, we re-instituted our River Farm Committee to identify long-term funding, planning, and maintenance requirements. As a starting point, the team will identify the most pressing needs for immediate repair and renovation. Once these projects are underway, the Committee will explore ideas for re-imagining and improving the gardens and grounds with the goal of creating a landscape that is befitting this idyllic property along the Potomac River. Already, we have seen extraordinary pledges of support and commitments from donors and garden volunteers who are excited about the possibilities.
Another key priority is identifying the best way to preserve and protect River Farm. Over the past few months, we have begun exploring options for ensuring that this historic landmark will remain a beautiful open space forever and continue as our AHS headquarters with access for public enjoyment, as intended by our original benefactor, Enid Annenberg Haupt. Specifically, we have had meetings with the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust and other land-use experts to discuss a range of opportunities for placing a possible conservation easement here. In addition, we’ve launched discussions about the requirements and timeline for creating an endowment fund that will help maintain River Farm and secure its long-term future. Finally, we are actively working with elected officials regarding securing potential public funds to be used to enhance public access at River Farm. Taken together, we are confident that these initiatives will achieve our goal of strengthening River Farm – and AHS – as important community (and national) assets.
AHS programs and projects. In addition to focusing on our signature programs and publications, including our bi-monthly magazine, the annual National Children and Youth Gardening Symposium, Travel Study program, and “Great American Gardeners Awards,” we are launching some exciting new programs in celebration of our 100th anniversary year. The “Conversations with Great American Gardeners” webinar series is a new online lecture series that features the nation’s most notable horticultural experts speaking on a broad range of topics of interest to home gardeners and specialists alike. See our website (www.ahsgardening.com) for more information on the schedule and how to listen. Also, the “50 State Flower Garden Project,” a nationwide initiative to celebrate both the diversity of American horticulture and our common roots by sharing the personal stories of horticulturalists, farmers, and gardeners as well as their special insights and gardening tips will launch this month. Look for these inspiring stories on our website and social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. As part of the project, we are collaborating with our friends at Gibson & Dehn candles and the American Grown Flowers and Foliage organization to create bouquets that will first capture the spirit of a state in an ephemeral, visual way to be memorialized in a special state candle that captures the essence and fragrance of each state’s individual landscape. The project will culminate in a festive 100th-anniversary fundraising gala at River Farm next September, where state flowers and candles will be part of an exquisite tableau set against the spectacular backdrop of River Farm. Follow along on our AHS website and on @flowerpowerdaily starting later this month for additional news and updates as we launch this exciting project.
Our leadership vision. Now that we have augmented our Board with three talented new members and are working methodically to reconstitute a governing Board that will lead us successfully into our next 100 years, we are poised to achieve great things in the realms of horticulture, historic preservation, and land conservation. We are firmly committed to putting both professional management structures and horticultural leadership in place to achieve our ambitious goals on all of these fronts. As always, we are incredibly grateful for your generous support and look forward to collaborating with you on creating an exciting future for both AHS and River Farm. As we celebrate 100 years of American horticulture in 2022 and lay the groundwork for the next 100 years, we hope you will be part of all these efforts.
With all best wishes for a healthy, happy, and spectacular New Year, sincerely,
The AHS Board:
Marcia Zech, Chair