Veteran Clemson Cooperative Extension agent Amy Dabbs has accepted the role of School and Community Gardening Statewide Coordinator after a national search to fill the newly created position for Extension’s horticulture team.
Dabbs, who celebrated her 10th anniversary with Clemson Extension in March, will coordinate all horticultural aspects of school and community gardening and serve as a resource to program teams and agents who engage groups of constituents through gardening.
Dabbs is based at Clemson’s Coastal Research and Education Center in Charleston.
“My goal is to spark an early interest in horticulture in South Carolina students by supporting school gardens,” she said. “By training teachers, parents and volunteers to garden with children, we will grow lifelong gardeners and introduce students to careers in agriculture and horticulture. There is a huge lag in workers qualified to fill horticulture jobs in the U.S.
“We’re also introducing young people to Extension programming and what we do as an agency, so we are also creating our next generation of clients who look to Clemson Extension for answers,” she said.
Dabbs was instrumental in the success of the School Gardening for S.C. Educators program, which began with a seed planted in the Charleston area in 2012 and, as of this past summer, had grown to 16 counties and 147 school gardens across the state.
A horticulture-based training program that was piloted while Dabbs was a local horticulture agent in the tri-county Charleston area, School Gardening for S.C. Educators is offered by Clemson Extension as part of a multi-agency, farm-to-school initiative aimed at improving academic and health outcomes among South Carolina children and opening the school nutrition market to local farmers.
“I want to thank Amy for her years of dedicated service as an area horticulture agent and Master Gardener coordinator for Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties,” said Extension Horticulture Program team leader Cory Tanner. “I can honestly say that she grew an incredible program there, and I’m excited to see our school and community gardening services expand under her leadership.”
Extension’s Master Gardener program was designed to use the services of trained volunteers who have horticulture knowledge and a willingness to share that knowledge with others through the Clemson Extension Service, and Dabbs said its graduates would be vital to the success of school gardens around the state.
“The school gardening program has grown in size and interest so that now it’s a full-time position,” she said. “The S.C. Master Gardeners are still integral to the program because educators and students need their guidance and expertise to make their school gardens successful.
“In my new role, I will continue to expand the School Gardening for S.C. Educators program and develop new and exciting facets of our horticulture extension program in these areas,” she added.
Holding a master’s degree in Horticulture from Clemson, Dabbs spent 10 years at the South Carolina Botanical Garden as a registered horticultural therapist, where she coordinated the after-school children's gardening program Sprouting Wings.
After moving on to the role of area horticulture agent with Clemson Extension, Dabbs worked with a large urban audience in the Lowcountry, teaching the public about native plants, composting, pollinator gardening, family friendly gardening, edibles and perennials.