"You can’t just sit at home and whine about it:" Interview with Alex Farr, President of Sea Oats Chapter (St. Augustine)

Alex Farr, President of the Sea Oats Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society

Sea Oats was, until recently, a small, struggling chapter that wasn't holding regular meetings. When asked why she did jumped in to lead the chapter, she said, "No one else wanted to do it. I was like, damn it, let's do it!"

Alex has been a Florida Native Plant Society member for five years, she was working in general horticulture when she saw a tiny little notice in the newspaper for a native plant meetup group, so she joined. She quickly learned about native plant landscaping and soon joined St. Augustine Beach's Beautification Advisory/Tree Board. Three years later she has transitioned three city landscapes from non-native to native and is the Vice-Chair of the Board!

Initially, the leadership at the time put Alex in charge of the Facebook page, which was essential in keeping her engaged in the chapter. Chapters, take note.
Past presidents Michael Bowles and Eric Powell chat in the garden.

I asked her what her chapter's thing was. What are they into?

They got a grant from the Wildflower Foundation and they're using it to create a native garden on a historical site leased to the Council on Aging next to the Council's Memorial Garden. They had to get the city and county and archaeologists to sign off on the garden because it’s on a historic site. They found some tile and nails Alex thought was exciting, but the archaeologists were pretty blase about it. The archaeologists gave them the go-ahead but they couldn’t plant anything with a deep root system. They've had to rebuild after two hurricanes and finally Alex has two regular volunteers to help her with the garden.
Alex Farr, Eric Powell, Michael and the Flagler College volunteers in the garden
The chapter is also big into environmental activism, but they don't toot their own horn in any way. No selfies at commission meetings, no posting of position statements, nothing. It's nice to be so humble but we've gotta work on that.

Alex has a few goals for next year:

Recruit younger members. Raise the profile of the chapter. Have regular meetings again. Get the garden rehabbed. Get involved with elected officials in counties and cities. Have regular plant walks again. Understand what's going on with the mangroves moving in.

I asked her how FNPS has improved her life, but really what's she learned from FNPS has been alternately empowering and annoying.

Alex: "In some ways I have more knowledge but it just causes me to be annoying to my neighbors and people in Home Depot who are planting the wrong thing. I’m really into wildlife and the native plants are important to keep our wildlife going. I have to be patient and realize it takes more time. I guess the thing with the native plant society is learning the ways I can use the knowledge, how to navigate the channels of officials during city and county committees to get something I want to get done. You can’t just sit at home and whine about it."

Check out photos from their latest field trip to Moses Creek Conservation Area on Flickr.

by Valerie Anderson


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