Kathleen Lackey is a garden manager for Planters Inc., an end-to-end landscape architecture and garden design firm. She enrolled in the Sustainable Development (BS) - Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture at Appalachian State University after earning a AAS degree in Horticulture at Wilkes Community College.
What do you do as garden manager for Planters?
I manage the Garden Maintenance Division at Planters’ Highlands, North Carolina, field office. I manage a team of gardeners and work in the field with them at the North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina mountain and lake estate gardens that Planters has designed and installed. I also consult with clients as well as assess and order plant material for the gardens.
I also manage a community garden which supplies fresh, organic produce to the community and teach sustainable agricultural practices to those who work in the garden.
What do you love best about the work you do?
I enjoy working with my team in the beautiful gardens. We regularly work in rugged locations with difficult working conditions, but when the weather is good, the vistas are breathtakingly beautiful!
I also enjoy being in a position to implement safer, more sustainable practices in growing/fertilizing methods as well as sustainable management of pests and diseases, which is making a positive difference benefitting both the employees of Planters and the clients that we serve.
What aspects of your Appalachian education best prepared you for your career?
My Appalachian Sustainable Development education prepared me to be a catalyst for positive change. My Appalachian education also helped me to become a better communicator, critical thinker and problem solver – all of which I have utilized in my management position.
Why did you choose Appalachian as a prospective student?
I chose Appalachian for their outstanding Sustainable Development program and specifically the Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture concentration. I believe it is the finest sustainable development program in the USA!
Describe your relationship with faculty - what were their classes like, how did faculty advise you and otherwise support you in your studies?
I had a wonderfully positive relationship with the faculty at Appalachian. As a non-traditional student, I received great support and encouragement in my unique set of circumstances and challenges. My advisor, professors and instructors – specifically all of the Sustainable Development faculty – were what made my college career at Appalachian truly amazing and life-changing!
Why should today’s students interested in your field choose Appalachian, as opposed to another college or university?
As stated earlier, I believe that Appalachian’s Sustainable Development program is the finest SD program in the US. Any student interested in pursuing a career where they want to make a positive difference in the area of sustainable development will receive the best possible education and preparation for a career which involves sustainable initiatives.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about this degree program or your Appalachian experience in general?
In reference to the Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture concentration: America needs more farmers! The average age of farmers in the U.S. is 60+ years of age and less than 1 percent of the U.S. workforce are farmers. Who is going to grow our food and teach others how to grow food in a healthy and sustainable manner? America needs articulate, well-educated farmers/entrepreneurs/innovators that can make a positive difference in America’s ailing agriculture, especially at the legislative level. I would encourage any prospective student who is concerned about the precarious state of our food supply to seriously consider studies at Appalachian in Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture.