For the past nine years Tammy Cole has ranked as one of the Northern Neck’s greatest resources in the field of horticulture, landscaping and plant sciences.
In her role as the horticulture and landscaping teacher at the Northern Neck Technical Center in Warsaw, she has mentored many students, introducing them to the excitement of seeing how plants grow, all of which comes quite naturally to Tammy, who is both a born teacher and a born plant enthusiast.
Tammy is a native of Southwest Virginia, where her mother still lives on their family farm, and a graduate of Virginia Tech, where she naturally majored in horticulture, and followed her undergraduate studies with graduate work in the field. Quite simply, she understands plants and how to grow them, and is gifted in imparting that knowledge to her students, as well as to the public.
The students are able in turn to demonstrate their learning to the many patrons who each year await the opening of Tammy’s spring plant sale at the center. There, under a large hoop greenhouse, Tammy and her students offer a spectacular array of vegetables, flowers, shrubs and some ornamental trees, in many cases ones that her classes have grown from seed. She and the students are available to answer gardening questions and to make helpful suggestions. Some years she presents a fall plant sale as well.
Tammy enthusiastically carries the mission of the center to the public, telling the community of the programs offered and presenting firsthand the progress her students make, whether towards careers in horticulture or simply in putting their knowledge to good use in their own backyards.
In January, she addressed the Northern Neck Master Gardeners, explaining the multi-faceted offerings available at the center, from the STEM academy to the various fields such as mechanics, culinary arts, and, of course, horticulture and landscaping, among others. In all that she does, she is one of the center’s ambassadors to the Northern Neck and Essex County, and as a resource, she happily answers questions and makes suggestions to anyone who stops at her greenhouse.
Her work is an essential part of the Governor’s STEM Academy for Agricultural and Maritime Studies. That program provides interested students with excellent college-preparatory courses affording a foundation upon which they can build after matriculating at a community or four-year college. The focus is on those areas important to the lifeblood of the Northern Neck, engendering the hope that the students who pursue that path one day will come back here to live and work.
As landscaping has become an increasingly popular interest among local residents, Tammy’s courses are producing an informed future workforce for those students who are entering the field.
Here in the Northern Neck, we are coming to rival our English forebearers, in whose country today gardening is the national pastime. Particularly, as greater attention is being paid to developing pollinator-friendly plantings in an effort to halt the critical deterioration and destruction of the essential habitat for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, these courses are invaluable.
To use an appropriate metaphor, Tammy has been a wonderful transplant for the Northern Neck, bringing to our benefit her own agricultural background in Southwest Virginia, her outstanding educational credentials, and her profound dedication to the welfare of her students and the betterment of the Northern Neck. This year’s plant sale is finished, but her untiring efforts continue for her students and for us all.
Allow me to express my apology for misspelling Lewis Shelton’s name in last week’s “Excerpts.” Had he seen the copy, I am sure Henry the Gander would have honked me the correction.