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Meg Southerland

Former Board Member

Meg Southerland grew up on the Mac Clan Farm, a dairy and poultry farm in Salem, NY. She and her siblings worked on the farm in various capacities throughout their school years, so Meg understands very well about the difficulties and the satisfaction of farming. While her brother remained on the farm to work with his father, Meg and her sisters pursued other paths. Meg’s path eventually brought her full circle back to her family farm.

Meg attended Cornell University, where she earned her BS in Plant Science. She spent a year in England working at Kew Gardens, the famous botanic garden in London, and later taught Horticulture in Connecticut. After meeting and marrying her husband, she moved to the Philadelphia area and pursued her Masters in Horticulture and Botanic Garden Management at the University of Delaware in a program sponsored by the world-renowned Longwood Gardens. From there she and her husband, a landscape architect, moved to Kentucky for 10 years.

Back in Salem, life on the farm changed completely with the death of her brother in a tragic accident. Meg’s father felt he could no longer manage the farm, and the future of Mac Clan’s fertile fields was in question. In 1990, Meg and her family returned to Salem to stay, and in 1992 Meg gave her old family farm a new direction when she opened Gardenworks, a retail store and specialty crop farm featuring fresh and dried flowers, plants, and berries. The beautiful main barn is now redolent with the scent of flowers instead of cows, and the greater part of the farm’s rolling fields are rented to a nearby farmer for feed and forage crops. Through Gardenworks, Meg is actively working to forge closer relationships between farmers and the community at large. She promotes many local products at her retail location, and holds events to introduce featured farmers to the public. At these events, chefs are on hand to demonstrate how to turn the farmers’ products into “good eating” that everyone can enjoy.

When Meg Southerland was asked to join the Board of ASA in 2003, she agreed right away. As someone who had been “away and back” she has seen the gradual changes in our towns and understands the urgent need for farmland conservation. “Fertile farmland is a tremendous asset for our county and we need to take steps to protect it,” Meg commented. “Local governments often cannot respond quickly enough to development threats, with the result that farmland can be lost to haphazard growth.” She worries especially about the fertile farmland along some of our bigger roads, which is vulnerable to both commercial and residential development pressure.

Meg believes that ASA provides important leadership in keeping this issue in the public eye as well as in the actual permanent protection of farmland. “ASA has been successful at communicating with the farming community as to why conservation easements are a good long term decision. It is a sensitive subject, since farmers don’t like anyone meddling with their rights.” With her background in both traditional and nontraditional farming, Meg’s perspective has been a valued addition to ASA’s Board for the six years of her service. We are grateful to Meg Southerland for her contributions to ASA and to our community.

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