A Look Back - Reflections by Tom Holm
Tom Holm, Greenhouse Manager
Back in January 2019, when I announced my intent to retire and agreed to continue to grow the crop in the greenhouse, May seemed a long way off. However, it has also given me a chance to reflect back on all the changes in the Horticulture program since I arrived in January of 2005.
In order for the program to continue to grow, we needed more space, and during the winter of 2006, the new greenhouse was built with lots of help from Joel Ekberg and the farm crew. When I arrived, everything beyond what we now call the expansion area was a corn field and machinery parking. Now, it is home to the family gardens, a gazebo built by the inmates from the Appleton prison, the azalea planting, and so much more. We also now have the Wes Gray garden, the meditation garden, and the Ken Anderson shade garden and structures. The overlook structure and pathways were created with lots of hard work and now are surrounded by native plantings.
We have also added or redone the irrigation systems. Our visitors have a very nice trail system with gravel walkways to be able to enjoy the gardens, and we added mosquito magnets to try to keep the gardens enjoyable to visit. The water garden was redone last year with lots of hard work by Landscape Gardener, Rob Yost. We have added a quilt garden, and the rose garden was replaced.
Shortly after I started, I advocated for the gardens to become an All-America Selections (AAS) Trial Ground site in addition to an AAS Display Garden, and that has now happened. On the other side of the road, the Backpack Shack, FFA garden, and a shade structure were all added to enhance the Children’s Garden. The vegetable garden area was redone and the tepee area is in the process of being upgraded.
Several years ago, the furnace boiler in the old greenhouse and head house blew out. As a result, the entire building was cleaned, painted, and organized. The old greenhouse was remodeled with a new heating system and installed with bench modifications, a new covering, and computer heat and cooling controls added.
The high tunnel was constructed, and many more research projects are being done now. All of this was accomplished with the same number of employees in the horticulture program. This brings me to one of the most satisfying areas of my job – the growth in the volunteer program. When I arrived, we probably had about ten active volunteers, and that program has quadrupled. We have a great group of people who have helped the gardens grow and keep them looking beautiful.
As you can see, it has been a busy and productive 14 years!
Tom retired from the WCROC on May 1, 2019. We wish him well in his retirement!