Our History

Grow Native Massachusetts was founded by Claudia Thompson in 2010, and our community-oriented programs reflect our grassroots origins and commitment to action at a local level. With a passion for our mission and deep nonprofit experience, Claudia worked tirelessly with our growing board and member-volunteers to develop our programs and operations, generously working pro bono for a full decade as our first President and chief executive.

From our earliest years, we recognized the important role that all of us have in land stewardship— as home gardeners, as professionals in the landscape industry, and as citizens who shape our communities through advocacy and action. We built our program model on an "open source" philosophy— believing that knowledge must be shared freely so that we all become more ecologically aware, and understanding that we need to continually engage many more people in our mission if we are to successfully change land stewardship norms.

With this framework, we launched our now widely respected Evenings with Experts public lecture series in our very first year. This and many our other programs have grown significantly since their start — all promoting community engagement and helping people take meaningful action on landscapes both small and large, public and private.

Celebrating Our First Decade— This documentary celebrates our first ten years, and our growing community.

  • Growing Through the Early Years

    For our first four years we operated as a completely volunteer organization. Evenings with Experts quickly became widely appreciated and respected throughout Massachusetts and beyond. Claudia worked with a local middle school, helping teachers build a STEM curriculum for 7th graders focused on biodiversity and the creation of a native plant garden. She began traveling across the state, giving many talks and workshops about the ecological importance of native plants, to build greater citizen engagement in the issue. Locally, we started other workshops focused on invasive plant removal, native plants, and landscapes as ecological systems. Our informative website has been a much appreciated educational resource since our earliest days.

    In 2014, we took an office at the former University of Massachusetts Field Station in Waltham and hired our first paid staff person. Our Festival Floralia was re-invented as a straight-up Native Plant Sale, and it is now one of the biggest such sales in New England. We began development of a native plant demonstration garden at the Field Station’s horticultural site, once home to traditional perennial gardens. We continued our Workshops and added Field Walks. In 2019, we created this newly redesigned website, reaffirming our commitment to provide valuable resources that are freely available to all.

    Our first decade has been marked by the steady addition of programs now managed by a small paid staff. Yet our large volunteer base continues to be as important as ever, and we deliver a tremendous amount of programming for an organization of our size. In November 2020, we gathered together to celebrate, and to honor Claudia as she retired from the board and passed the baton of leadership to our current President, Mark Smith.

    The challenges of the covid pandemic have, of course, affected us all. On a positive note, it has stimulated increased interest in gardening and stewardship, and vividly reminded us of the critical importance of healthy open space at the most local level. In 2022, we hired our first paid Executive Director. Today, with the continued biodiversity crisis and increasing effects of climate change, our mission is more important than ever. Thank you for joining with us. Together, we will continue to accomplish ever more in the coming years.

    Notable & Fun Facts

    • At our annual Native Plant Sale we now sell nearly 150 different species and more than 5,000 plants each year. Since starting our sale in 2011, we have supplied over 33,000 native plants to our members and the public.
    • Our Evenings with Experts lectures through 2023 have reached an audience of approximately 25,000— approximately one-half attending the lectures themselves and one-half viewing the Experts Videos on our website.
    • Our Website is used by well over 50,000 people each year. More than two-thirds of our users reside in Massachusetts and 80% live in the northeast (the six New England states and New York State).
    • We currently have over 1,200 members. The majority live in Massachusetts and hail from 220 of the Commonwealth's 351 cities and towns. And we have supporters residing in 14 other states as well.