Celebrating Our First Decade

Grow Native was founded by Claudia Thompson in 2010, and our community-oriented programs reflect our grassroots origins. We began very simply as a group of neighbors caring about the stewardship of our gardens, and their collective potential to improve the health of our common ecosystem. We exchanged ideas over potluck dinners, started neighborhood workshops and built a website full of resources available to all. Although our first roots were local to Cambridge, we incorporated as Grow Native Massachusetts— knowing that community-based advocacy for native plant landscapes was equally important in cities and towns across the Commonwealth.

We have built our programs on an "open source" model— believing that knowledge must be shared freely so that we can 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. In that spirit, we launched our now widely respected Evenings with Experts public lecture series in our very first year. This and our other programs have grown significantly since— all promoting community engagement at a local level and helping people take meaningful action on landscapes both small and large, public and private.

We produced this documentary to celebrate our first decade and the growing community of people dedicated to our mission.

  • Growing Through the Early Years

    For our first four years we operated as a completely volunteer organization, running a variety of programs with our member-volunteer base. Evenings with Experts— bringing expert knowledge of ecology, botany, and natural history to both serious gardeners and landscape professionals— quickly became widely appreciated and respected throughout Massachusetts and beyond. Claudia 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.

    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 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, but later converted to a mowed field that has become overgrown with invasives all around the edges. 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.

    We have grown steadily over our first decade— assembling a talented board and small staff. We are a community of people unified by our mission and committed to the importance of individual action. Remarkably, Claudia's work to lead Grow Native over those ten years, developing its programs and operations in the capacity both as President and our lead staff person, was contributed as a full-time volunteer. So we truly get the value of leveraging a large volunteer base to accomplish our goals and we deliver a tremendous amount of programming for an organization of our size. In November 2020, we gathered together to celebrate our first decade, and to honor Claudia as she became President Emerita and passed the baton of leadership to our current President, Mark Smith.

    Today, with the continued loss of biodiversity and increasing effects of climate change, our mission is more important than ever. Thank you for joining with us. We look forward to all that we will accomplish together in the coming years.

    Notable & Fun Facts

    • At our annual Native Plant Sale we now sell over 100 different species and more than 4,000 plants each year. Since starting our sale in 2011, we have supplied over 22,000 native plants to our members and the public.
    • Our Evenings with Experts lectures through 2021 have reached an audience of approximately 20,000— 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 1,000 members. The majority live in Massachusetts and hail from 208 of the Commonwealth's 351 cities and towns. And we have supporters residing in 14 other states as well.