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Growing gardeners

Not-for-profit’s new leader sees partnerships as its path to the future

You may not be familiar with the Rochester Civic Garden Center. Living here, however, chances are you’ve traipsed through Highland Park, and happened upon the Warner Castle and the sunken garden out back. Chances are you’ve also been impacted, directly or otherwise, by the RCGC’s classes, lectures, or volunteer projects. 

I spoke recently with Carrie Remis, the decorated new executive director of the RCGC. With a hefty professional background in education, government, and the nonprofit sector, she has promising plans for the organization. Remis believes that cooperation between the nonprofit and government sectors is a powerful tool. “I’m hopeful we can partner with the county and city,” she says, “in building support for our parks and public gardens.” She wants to establish a relationship not only between the RCGC and local government, but also other local gardens. “We can work with other organizations already in the urban agriculture and healthy/clean living space, lending our horticulture expertise, library of resources, and an army of volunteers,” she says. 

This wide-scale endeavor isn’t possible without reaching out to more diverse sets of people. Remis plans to touch more lives by enhancing and modernizing RCGC’s communications system. She sees appealing to younger members of society—especially millennials—as a priority. “How they’re consuming information is very different from how a retiree might,” she says, adding, “We need to adapt to changing times.” 

With all of the changes Remis sees for the future, she’s very proud of what the RCGC stands for and has always been. “I’m a real advocate for the concept of citizen scientists,” she says, explaining that conservation groups she’s worked with in the past have used this model. “The idea is that you’re empowering laypeople with evidence-based practices. So maybe it’s teaching backyard gardeners that they’re part of a bigger ecosystem, and that working collectively we can create corridors for pollinators or reduce invasive species. Just this idea of coming into collective action.”  

Remis has one ultimate goal: to bring nature to more people. Whether it’s through supporting other parks, training professionals, or empowering average gardeners, she’ll make sure the Rochester Civic Garden Center continues to help make Rochester a better and more sustainable city. 


John Ernst is a passionate writer, hiker, and gamer born and raised in Rochester. He is currently developing his website,

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