2017 was a banner year for the Reserve in many ways. SHR made its mark by changing the mountain landscape, planting over 900 red spruce trees on public land near Black Balsam with the first ever restoration project for the federally endangered Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel. The organization’s landscape changed in 2017 as well, as we welcomed two new staff members and celebrated the retirement of inaugural Greenhouse Manager, Sue Owen.
Sue began as SHR’s first Greenhouse Manager when SHR opened its doors in 2008. Since then, she has nurtured thousands of native plants that now thrive in the Reserve’s gardens and in backyards across the region. Some native plants Sue has grown at the Reserve are now at the Pisgah Ranger station near highway 276, planted on “Pisgah Pride Day” coordinated by The Pisgah Conservancy. Sue was responsible for growing thousands of red spruce from seed that are now planted on public land through SHR’s red spruce restoration program. Thanks to her efforts, SHR is now regarded for its high-quality red spruce stock and is frequently the source for red spruce purchased by the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife and NC Wildlife Resource Commission for red spruce restoration projects. Sue retired in October to spend more time with her family and canine companions. Before she did so, she spent six months training new Greenhouse Manager Nathan Price on time-honored horticulture and propagation techniques. Thankfully, Sue says hello to her SHR colleagues at The Grill on occasion for lunch.
Stepping into the role of Greenhouse Manager is Nathan Price with over 20 years’ experience in gardening, landscape design and restoration work. Along with his green thumb, Nathan brings a diverse range of experience in landscape design, everything from hardscapes and laying rock work to carving out woodland trails, planting beds and building irrigation systems. Nathan’s previous employers include the NC Arboretum, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota Florida, and The Nature Conservancy. When Nathan worked as a sub-contractor with The Nature Conservancy, he re-established native plants on sites as a part of Florida’s environmentally sensitive lands program. During the time he was in Florida, he also helped manage a 10-acre nursery and worked on a large coastal restoration program. Nathan also brings his knowledge of integrated pest management (IPM) techniques to SHR, as well as his skills in operating heavy machinery when needed. Next time you are on the Reserve, be sure to greet Nathan in our nursery complex.
Also new to the SHR family is April Leasure, who joins the gardening team. April has a Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies from Eckerd College and will be completing a certificate of biodynamic and sustainable beekeeping training in 2018 offered by Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary in Floyd, VA. She is utilizing her knowledge acquired through homesteading on her 3.5-acre home Brevard, which she is revitalizing with native species in addition to keeping bees and tending to her chickens. April was drawn to SHR thanks to her passion for making a positive difference in the ecology of the Pisgah National Forest area and through our red spruce restoration work with the NC Wildlife Resource Commission and the U.S. Forest Service. April is also a licensed massage therapist and esthetician. In her spare time, she enjoys being in the great outdoors, biking and hiking with her family, along with cooking, baking and knitting at home.
Please join us in welcoming our new teammates to the SHR family!