Interview with Molly Beth Gaynier – Conducted by Tori Hunter on October 22, 2017.
Who are you and what is your occupation?
I am an assistant grower at Metrolina Greenhouse in Charlotte, North Caroline.
Alright so as an assistant grower, what is your relationship to plants?
Well basically, an assistant grower, all they care about is irrigation. That’s all they have to do. They just have to check the plants. You know, punch in the little watering for the day, and later check the plants.
Before you worked at Metrolina, where did you go to school and where did you work?
I went to the University of Georgia and I studied horticulture. I worked at the Athens Botanical Gardens where I was an assistant curator for the International garden. For a few months I worked in the conservation department as an intern. I worked at the Georgia Foragers Seed Lab as a green house assistant I was an intern at the organic farm with the University.
Would you mind telling me how you have helped protect endangered plants?
When I was an intern at the botanical gardens and worked with the conservation department, there was a plant that was really rare and we were clearing out land for this plant because it likes and relies on forest ground. It relies on forest fires to clear out an area for it to grow. Now there aren’t as many forest fires because everything is so regulated in this area. So we were clearing land for this plant by hand.
I also went to Rockin’ Shoals Outcrop and cleared out native grasses because they were taking over space that could be used for a certain type of rare moss.
What are some steps that an average person can take to help protect endangered vegetation?
I would encourage them to go to their local botanical garden and ask and talk to the people who work there. Go out and seek education that is readily available. There’s all kinds of information out there if you look for it. You can look up what kinds of wild flowers are good for your area and plant them in your yard.
What kind of contrast do you see between botanists who are concerned with protecting endangered species and botanists concerned with mass protection of plants?
There’s a huge difference. At Metrolina, we are not growing native plants. We are growing plants that people want to buy. We are trying to grow as many as fast, efficient, and cheap as we can. We want a good product too. The absolute best, but it is also a time crunch. So we used a lot of chemicals. We spray them with growth regulators. We fumigate the building and kill all the little bugs. It’s not good for the bugs outside of the greenhouse, like the pollinators and bees. I don’t know all of the technicalities, but they’re dangerous. It’s just about money. It’s about producing plants. So it makes sense as a business, but if you’re talking about conservation, the approach is completely different.
Do the chemicals that you use do anything to change the integrity of the plants?
Yes, because otherwise we wouldn’t use them. We spray growth regulators on a plant that is too tall, because we are trying to stop its growth because no one will want to buy it.
With your specific area of poinsettias, do you think the mass production of that plant has negatively effected the environment?
Yes, but I can’t give specifics. I just know that it’s not sustainable. It’s not good for the environment, because while it’s done in a controlled environment, the chemicals are released into the air and eventually make it outside into the environment. People in general are just awful.
Do you think that the mass production of plants is necessary?
I think for food, absolutely. For ornamental plants, it kind of is. It provides people with jobs and people want the plants. It is necessary, but I think that it could be done smarter.
Do you think that it’s wrong?
I think a lot of people don’t have their priorities right. I think there’s a lot of grey. People view it as a job and money. I don’t think they really think how they could help the environment and make less of an impact. I just think people really think about that. It’s just very, where are your priorities?
If you were in charge of your greenhouse, how do you feel that you could mass produce plants without using harmful chemicals?
I think first, I would look into what I am spraying. I do know vaguely the chemicals, but I truly don’t know what they do. I just know it’s dangerous. I think I would educate myself better. Maybe go back to school and learn more about alternatives, and chemicals.