PLATTSBURGH – Derek Rogers and his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughters, Phoebe and Zoe, make their best lives on Willsboro Point.
The couple met at SUNY Plattsburgh, where he majored in environmental science and graduated in 2005.
Elizabeth is from here, and Derek is from Long Island, where he worked as Nature Conservancy preserves director before relocating back here.
“One of my biggest hobbies is birds and birding,” Derek said.
“I volunteer for high level ornithological positions. But what is really interesting to me is a term called birdscaping. So, planting bird friendly and native friendly plants on your property so you promote bird activity and pollinator activity by choosing certain plants.”
That has been his primary interest as a conservationist, who has worked on grassland restoration and similar projects.
“Those conservation projects can easily transfer to your own backyard,” he said.
These days, his gardening activity is framed by how busy he is with his kids.
“I would like to enhance this little small scale hummingbird garden that I have,” Derek said.
“I also took like a small, slightly over a quarter of acre plot that I enhanced with native grassland species, native wildflower species.
“This will be the second year I have that, so I will be doing some invasive removal. Making sure that is tidy and how I wanted to be. I hope to document more birds on my property.”
So far, Derek has seen110 bird species on his property.
“It's always fun when you garden and you plant natives and you notice that the birds are favoring those areas,” he said.
“It's a clear correlation to the benefits of planting natives when you see actually wildlife using those areas.”
Derek is pretty well known throughout the birding scene in New York State and in summer 2020, he did a Zoom birding presentation with the Adirondack Garden Club.
“And the members really, really loved it,” he said.
“After that I attended a few gatherings outdoors. COVID was a limitation, so we had to have really safe outdoor events. I got to sort of get to know some of the club members that way.”
At the club's annual meeting in May, Derek will be formally accepted into the club as the first male member in its 93-year history.
“While there is not a rule preventing a man from joining,” Jennifer Lagor, club president, said in a release, “the situation had never presented itself until now. We're thrilled Derek will join us and know his expertise will be an asset to the club.”
Founded in 1928, the Adirondack Garden Club's mission is to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening, to aid in the protection of native plants and birds, and to encourage civic planting, and the conservation of natural resources.
Its purpose is the conservation of the plants, shrubs and trees native to the Adirondack region, and the making of both wild and cultivated gardens characteristic of the environment in which they are placed, the furthering of the cultivation of gardens throughout the Adirondack area, and the promotion of civic conservation and beautification.
Linda Flynn was the member who sponsored Derek for membership.
“I became acquainted with Derek over two and a half years ago when I first met him in his role as development director of Champlain Area Trails, one of the many local organizations our garden club works with and on which our members have served as directors,” she said.
“Because he is an avid ornithologist, I suggested he present a lecture to our garden club on Adirondack Birds, which he did last July. His presentation was so well received that he will conduct a bird walk later this year for our members. With his interest in gardening and connecting people with nature, he fits right in with our membership.”
“They are really great people,” Derek said.
“I'm so excited to learn from all of them. Just in speaking with them, I can already see the wealth of combined knowledge that's going to help me throughout my life in terms of gardening and learning more about plants.
“And I hope that my passion for birds and plants and native plants and birdscaping also can help some of the club members, too, as they plan in the future modifications or additions to their gardens and backyards.”
In addition to Derek , the AGC's 2021 class of new members includes Nancy Budd who brings another interesting angle to the well-established group, according to a press release.
Nancy is professor emeritus in the Department of Earth and Environmental Studies at the University of Iowa.
As a paleontologist, her expertise is in coral reefs and their evolution over the past 60 million years. Professor Budd now makes her home in Essex and also presented to the club on the Essex Quarry Nature Park that features 400 million-year-old fossils, part of an ancient coral reef, as well as a type of forest considered globally rare and an historic stone quarry.
Current AGC members hail from all around the North Country's Clinton, Essex, and Franklin counties, covering a geographical area stretching from the shores of Lake Champlain westward beyond Lake Placid and Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake, an astonishing 1,824 square miles and two separate USDA climate zones.
“When I found out that I was the first male to join the club in 93 years, I thought well it's interesting because I have so many friends that are men who love gardening and birdscaping,” Derek said.
“I don't think it was by design that there were no men in it. I just think it's some anomaly I guess for some reason.
“It was surprising to me, but I really see myself as just another person who is passionate about outdoors and nature, and plants and animals. I don't look at as me being the first male. I just look at myself as being another interested human that wants to do good things for nature in the Adirondacks.”
To learn more about membership in the Adirondack Garden Club, please visit the club's website adirondackgardenclub.com.
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