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Five questions with: Brian Trader, CEO and president, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has new hands in the dirt, metaphorically speaking. As of the first of this year, Brian Trader assumed the position of president and CEO of the Garden after a 10-month search.

Trader served as deputy executive director and director of horticulture at the Delaware Botanic Gardens where he managed one of America’s newest public gardens. But this move returns him to his Virginia roots. Trader grew up on the Eastern Shore and earned degrees from Virginia Tech.

We were very excited to catch up with Trader, and we can’t wait to see him blossom in his new role.

Pictured: Brian Trader. Courtesy of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

What is Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s core mission? 

The mission of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is connecting people through plants to improve communities. We believe that immersion in nature and gardens restores the soul and strengthens the bond with the natural world. This past year has shown us all the importance of connections. The Garden fulfills a critical need as “common ground” to restore the soul and as a place to grow and learn.

What problem or issue does Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden address in our community?

Using our botanical collections and our beautifully designed gardens, we enrich our community through horticultural and educational excellence while providing innovative outreach activities.

We as a society have become removed from the outdoors. The Garden invites people to rediscover the joys and the lessons of the natural world—that wonderful feeling of being alive and part of something larger. This interconnectedness mindset also inspires us to serve.

What don’t most people realize or understand?

We are a cultural nonprofit and while we do charge for admission, we are here to serve our community and offer inspiration. Botanical gardens are for everyone. They can be enjoyed on many levels and by all ages. If someone reading this hasn’t visited before, we extend a warm invitation to check us out.

There’s also so much that goes on “behind-the-scenes.” For instance, people may not realize we welcome thousands of schoolchildren each year. When schools went virtual, we were able to innovate and provide those field trips in a virtual format as well.  

We are a young garden (compared to most U.S. public gardens) and we are still evolving to meet the needs of our community.


What kind of work do volunteers do to help Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden?

Our volunteers are the life blood of our organization. We are thankful for the hundreds of passionate, dedicated and creative volunteers who donate their time generously. Volunteers help us tend our gardens, engage our guests and design our exhibitions. Without our volunteers helping in every department of the organization (we even have volunteer carpenters), we wouldn’t be able to achieve our mission. If you’ve visited our annual Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights, you’ve experienced first-hand some of the outstanding work of our volunteers. 

If $100,000 fell from the sky tomorrow, how would you spend it?

This would be a lot of money for our organization in a very challenging year. I would use some of the money to invest in our incredibly talented staff for their professional development, use some for deferred maintenance projects and use the remaining for outreach programs like our Kroger Community Kitchen Garden.

Just like the natural world, botanical gardens are evolving. We have a responsibility to listen carefully in order to be relevant and use our strengths to best serve this community.

To learn more about Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, visit its website, or follow it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  You can also donate directly to the organization here.

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