It’s simple really. Mary Jane Clark adores plants – any and all plants. Indeed, she cannot remember a time she was not passionate about plants.
“They’re just so beautiful and majestic … they make the world such a lovely place to be,” enthuses the Niagara College (NC) horticulture professor.
Besides teaching first- and second-year Greenhouse, Horticulture, and Landscape Technician students, Clark’s curious nature has also led to her interest for applied plant research and work with the Agriculture & Environment Innovation Centre team at the College.
Her most recent work with the team includes a collaboration between industry partner Gro-Bark, one of Ontario’s major organic horticultural supply companies, and her Greenhouse Production Science I class. Students completed valuable research with an organic substrate for the company, enabling Gro-Bark to move closer to its goal of getting the product to market.
“We’re pairing this research project with learning the theory in class,” explains Clark. “The students first learn the theory behind greenhouse growing and then put it into practice growing the plants themselves. That combination makes for a great student learning experience.”
Clark holds a Master of Science in Plant Agriculture (2009) and a Bachelor of Science, Plant Biology (Honours 2005) from the University of Guelph. Prior to her arrival at NC, Clark was involved with horticulture research at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.
She never really veers far from her roots, growing up on a farm near Blenheim, Ont. When asked about her role here at NC she simply states: “It’s a privilege to teach and inspire the next generation.”
When she’s not at the College, or volunteering for local community garden groups, she can be found tending to the 100 or so different plants found in her St. Catharines garden. That number didn’t take long to grow, given that she hosts upwards of 30 varieties of vegetables – and that includes during the winter, in her cold-frame outdoor garden.