USU Extension Professors Make a Green Impact with Gardens and Guides

As more and more people move to urban centers, there is an increasing need to create environmental spaces that focus not only on the wellness benefits of spending time in nature, but also encompass research, conservation and outreach goals.

That was the vision Jerry Goodspeed and JayDee Gunnell had for the Utah State University Botanical Center. Goodspeed, the director of the USU Botanical Center and Extension professor, and Gunnell, horticulture specialist and Extension professor, led much of the work that has gone into the gardens since they moved to their Kaysville location in 2008.

Goodspeed and Gunnell, while speaking to colleagues and friends gathered to hear their inaugural lecture as new full professors, detailed the expansion and development of the USU Botanical Center over the past decade. 

The gardens have grown to include a demonstration orchard, an edible garden, biking and walking trails, an arboretum, a seasonal farmers market, a full schedule of classes and workshops and more.

“I believe we, as a society, need to be more connected to the environment around us,” Goodspeed said. “I am convinced that the more we, and especially our youth, experience nature firsthand, the more we appreciate those limited resources and the more importance we will place on conserving them. I believe our botanical gardens are the best place to feel, smell, see, hear and experience the joys and importance of staying connected to nature.”

Goodspeed and Gunnell’s dedication to plant education extends beyond the gardens. They are also passionate about developing resources for at-home gardeners and hiking enthusiasts.

“With home gardening being one of the top three hobbies in America, there is a lot of misinformation out there,” Gunnell said. “It is important to be able to offer non-biased, researched-based horticulture knowledge to the public.”

One such resource, Wildflowers of the Mountain West, is a wildly popular field guide that has helped over 4,000 people identify flowers they have come across while exploring the Western United States. Goodspeed, Gunnell and a colleague spent 3 years researching, and they travelled thousands of miles across nine Western states to document hundreds of plants in order to fully flesh out the field guide. Their commitment to educational outreach has been a hallmark of their careers.

With a combined total of over 45 years working in USU Extension, Goodspeed and Gunnell continue to make a green impact on the entire state of Utah.