Amy Dooley has been at her new job for less than 30 days but she already sees the infinite possibilities.
Dooley was named the program director at Jefferson Farm and Garden July 20. She brings abundant experience to the position.
“It is a very exciting time for Jefferson Farm and Garden as we begin the development process,” Dooley said. “We are dedicated to sharing the story of agriculture and demonstrating contemporary Midwest farming, gardening and conservation.”
All of Dooley’s previous work experiences made her a perfect fit for the director role.
She spent time in Spain, Japan, China and England developing and running youth programs directed toward children who lived on military bases or at embassies. Dooley then took a job at the Memphis Zoo in the education department.
“At the zoo, I had to figure out a way to show the community all of the research that was being conducted at the zoo,” she said. “The research was very technical and it was tough to understand. My job was to connect the visitors with that research.”
Dooley’s next two experiences are in the same mold of Jefferson Farm and Garden. Dooley served as the director of conservation education for the American National Fish and Wildlife Museum. The museum was a brand new facility where nothing was developed. She had to build programs and relationships from scratch. Dooley did the same type of project for the Springfield-Greene County Park Board. She developed a 207-acre farm park for the board.
“I did a little bit of everything there,” Dooley said. “I developed education programs for learners of all ages, established an integrated volunteer program, oversaw land management decisions and natural resource programs and brought in livestock, among many other things.”
Dooley will have a similar role with Jefferson Farm and Garden. She will be in charge of developing educational programs for the community – whether that be elementary students or senior citizen groups.
“We want this to be an educational farm,” Dooley said. “We want it to be a working farm. It’s going to be productive. There are several opportunities here.
“This isn’t going to be a place just to look at stuff. I want the community to be actively involved. I want them to have things to do.”
Jefferson Farm and Garden is a 67-acre working, educational farm designed to engage the community in authentic farm experiences. Visitors will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of educational programs, community events and demonstrations.
Jefferson originally opened in 2006.
“The really great thing about this farm is that we have great resources,” Dooley said.
Dooley and Farm Manager Leslie Touzeau are currently developing the vision for Jefferson.
“There is a foundation,” Dooley said. “We’re not starting completely from scratch. We do have limited staff and limited resources, however, the land provides a lot of opportunities already. The seven-acre pond is phenomenal. The native tree grove and wetland area has great educational potential. We have a native wildflower meadow that will be developed into a Monarch waystation, too.
“We’re going to enhance what we have here before we build and grow and add to that.”
Jefferson Farm and Garden is home to traditional vegetables, along with unique varieties. It will feature a fruit tree orchard, a diverse selection of flowers and several Missouri crops. Jefferson also has two productive beehives.
“Bees aren’t the only important helpers in our gardens,” Touzeau said. “Students participating in Tigers for Community Agriculture are a key element in our vegetable growing project.”
TCA motivates students to grow produce in a way that is good for the environment. They use compost from the MU dining facilities to grow produce that is then sold back to the dining facilities, as well as donated to Mizzou Tiger Pantry.
Touzeau started with Jefferson in mid-February. She previously worked as a research specialist at the Bradford Research Center, along with working with the TCA.
“It’s very exciting to see all of the possibilities at Jefferson Farm and Garden,” Touzeau said. “I’m looking forward to working with Amy to develop ideas and educational programs for Jefferson.”
Dooley said they would reach out to the other Research Centers spread throughout Missouri for ideas. They would also like to build a strong relationship with the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
“One of things I am most looking forward to is working with the faculty, staff and students in CAFNR,” Dooley said. “CAFNR represents the best and brightest in the field, and we hope to have the opportunity to partner with others in the department on many different projects.”
Individuals can get a glimpse of Jefferson Farm and Garden during the South Farm Showcase Saturday, Sept. 26.
“I am excited about the opportunities to engage and educate the public about food and agriculture that the programs at Jefferson Farm and Garden will provide,” said Marc Linit, senior associate director, MU Agricultural Experiment Stations.
Dooley was born and raised in Iowa. She received her undergraduate degree in history, American government and geography from the University of Northern Iowa. She earned her master’s in educational administration from Lindenwood University and is currently working on her doctorate at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.