Gary Conley recently joined Rural Action as the Native Plant Nursery Manager. As the manager of the newest social enterprise at Rural Action, Gary comes to the organization as a professional landscape ecologist with 20 years of technical and analytical expertise in ecological management and research projects.
After finishing his undergraduate degree in ecology and botany at Ohio University in 2003, he went on to receive his Master’s of Science in Geography in 2009 and says that his work in botany and ecology was ultimately sparked by one thing – the successional resilience of many unreclaimed strip mines in Noble County, Ohio.
Gary began working at Ohio University as a research supervisor at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service, supervising and coordinating projects relating to air and water quality and other ecological research topics. While working in restoration at the university, Gary noticed that he wasn’t able to get the kind of native plants that he was looking for to aid his restoration work.
So what did Gary do? He began growing the plants himself. He began collecting the seeds of a variety of native plants locally, and then, Gary says, “I just threw them in my garden and gave it a chance. To my surprise, it was a huge success!”
In 2014, Gary launched his business, GreenReach LLC. He left his 12-year position at Ohio University, and in 2017, Gary opened his native plant nursery. Gary says that although it’s been a success, the collaboration with Rural Action is necessary to meet the growing demand for native plants.
“The restoration needs we have today are bigger than just me and what any one person can do on their own. Working with Rural Action will allow us to provide greater access to the proper restoration resources where we need them most,” Gary says. “We can only do better with what we have. We need to take a step back and figure out what we have, what needs to be redeveloped, and where to go from here.”