Lindsey Kerr

Lindsey Kerr, garden manager and curator at Lord & Schryver Conservancy in Salem, Ore. and Caleb Melchoir, a landscape designer at P. Allen Smith & Associates in Little Rock, Ark. have been named the first recipients of the Emergent Honors.

‘Emergent Honors’ are a unique award celebrating green industry professionals under 35 years of age. The winners were selected through a Facebook algorithm that rewards interaction within the Emergent Facebook group.

Brienne Gluvna Arthur, one of the founders of the group, says it’s fitting that the award uses technology as its basis. The 2017 Emergent Honors recipients stood out with their interest, communications and interaction within the Facebook group. Kerr and Melchoir will receive an all-expense paid trip to AmericanHort events in July 2017 including Career Up and Cultivate ‘17, thanks to sponsors Bailey Nurseries, Cavano’s Perennials and Garden Media Group, as well as a $250 cash prize.

Kerr has had a passion for historic preservation ever since she read an article about a woman who restored a historic garden. It seemed like a perfect combination of her love of history and horticulture.

“I saw that and said, ‘This is what I want to do,’” she says. “I want to do the historic research, look at journals, pictures, newspaper articles about a garden and I want to be the person who is restoring the garden, putting the plants in the ground and taking care of them.”

After a stint as an estate horticulturist in Connecticut, she moved cross-country to Salem, Ore. Now she is responsible for rehabilitating and maintaining the historic gardens at Gaiety Hollow, Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver’s home, garden, and studio.

Kerr often poses questions to the Emergent group as a way to crowd-source information. For example, a recent post about garden standards, and the level of care that is acceptable for a public garden spurred a lively conversation. The diverse perspectives of an international community of peers is tremendously valuable.

“I want their feedback,” she says. “I’ve tried emailing people, but I don’t get the same response. And it takes a lot more time to send individual emails. When I post on Emergent, I can often get 20 people immediately responding.”

Kerr also doesn’t mind jumping in when someone else asks a question, if she thinks she can help. It’s not all serious business, either. Silly posts like ‘What should be your real job title?’ and responses like ‘Hose Wrangler’ add levity to the group and engage Emergents who like their social networking to be a fun escape.

Melchoir, 26, joined the group shortly after its founding in 2012.

Caleb Melchoir

“The original group was about 40 people,” he says. “It was a little club, and now it’s grown to be this amazing networking thing with thousands of people across the U.S. and internationally. It’s been fantastic to be involved, especially as somebody who’s grown up and worked in more rural areas or areas without a large horticultural community. Emergent has been a great opportunity to be able to engage in conversations with people from around the country.”

The ability to tap into that 3,000 member network is a huge benefit when planning travel, Melchoir says. Whenever he plans a trip to a new city, he reaches out to Emergent friends, who are happy to give him the inside scoop on what to do, what to see, and where the best gardens are. The experiences are usually chronicled on his blog (www.calebmelchoir.com) and on Instagram (the_curious_gardener).

“Whether you’re a designer, grower or working in retail, just being able to get out and experience the actual physical reality of being in a certain part of the world is huge,” Melchoir says. “And to have these in-city friends and guides is a really phenomenal thing that helps me become a better professional.

In his role with P. Allen Smith and Associates, Melchoir designs fine gardens and estates for clients throughout the Southeast.

“As a designer you’re thinking about all those special moments people have in their lives,” he says. “The times they walk out onto their back porch and smell the wisteria blooming, or when they look out their kitchen window in late autumn and see that the persimmons have all ripened on the trees and are glowing orange, and bringing beauty and joy into their everyday lives.”

The two winners have actually worked together previously on a biweekly video chat that they dubbed “Emergent Live.” Before the Blab video chat platform shut down, Kerr and Melchoir hosted video chats that included interviews with respected industry professionals like Lloyd Traven and Leslie Finical Halleck. Attendees could watch the chat live and send their questions in for the expert, while Kerr and Melchoir were asking about their formative experiences, career paths, and the choices they made along the way.

“It was a way to connect with people,” Kerr says. “Kind of that whole Emergent mission of learning from each other and making connections, as well as helping promote horticulture as a career path.”

Emergent is not just for millennials. In fact, its diverse blend of professionals in different stages of their careers is one of its strengths, Melchoir says.

“In our industry, there is not necessarily one specific path to a certain career,” Melchoir says. “You can’t expect a certain trajectory, to take these five steps to achieve this end result. Hearing about the robust set of skills that people have developed and how they respond to different challenges in their careers helps build confidence that the more skills and experience you develop, the more fit you will be to respond to different situations.”