Landis Portraits: A Series About the People Behind the Plants at the Arboretum - Shawn Bevins

By Nolan Marciniec

Shawn and his garlic
Shawn and his garlic

Shawn Bevins is seri­ous about vol­un­teer­ing – with a smile. At plant sales, he’s one of the park­ing lot reg­u­lars, in the com­pa­ny of his son Ter­rence, Pat Don­nel­ly, and Gus Pol­li. I put on my friend­ly face. After all, we’re the first peo­ple you meet, and the last you see,” he said.

It was thir­ty years ago, when he and his wife Ann moved back to the Schoharie Val­ley from Con­necti­cut. It was a year of change” — start­ing a new job, build­ing a new house, and hav­ing a tod­dler in tow – when they noticed the sign for a Spring Plant Sale. Think­ing plants for a gar­den and enticed by the 10% dis­count, they joined as Arbore­tum mem­bers. By that year’s Fall Plant Sale, Shawn was vol­un­teer­ing, work­ing with Bob Grimm and oth­ers, doing main­te­nance jobs and park­ing cars. Shawn counts a spring sale in 6” inch­es of late sea­son snow, the Full Moon musi­cal events, and the 5K race among many mem­o­rable moments he’s had vol­un­teer­ing at the Arboretum.

Shawn men­tioned the vol­un­teer gene” that he inher­it­ed from his moth­er, who spent over 50 years as an EMT in the Scho-Wright Ambu­lance Corps. And over the years, vol­un­teer­ing became a Bevins fam­i­ly affair. Anne served on the Board of Trustees and is always at the plant sale check­out table. Their son William was mar­ried at the Meet­ing House, and now he brings his chil­dren to the Arbore­tum. Ter­rence is a full-time employ­ee at Landis. 

The Arbore­tum changed me,” Shawn said. I was nev­er a plant per­son.” But see­ing the Arboretum’s Great Oak for the first time, walk­ing through the Old Growth For­est, and meet­ing good peo­ple” at Lan­dis all worked their mag­ic. His inter­est in plants, he said, mor­phed” from annu­als to peren­ni­als, from shrubs to trees – and from gar­lic to mushrooms.

For many years, Shawn oper­at­ed the Bevins Gar­lic Farm, grow­ing 15 vari­eties and har­vest­ing 400 pounds of the bulb. He is scal­ing back his organ­ic gar­lic pro­duc­tion these days and, fol­low­ing his retire­ment from a near­ly 30-year career at the New York State Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, has turned his atten­tion to mush­rooms. Shawn is cur­rent­ly grow­ing four dif­fer­ent types of mush­rooms on approx­i­mate­ly 200 logs and exper­i­ment­ing with four oth­er vari­eties. (See for avail­abil­i­ty and plac­ing orders.) And he is cul­ti­vat­ing his inter­est in blue­ber­ries and elder­ber­ries too.

Since that first vis­it, Shawn has tak­en rel­a­tives and out of state vis­i­tors to hike at the Arbore­tum. He’s men­tioned our plant sales to col­leagues at work, often with a print­ed map in hand. He greets plant sale patrons with the ques­tion, Are you a mem­ber?” — often fol­lowed up by a nudge” to become a vol­un­teer as well.

Shawn mar­vels at how the Arbore­tum has bloomed” over those years of vol­un­teer­ing. It brings a smile to his face.

Summer 2023

Volume 41 , Number 2

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