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 https://bevins-garlic-farm.business.site/ 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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