Decatur, GA

Three Georgian Women Turn Gardening Into Friendly Businesses

Synthia Stark by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

1. The Rachel Cochran Story 

In Decatur, Georgia, there is a horticultural therapist named Rachel Cochran. 15 years ago, Rachel had discovered a wonderful interest and hobby in gardening while working on a farm-to-school movement. Rachel had been closing up the garden installation at Oakhurst Elementary School when a teacher approached her.

The teacher asked if her special education students could spend some time in the space. Rachel said yes. Rachel had mused about the situation, especially as the years went by. You see, when people garden, they rarely think about those who have disabilities or situations that prevent them from enjoying the experience.

Rachel took things to heart and opened up many opportunities for people to move freely, including people with wheelchairs. It was a great gesture to include all these different individuals since everyone deserves to enjoy nature, just like anyone else.

In 2017, Rachel Cochran got to work and enlisted the help of her business partner Wendy Battaglia to create the Trellis Horticulture Therapy Alliance. Over at the non-profit Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Rachel hosts educational workshops and classes.

Some of the people who come to these classes and workshops are:

  • Special education students from Inman Middle School in Atlanta
  • People in wheelchairs
  • Individuals with spine injuries and brain trauma
  • Military veterans, including those with post-traumatic stress disorder
  • People with diabetes 
  • Senior citizens

It’s great to see that nature can motivate people to get up from bed. Having a garden requires lots of work but can be quite fun as well. You end up being responsible for a plant while taking of it — just to make sure it's pretty and healthy.

In a way, it’s almost like having a pet — without the responsibilities of cleaning up after it. Plus, it helps that the soil in Decatur, Georgia, is pretty great for many gardeners in the area. by Nikola Jovanovic on Unsplash

2. The Chelsea Townsend Story 

Chelsea Townsend is a gardener in East Point, Georgia. Back in 2016, Chelsea had so many seeds that she started growing seedlings. She would bring them to the farmers’ markets just to get others to support her non-profit organization.

While the non-profit dissolved, the fruits of her labor paid off. The act of just selling seedlings and seeds allowed her to create the company called Strange and Co. For Chelsea, she loves growing and buying seeds. Her passion is so huge that she uses a spreadsheet to keep track of the 350 seed varieties that she has so far.

She first allows the seeds to start in her small home office but when they sprout, she takes them to her greenhouse outside. It’s a collapsible greenhouse, and there are hundreds of seedlings. In April 2021, Chelsea started selling some of her plants online. I’m sure that many people love these adorable and wonderful plants.

In the meantime, Chelsea teaches adults and kids a special type of gardening that she calls nano-gardening. Nano-gardening is when you use small pieces of land to grow food. For example, in College Park, Georgia, there is the children’s Main Street Academy. Chelsea has actually empowered many students to grow their own food. by Filip Urban on Unsplash

3. The Rita Gowler Story 

Also, in Georgia, Rita Gowler developed a curious hobby. She was in the business of selling handmade cards alongside selling illustrations of seed packets at hundreds of meetings and festivals. After a while, her son encouraged her gently to establish a notable online presence.

Eventually, Rita set up the website for her small company. Her company is called Botany Yards. Basically, she sells seeds that suitable for the Georgia soil. She specifically offers seven varieties of grasses and thirty-six varies of flowers. 

Rita herself has a degree in horticulture and had spent many years working at gardening centers and greenhouses. Rita was originally from Illinois. Rita is most well-known for the beautiful butterfly garden that she created while she teaching at the Decatur Presbyterian Children’s Community. by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

Since the pandemic forced schools to close, Rita ended up converting her half-acre of land over in Oak Grove into a stunning landscape full of perennials and grasses like goldenrod, pale purple coneflower, river oats, pink muhly grass, and milkweed.

Final Takeaway

Gardening is a great hobby to have, especially when things are stressful. From the sounds of it, a lot of people in Decatur, Georgia liked the seeds, plants and gardens offered by these three lovely professionals. 

If you’re a first-time gardener, you can experiment with flowers that are much easier to manage like sunflowers, hibiscus, and many more. Perhaps one day you will bump into Rachel, Chelsea, and Rita and help them make the world a more wholesome and peaceful place.

For a similar piece on gardening in Georgia, check out: Atlanta Has The Largest Free Food Forest in America

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