Donor Profiles


Sonja Johanson

1995 alumna

Sonja JohansonI am fortunate enough, right now, to be able to work as a “professional volunteer.” I am a frequent guest science teacher at the Montessori school my children attend; I run an outdoor classroom/organic garden for the public elementary school in my town; I offer classes through Trustees of the Reservations (a conservation organization), and I save and reoffer heirloom seeds through Seed Savers Exchange. My most involved project is running the training program for the Massachusetts Master Gardener Association. Our program trains approximately ninety new master gardeners each year, with the mission to offer horticultural outreach and gardening support to the public. I get to design the curriculum, work with amazing speakers, and guerrilla teach a little human ecology...

When I was a student at COA, I had no idea that I would become so interested in horticulture. But, no matter which class I took, every single teacher I had taught me to question assumptions and make my own observations; each drilled the concept of interconnectedness into me. Several years after graduation, I happened to read Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire, and I got it. I didn’t just get interested in plants; I got that we are interdependent with our food crops, that we have co-evolved with them, and that there is an implicit contract between us and our domesticated plants. It was everything I had ever been taught about human ecology, right there in the seed catalogue. Suddenly, I realized that my work with the school garden (and eventually the master gardeners) was an opportunity to teach the past and present of our relationship with our domestic plants, and was a vehicle for sharing the concept of human ecology.

I give to COA’s annual fund because I am able to. That sounds like a truism, but it isn’t. There was a point when my work schedule did not allow me to volunteer at all; I now have a lot of time to volunteer and give back, and I am grateful for every single second of it. COA influenced how I choose to live and contribute to society, and permeates every aspect of my life. Since I don’t live close enough to volunteer directly, contributing to the annual fund is the way I am best able to give back to the community that shaped my life in such an incredible way.