Evans resident David Gianino doesn’t take his scholarship from the National Gardening Association lightly.
“To me, a home-schooled student my whole life, to receive a scholarship is much more than just, ‘Oh, here’s some money, kid,’” said Gianino, a University of Georgia horticulture student.
“It’s an organization’s investment that I, as the recipient, am trusted with honoring the organization by using that funding to prepare myself to better other people with the knowledge that I will attain in school.”
Only two Georgia students received the $10,000 National Gardening Association scholarship this year.
“It is such a blessing and, to be honest, I would not be able to be up at UGA this year if it hadn’t been for the trust, generosity and financial security that the National Gardening Association has provided me with,” said Gianino, who also operates an urban garden – Legacy Gardens in Evans – with his father and mother, Stephen and Rebecca Gianino.
Gianino is also enrolled in two certificate programs at UGA: organic agriculture and local food systems. He plans to graduate next May.
“My father was, and is, the avid gardener who influenced my decision to work in the field of plants,” said Gianino.
At Legacy Gardens, a raised-bed operation that employs organic techniques and aims to be as sustainable as possible, the younger Gianino helps maintain the grounds when he is able.
“Being away from where my parents and the garden are located really makes it hard to be extremely involved,” he said. “I do also help with discussing what should be planted, garden bed design and building of the wooden raised beds and trellises.”
Once a hobby, Legacy Gardens has become a means of paying Gianino’s rent in Athens, Ga.
Gianino hopes to eventually purchase a piece of land and start a local sustainable and organic production farm to provide fresh vegetables and fruit to area residents. Public workshops and a livestock farm are also among his plans.
“I am also interested in beekeeping to make some extra business income from honey,” he said. “Basically, I want to start an awesome farm where everything is hoppin’ and happenin.’”
Gianino hopes sustainable gardening is the wave of the future.
“For a hundred years, in the past, Georgia farmers abused the land and almost 80 percent of our topsoil has been washed away from cotton farming. Sustainable agriculture combats that directly by not abusing the land to make it produce as much as we can squeeze out of it, but instead offering a different model – by the farmers working hard to make the land better for future uses.”