VISTA — Vista resident Nancy Jones has always been comfortable in the garden. Growing up in Lemon Grove, Jones said her family grew their own vegetables and fruit trees, and each family member took part in gardening, weeding and composting.
Therefore, when Jones retired from teaching, it made sense for her to join the beloved Alta Vista Botanical Gardens as a volunteer.
“I first visited AVG (as it was called then) for Earth Day 2007,” Jones said. “We had a handful of visitors and just met on the back lawn of the Garden House. I joined the meetings, took notes, provided agendas, and then was voted onto the Board of the Gardens.”
Thirteen years later, Jones has become more than just a volunteer. Since 2007, Jones has become a driving force in the nonprofit, creating programs and events that have attracted visitors from throughout the region.
Jones, a 35-year resident of Vista, has seen plenty of accomplishments since joining the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens.
Under her guidance, the 13-acre field now has sculptures from famed artist Ricardo Breceda, a memorial rose garden, and a growing Children’s Garden complete with tube tunnels, music and a discovery trail.
The Alta Vista Botanical Gardens also hosts the annual Fall Fun Festival and Earth Day Festival, events and programs that have attracted hundreds of nature lovers of all ages.
One of her biggest accomplishments at the Vista attraction is building the children’s program. As the director of the Children’s Garden, Farmer Jones, as she’s lovingly known to the region’s young people, hosts a monthly Kids in the Garden class. In the class, children learn about different plants and insects found in the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens and their importance.
The program that she has developed for the next generation is one she is most proud of, said Jones, who is also a member of the Woman’s Club of Vista.
“When the kids share a lizard, bug, or flower they have found, when they remember the name of a plant, when they handle those worms and find their tiny cocoons — those are the moments that make it all worthwhile,” Jones said. “We are showing the next generation that nature is grand and spending their time outdoors is a wonderful way to spend a day. Screens are forgotten when they can see the flitting butterflies and bright coral tree blossoms, touch the smooth lambs ear and rough pepper tree bark, taste the sour grass, smell the alyssum and rosemary, and hear the hummers and hawks in the bushes and overhead.”
Ron Holloway, president of the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens, said Jones has made a lasting impact on the beloved Vista nonprofit.
“She is a valuable member of our organization and is very much appreciated,” Holloway said.
For her contributions to the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens and to the city of Vista, Jones was given the Have a Heart for Kids Award from the Boys & Girls Club in 2012 and was inducted into the Vista Historical Society Hall of Fame in 2017.
Jones, who taught for nearly three decades at Alamosa Park Elementary in Vista before retiring in 2006, isn’t slowing down anytime soon. She said she plans to continue to grow the Fall Fun Festival to include more activities, as well as, add more vendors to the Earth Day Festival.
Jones, a mother of two and grandmother of two, also hopes to increase offerings to children.
“With more publicity, we could increase the field trips for scouts and school groups,” Jones said. “I would love to find another teacher to share the gardens, classes, and field trip responsibilities.”
For now, Jones loves being able to share her passion for gardening and nature with the public, especially with the children.
“The children I am privileged to work with inspire me to continue teaching,” Jones said. “They are eager and open to learning, they appreciate nature and their world, and they smile and say thank you. These children are the canvas that I get to paint on all the time. I love sharing the Garden’s history, stories, details, plants, and sculptures with the kids and the adults. Adults love learning something new just as much as the kids do.”
For more information about the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens, go to altavistagardens.org/.