New RSF Garden Club executive director hopes to help club bloom and grow


New Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club executive director Thora Guthrie is planting the seeds to ensure that the club remains evergreen. Guthrie has high hopes for the growing and changing club as she works to add more activities with opportunities to engage members, whether their interests lie in social and community events, beautification and conservation programs or philanthropy.

“As more and more residents become members whether to make new friends, find engaging and healthy activities to share with friends and family, or to support positive programs in the Ranch and surrounding communities, the more our friendships will grow, our gardens will thrive, and the upcoming years should prove very fruitful for everyone,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie took over for outgoing executive director Shelly Hart in December. Though Guthrie has had a passion for plants and gardening her whole life, she is new to garden clubs.

“My background is actually in nonprofit management, most recently in revitalizing communities and historic downtowns,” Guthrie said. “I spent several years managing Main Street communities, programs under the National Trust for Historic Preservation. I live nearby with chickens, raised beds and flowers, so a rich historic downtown and gardening was a natural draw for me.”

Guthrie said it is a very “interesting and pivotal time” for the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club, with a history dating back to the 1920s combined with the need to be relevant to what is going on in the world today.

“That means focusing on conservation and sustainability without losing our relevance to the community that we have been a part of for so long,” she said. “It means honoring what our long-time members still value about the club and maintaining a balance with the present and future.”

Guthrie said the club plans to keep the community events that have kept the members connected to each other and to the beauty and science of gardening and flowers, but also increasing the number of member meetings, adding dynamic speakers as well as more hands-on workshops and field trips. Guthrie said they have also started to focus on building membership and increasing membership benefits.

Upcoming events include a bulb centerpiece workshop on Monday, Jan. 28 at 10 a.m. with horticulturist Caitlin Kruetz, the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s park and recreation assistant manager. The Feb. 18 meeting will feature guest speaker John Clark, CEO of the Center for Plant Conservation and of the San Diego Zoo’s Plant Conservation Program, and on March 18 the club has a field trip planned to visit the Getty Villa Museum in Malibu.

“I am even working to add some casual garden events like yoga/meditation in the garden and art in the garden for those whose interests are in health or art,” Guthrie said. “I am open to other new ideas that come from our members.”

Guthrie said a common misconception is that you have to live in the Covenant to be a member of the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club, but that is not true—anyone can be a member.

“We recently held one very successful and fun new member luncheon which was extremely well received. We have had more than 35 new members join since last November,” Guthrie said. The club’s annual wreath-making workshop in December had one of the largest turnouts they’ve ever had, which was very exciting for Guthrie.

She said membership growth will be critical for their plans to expand club activities and events—another membership event is planned for March.

Many people also don’t realize that the RSF Garden Club has a philanthropic program that awards grant money to local nonprofits to fund charitable or educational projects in support of horticulture and conservation. The club has recently increased that grant funding to $100,000 for 2019.

“I am really proud of this program and the positive impact it has on local schools and nonprofits,” said Guthrie, adding that the 2019 grants will be awarded and celebrated at the club’s annual meeting on May 29. “I am a firm believer in partnerships, in collaboration. By working together, we can do and accomplish so much more. We are working on a number of interesting partnership opportunities with other local organizations that should provide some exciting new developments in the years ahead.”

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