My name is Kristen Dunning and I am a 21-year-old graduate student and alumna of The University of Georgia (UGA).
While my family has deep ties in the agricultural industry (we own a 83 acre farm in Dixons Mills, Alabama), I did not develop my own personal love for the industry until college.
Before coming to UGA, I participated in the UGA Young Scholars program, a six-week program run through the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences that allows high school students and incoming freshmen to view different pathways to careers in the agriculture industry. This program allowed me to make connections and friendships that I still hold dear to my heart today. At the end of the program, I went on my first study abroad to Costa Rica to learn about sustainable practices in agriculture and coffee production. Those 10 days were the time of my life, and it solidified my love for the agriculture industry and sustainability.
As a freshman in college at UGA, I pioneered a CURO research project to develop a deeper understanding of medicinal plants, their healing properties, and the harmful effects commercial skincare has on our skin. With the help of my faculty mentor, Dr. David Knauft, I identified calendula (Calendula officinalis L.) and chamomile (from genera Matricaria and Chamaemelum) as botanical alternatives for chemical ingredients in commercial skincare.
This is where my love for the healing power of the plants around us really took off. I spent the rest of my time in college diving head first into everything horticulture, medicinal plants, and herbalism.
All of this research and love for herbs, led me to launch my very own award-winning herbal soap company, Gently.
Studying the origins of herbalism and agriculture allowed me to uncover a deeper passion: paving the way for a more diverse and inclusive future for the agricultural industry. I want nothing more than to study and research all of the historical and current ways minority communities are involved and have historically been involved with this industry. In May of 2021, I graduated from The University of Georgia with a BSA in Agricultural Communication and Horticulture.
I am currently a graduate student at my alma mater under the laboratory instruction of Dr. Jenn Thompson. My thesis will look at the Barriers for Black farmers to Adopting Cover Crops and other NRCS Conservation Practices and I cannot wait to share more about that experience in the years to come.
Professional Plant Girl serves to inspire, empower, and uplift women of color in the agricultural and environmental sciences industries. This will include seasonal herbal boxes, classes, seminars, and scholarship opportunities for BIPOC individuals studying areas related to herbalism, plant sciences, and environmental sciences.