After a 20-year career on Wall Street as a marketing and product development specialist, with star firms like Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Oppenheimer Capital, Kim Eierman decided it was high time for a switch to something she really loved: horticulture.
Last year, she launched her own horticulture communications and consulting company, EcoBeneficial!, and now the longtime Bronxville resident is happily making the transition to a new career as a speaker, teacher and writer promoting environmental improvement through ecological design and the use of native plants. She’s actually doing what so many talented backyard gardeners dream about — making a career (and money!) in the field of horticulture.
These days, Eierman is a frequent speaker at green industry conferences, nature centers, garden clubs and Audubon groups. In February, she will be speaking at New England Grows, the largest horticultural trade show in the Northeast, with more than 13,000 attendees.
(photos of Kim in her garden by Tania Savayan)
Eierman is particularly passionate about imperiled honeybees and encouraging every homeowner and gardener to plant more flowering plants that will help the bees. In fact, one of her specialties is teaching beekeepers, especially urban ones, to be better gardeners, to encourage them to grow more native plants so that their bees have enough nectar and food to survive and thrive.
“This is so much better than Wall Street,” she says, “I actually love what I do.”
(Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop) in her garden)
Well, hats off to all successful career changers. Here are 10 things you may want to know about Kim Eierman.
1. Simple home ownership in Bronxville launched her career in horticulture. “When my husband and I first moved to Westchester (in 1994), I had this thing called a yard,” she remembers with a laugh. “I had always been an outdoor kid, but I didn’t have a clue about landscaping or gardening.” So she began to take courses at the New York Botanical Garden at night and on weekends — and got hooked for life.
2. She has loads of credentials: certified horticulturist through the American Society for Horticultural Science, accredited organic land care professional through the Northeast Organic Farming Association, certificate in horticulture from NYBG, and both a master gardener and a master naturalist through Cornell Cooperative Extension.
3. To prove she could walk the walk, she killed her Bronxville lawn, in favor of more trees — “I’m a real tree hugger,” she admits — and garden beds filled with native plants. “Planting for pollinators is really important for me.”
(Phlox paniculata ‘Robert Poore’ (a cultivar of Garden Phlox)
4. In fact, she has managed to squeeze 13 new trees into her tiny yard that’s on less than one-fifth of an acre.
5. Her favorite native tree right now is the pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia). “Its creamy panicles of flowers offer nectar to pollinating insects and are followed by berries which are relished by birds and mammals alike,” she says. It prefers part sun to part shade, making it a perfect understory tree, and it’s highly disease resistant and easy to grow.
6. She’s very active on social media, including Facebook (www.facebook.com/EcoBeneficial), Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter and Google Plus. “I’ve now got 12,000 followers on Facebook and I just started in late December,” she says. She’s also a steady blogger, usually once or twice a week, at her website, www. ecobeneficial.com.
7. Of course, she is very active with the Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College in Valhalla, serving the last five years as a member of its Steering Committee. She also teaches in its WCC Native Studies Certificate program, “Go Native U.”
Eupatorium perfoliatum (Boneset)
8. As a teacher, she has a busy course load for fall: “Healthy Ecosystem Gardening” at NYBG, “Great Native Plants in Containers” at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, “Native Plant Alternatives to Turf” at Westchester Community College, and “Gardening for Pollinators and Other Beneficial Insects” at the Mount Cuba Center in Hockessin, Del.
9. She is an animal lover and advocate — and the unintentional owner now of four cats. (She got involved in a cat rescue involving kittens that really needed a safe new home.) The Carolina wren is her favorite bird visitor to her garden (the cats stay indoors!).
10. She and her husband, George Fantaousakis, love to travel and they’ve been all over the world. (He’s originally from the Greek island of Crete.) “I’m dying to go to Madagascar,” Eierman says. “That and Vietnam are next on our list.”