DOTHAN, Ala (WDHN) — The Dothan Area Botanical Gardens has been in Dothan for 30 years and many outside of the agriculture industry didn’t know Reafield Vester is the brain behind the garden.

“I’m a hard introvert and I know you’re probably like how can an introvert do so much in a community,” Vester said. “It had been a nugget in my mind because I would travel to other places where they had gardens like mobile, Birmingham, Huntsville, Atlanta and they had a garden but we didn’t have anything like this in southeast Alabama.”

Vester comes from a farming household of 15 children, he spent a good portion of his life watching his father grow a variety of crops and he quickly became intrigued by how they grow.

He took that interest to high school where he was encouraged to get into the sciences and eventually graduated from Alabama A&M in 1962 with his degree in Agronomy and soils with a double minor in math and chemistry.

“I’m a weed scientist by trade also, I got my major emphasis had been taking care of weeds in landscaping so all of that intrigued me to start a garden and it can be a place for demonstrations and people can come out and see the latest technology,” He said.

The garden now has been an educational resource and it’s a statewide tourist attraction.

“It’s a good gratification to know I placed something permanent and that people from all over the world because if you get a membership here you can go to the garden in New York or Texas or wherever,” Vester added.

Not only is Vester credited for starting the garden, he also broke barriers to becoming the first black Houston County Extension Coordinator in 1986 after working as an assistant county agent for 26 years.

His job was to mainly work with minority farmers but Vester was ahead of the game.

“Being in government we couldn’t discriminate against anyone so I said I would learn a certain area so I can have a slight monopoly and people would come to me and did they come they were starving for information,” He said.

Vester said he always wanted to be the middle man and work together with everyone — which opened the door to being a part of many boards.

He was the first black president of the national peanut festival — at that time he says it was completely segregated with separate festivals and awards.

“I start making things merge a little bit and eventually got to the point where it was no more black and white and it was just Peanut Farmer of the Year,” He added.

The botanical gardens have a new garden area known as the ‘V garden’ where they will honor Reafield Vester for his contributions — the ceremony’s date has not been announced yet.