Celebrating Sarada Krishnan, Director of Horticulture

May 16, 2022 Brian Vogt , Chief Executive Officer

Sarada Krishnan, Ph.D., is a singular figure in horticulture worldwide. Denver Botanic Gardens has benefitted from her expertise, talent and vision for 16 years as she led not only a team of outstanding horticulturists at our York Street site, but she also created and led the Center for Global Initiatives. 

Sarada was raised in southern India and had a passion for climbing trees, eating fresh mango and learning about the importance of crops to feed people and to underpin vulnerable economies. Her family owned a coffee plantation, which echoes in her career. She received her Bachelor of Science in horticulture in India, her Master of Science in horticulture from Colorado State University and doctorate from the University of Colorado, focused on conservation genetics of wild coffee.

Sarada has always been inspired by the work of her legendary uncle, M.S. Swaminathan. He was the main architect of the Green Revolution in the 1960s that saved India and Pakistan from certain famine through changes in public policy and the development of high yields of rice and wheat.

Sarada is a role model and a groundbreaker. One of her passions is to support women and girls worldwide. This led her to serve on the board of the Women First International Fund, which provides long-term partnership grants for women’s economic empowerment in East Africa and India. While juggling so many responsibilities, Sarada added yet another role as executive director of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance. 

One of the great joys of working at Denver Botanic Gardens has been to see Sarada’s leadership at work and to hear of her many adventures. During one leadership meeting, Sarada called from Madagascar. Her first line was “I’m okay.” Putting the phone on speaker, we all heard of her trek to find a particular critically endangered tree species, collecting germplasm and, while crossing a stormy lake, that her boat capsized. She found herself in the water for 45 minutes, all the while holding her samples safely above the choppy waves.

It always struck me how fortunate we were to have Sarada on the team at the Gardens, and that one day, she would take on a new role with international implications. This summer, Sarada will move to Bonn, Germany, to serve as director of programs for Crop Trust. She will lead at a critical time to conserve crop diversity and use it to ensure global food and nutrition security.

For me, the opportunity to share in Sarada’s journey has been a privilege, and I will always be grateful. No doubt, Sarada’s work will benefit humanity in countless tangible ways. For now, I’m thinking about the power of her example and the young women who will continue to be inspired by her to see themselves as leaders in science and creators of a better world. 

Sarada Krishnan

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