Students Showcase an Interest in Horticulture

This weekend, it was my turn to help out with Showcase Saturday, an opportunity for high school students considering SFA to come check out our school’s diversity of majors. When I’ve assisted in the past, we have at most two or three students come up to our agriculture department booth and ask questions about our horticulture program. I expected the same turnout.

But, by the time I left, we had TEN students who had came by and expressed interest in horticulture. I was amazed. From the time the event started at 1:30, I felt like I was talking to students for 45 minutes straight. One student had even come six hours from Oklahoma with her parents because she heard that our program was really good, and she was looking at it over other programs near her home! (In full disclosure, they were headed to her grandparents who lived about an hour away, but still! I was impressed!)

They came with questions about our program, what we offered and how we were different from other universities, and what career opportunities were available after graduation. Not all of them knew the word horticulture. Some came saying they were interested in growing plants or hydroponics.

After my amazement wore off from the constant stream of students interested in growing plants, my analytic scientist brain switched on, and I started asking questions such as how did you even hear about horticulture, a word that normally has low recognition amongst youngsters. The common thread was high school opportunities—classes for horticulture and/or participating in floral design or nursery competitions in FFA. These comments helped to support a trend I’ve seen of more and more high schools offering horticulture classes and doing greenhouse projects. (Even mine back in Tennessee built a greenhouse right after I left!) I would like to see some hard data, but I think there’s something there.

Time will tell if they actually decide on horticulture as a major, but the students’ comments reminded me of what I’ve been preaching. For people to engage with horticulture and plants, they have to come into contact and imbibe the wonder of plants or else this potential passion in many students may lie dormant.

Yes, we have to accept not every seed is viable. Even Aldo Leopold realized, “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.” I believe the same dichotomy applies to encouraging an interest in plants and even pursuing a career in horticulture. But, visiting with the students this weekend reminded me we must be present and keep reaching out to those that love the wild green things in anyway that we can, even if their love hasn’t germinated yet. It did in me, it did in you, and it will in them.


Cut flowers are not sustainable?

Maybe my students at SFA shouldn't create any more flower bouquets, you know, since they're not sustainable and will be thrown away. Or, NOT.

Maybe my students at SFA shouldn't create any more flower bouquets, you know, since they're not sustainable and will be thrown away. Or, NOT.

I read an interesting article about the absence of flowers at the Olympics.  Via Thrillist, "A Rio 2016 spokesperson said handing out tropical flowers to the athletes -- which would later be thrown away -- would be wasteful and not sustainable."

Wow, isn't that weird!?  Flowers, a renewable resource.  Not sustainable.  Hmm...

I'll admit at first I was angry, miffed that the Rio Olympics had degraded part of my hortiCULTURE into trash.  "Now we have to do yet ANOTHER marketing program...," I thought.

But, the quote’s peculiarity continued to eat at me.  What was it?  

I asked myself, "What if they are right?"  What if cut flowers are not sustainable?  I know there are qualms about the ways flowers are grown—fertilizers, pesticides, fair work practices, and transport to name a few.  Therefore, I would understand that kind of comment, and horticulture is working hard to remedy those growing challenges.

But, their perspective doesn’t seem to be centered on the production practices; it's on the flowers being thrown away.  Just like a bottle or old tire, it'll be tossed once it's used.  

The focus on flowers shouldn’t be the landfill.  They are part of the magic moments in our lives that feed our souls.  And, being so, they aren't sustainable because they will fade. 

So will a sunset.  A laugh.  A tree.  A life.  A shooting star.  An ice cream sundae.  A song.  A kiss.  A painting.  

These things each have a beginning and an end.  As Ben Rector says, "It's the walking in between" that make these treasures count.  The middle ground is where memories and the quality of life grow, and intangibles are sustainable. 

In this case I see common sense and sustainability as disjointed.  Ty Montague has taught me that every action an organization takes is part of its story, and the Rio Olympics committee's actions don't match their story.  

Are the flowers any less sustainable that the amount of resources that were used to make the trinkets that are now being given to the athletes with a sustainability sticker slapped onto the present?  I would love to see some of that data.  They could have done SO MUCH MORE with flowers and sustainability like wrap them in biodegradable sleeves, or start a flower composting program at the Rio Olympics.  

The essence of sustainability is to preserve the earth so that life is worth living.  A flowerless life is not.  







Ruts in Grass

This afternoon as I walked my bicycle up a very steep hill near my house, I noticed riding lawn mower ruts in the grass of a neighbor's yard.  At first, one or two, but then more became visible as I rounded the corner.  

It was ironic.  In trying to beautify, they had made their property ugly.  A tool made to control had created a mess.  Of course, part of the reason why those ruts were there is because the slopes were WAY too steep for a rider.  

Questions began to swirl in my head.  Did the owners mow it?  Or, even worse did they hire a professional to do it?  I thought of analogies like how beauty chasers alter and ultimately destroy their bodies in a vain quest for looks or how in the pursuit... or make that the purchase of happiness drains not only the back account but the soul.  

Ultimately, the take away for me was there are tools in horticulture that make our lives easier.  But, we need to make sure that we are using the tools appropriately and that they are actually helping us accomplish our goal.  We are here to improve and enhance life—not destroy it.  

It is February, and I'm sure the scars will heal once the grass begins to grow again.  But, the mark on my mind stays.  


Today, I saw Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot) in bud and the first Vinca major (bigleaf periwinkle) blooms open.