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.