I was recently with a group of greenhouse growers, researchers and suppliers when a conversation started about where the grower of the future will come from. The consensus was that fewer growers will come from universities and more will be company educated and trained.
Although this trend is disputable, it highlights the point that college horticulture progams are undergoing drastic changes. The best companies will put thought and resources into changing with these programs, and continue to move forward without leaving young people behind. These companies will see the future value of a young grower and be willing to allocate current resources for getting that return.
Prioritizing The Future
Even in a time when budgets are tight, investing in future growers should be a high priority. After all, young growers will be the ones preserving knowledge and building upon it to grow the quality crops your company sells in 40 years. To begin impacting and inspiring these future “plant nerds,” we need to support or start programs that get plants into the hands of kids to grow for themselves and get kids into gardens to spark their imaginations.
I suggest this because these types of experiences laid the foundation for my own desires and dreams related to horticulture. There is no formula to follow for having this type of influence, but with some creativity and effort, every grower can find some opportunity to achieve this. I think increasing the frequency of plant experiences young children are exposed to will put more kids on the path toward becoming a professional grower.
Attracting The Next Growers
High school horticulture programs are the next stop along their path that our industry needs to focus on. With college programs turning out fewer graduates, high school horticulture programs are becoming more important. I really enjoyed my high school program, but in hindsight it had a lot of room for improvement. I left that program viewing the horticulture industry the same as when I started, and I really didn’t know how greenhouse production industry fit into the equation.
This is why our industry needs to introduce itself and show these students how we can help them become the horticulturists they want to be. We can follow through on that promise, but before hiring young people think about how to constantly engage them and take them to the next level at a pace they can handle. Creatively focusing our resources on these stages of education will make greenhouse grower job opportunities more attractive to graduates at every level.