What issues are you most concerned about in your field?
I’m going to be working a lot with sustainability production and production efficiencies. That’s kind of the buzz word going around. Everyone’s talking about it. I’ll be working with research on that, then just helping the growers in New Hampshire produce their crops more efficiently and keeping a high-quality product coming out of their houses.”
How do your previous floricultural experiences compare to work in New Hampshire?
It’s pretty similar. In Iowa, New Hampshire and North Carolina, you had a few token large growers, but then the majority of the numbers of operations were small, family-owned businesses. It’s no different here in New Hampshire. We have two or three good-sized producers who make up the bulk of the industry. For the most part, from what I’ve been able to tell so far, the production is fairly similar. There are a lot of people doing bedding plants to sell in spring. There are a few wholesalers doing young plants and potted plants.”
How did you wind up at North Carolina State University after spending a large chunk of your life in Iowa?
“I got both my master’s and Ph.D. in Raleigh with Brian Whipker. He’s the floriculture Extension specialist at North Carolina State University. Before I went to graduate school, I had worked for two years as a grower in Iowa for DeJong Greenhouses. I didn’t really think I had any desire to continue my education, and through my internships I really have enjoyed growing. That’s where my passion was. So I took a grower position in Iowa, which is where I grew up. I spent two years there and decided that I still had the bug of education in me. I knew Brian from when he was a faculty member at Iowa State, and I contacted him.”
What specifically changed your outlook on your personal desire for more education?
“I love growing, but I just needed a little more than that. Going into an Extension program with my graduate work was really a great fit for me because I got to still be really involved with growers and hands-on research.”
What led you to Ball Holland and what did you learn there?
“During my master’s degree, I talked about doing some study abroad. I worked it out so I could take a semester off between my master’s and Ph.D. I was placed at Ball Holland with the idea that my master’s research was on bulb production. But I was going to move into plug production research for my Ph.D. I didn’t have any experience in it. I worked with potted plants and propagation, but I had never done anything with plugs. Ball Holland is a large plug producer. It was a great opportunity for me to see plug production firsthand. One thing I really relied on through my degree is having some background on what I was working on instead of just being told what the problem is and trying to research it. Having that firsthand experience really was valuable for me.”