Matthew Swaim, a 20-year-old horticulture and plant biology major at North Carolina State University, was afforded a monumental opportunity when Syngenta selected him as its Grower of Tomorrow winner. Now, he’s doing research at Conrad Fafard, Inc. as part of his internship and visiting growing operations like Metrolina Greenhouses.
Swaim will also be interning at Syngenta Professional Products and Syngenta Flowers.
“This experience totally surpasses all my expectations of an internship,” says Swaim, a plant biology and horticulture double major who’s particularly interested in a career driven by horticulture research. “I’ve looked two years for an experience like this. This is by far the best opportunity.”
Swaim was selected as Syngenta’s Grower of Tomorrow based on his application, an essay he submitted and a referral letter from his academic advisor. All applicants of the program must have at least a 3.0 GPA and be a junior or senior at one of 28 pre-selected universities with horticulture programs.
Margaret Bell, senior marketing communications manager at Syngenta, says six students applied to the program this year. Swaim was selected first among them, receiving a $2,500 scholarship. Two runners up were also selected–Holly Williams of Cornell University and Tiffany Kohl of the University of Wisconsin, who each received $1,000 scholarships–but Swaim also received a paid internship and the chance of a lifetime after separating from the pack of applicants.
“My first act as the Grower of Tomorrow was to attend the TOCA (Turf and Ornamentals Communicators Association) conference in Puerto Rico (on May 14),” Swaim says. “I really enjoyed that trip, and I got to hear about the marketing side of turf grass.”
Now, for three weeks, Swaim has been interning at Fafard in Anderson, S.C., where he’s had a hands-on experience with research and development officials. Swaim has worked specifically with Fafard’s quality control people, and he’ll be spending time traveling around Florida and North Carolina over the next couple weeks.
Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, N.C., was among Swaim’s many stops already.
“I went there to collect some data with Fafard interns,” Swaim says. “I always wanted to go there. It’s definitely an interesting operation.”
Next on Swaim’s agenda is a trip to OFA Short Course in Columbus, Ohio, where he’ll get an even broader picture of our industry.
Last year’s Grower of Tomorrow, Jessica Goebel of Kansas State University, impressed Fafard so much last year that the company hired her after her experience with the program.
“That’s one potential benefit of the program,” Bell says. “Fafard really liked her, so she was able to get a full-time job out of the deal. With this program, we are fortunate to have several different businesses to present opportunities.”
For more information on the Grower of Tomorrow program, click here.