Young Leaders At Tagawa Greenhouses

Tagawa- Crist and Westlund
Research and development manager Kara Crist, (left) and range grower Mallory Westlund.

Tagawa Greenhouses’ has recently taken steps toward improving its operations, which largely involved expanding and improving its production team. The production staff is now made up of many individuals from the younger generation, some of which were hired after completing Tagawa’s internship program. Meet some of the young, talented individuals who have worked their way up to management roles before the age of 30.

Charlie McKenzie, Production Manager

Charlie McKenzie joined Tagawa in August 2013 as the assistant production manager, after having worked for the company as an intern through the Vic and Margaret Ball Scholarship Program.

“I had never worked in a greenhouse before,” he says. “The internship taught me more in six months than I had learned in years at university. The openness and transparency in all aspects of the company that Tagawa allows for its interns to see is remarkable.”

Charlie McKenzie
Charlie McKenzie

McKenzie says his experience at Tagawa helped him to learn the ins and outs of the business, and helped him grow his passion for floriculture. After the internship, McKenzie returned to the University of Georgia for one more year of school, and then was offered a job at Tagawa.

“I chose to work at the New Mexico facility because of the beauty of New Mexico and the opportunities I had to learn and spread my wings at a facility that had just been open for four years,” he says.”

McKenzie was promoted to production manager in March of this year. In his new position, he oversees the production of all plants in the 20-acre facility, which grows finished material and have an acre and a half of geranium mother stock production.

“Tagawa’s propensity to hire young staff has certainly given me opportunities that I never imagined coming to fruition so soon,” he says. “The group of young, key staff members that we have at our facility in New Mexico drives out-of-the-box thinking and fresh ideas.”

McKenzie believes that providing jobs for the younger generation could help more youth to become interested in horticulture, especially as they see younger people placed in positions of responsibility.

“Being given the opportunity to be production manager at the age of 24 has given me the chance to take on responsibility and challenges that I yearned for,” he says. “The trust that the company has in its young employees and the confidence it has instilled in myself has allowed me to become a better overall person.”

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Kara Crist

Kara Crist, Research And Development Manager

Research and Development Manager Kara Crist has worked for Tagawa Greenhouses for two and a half years.

Crist graduated from Colorado State University with a bachelor of science in horticulture emphasizing in floriculture and a bachelor of science in environmental horticulture emphasizing in nursery and landscape management.

While attending CSU, Crist was the annual trial garden coordinator. From there, she worked for Conrad Fafard Inc. as a research leader, which transitioned into a trial manager role for Syngenta. After that, Crist was able to obtain a position with Tagawa in its research department.

“The mini-internship that new employees of Tagawa Greenhouses undergo greatly aids in the success of that employee within the company,” Crist says.

Crist says it’s advantageous for a new employee to have quality, individualized time with each department manager.

“As an employee that has just started down a career path, it can seem overwhelming, so an opportunity that allows experience in many different aspects of the horticulture industry can help clarify positions of interest and identify where your individual strengths fit into the company,” she says.

Crist says she and her peers bring enthusiasm, ambition and a fresh perspective to their jobs.

“We have grown up with information right at our fingertips, which has instilled a sense of impatience for any processes that are inefficient, and we will use our tech-savvy skills to enhance operational efficiency,” Crist says. “The younger generation has grown up around ever-changing technology and therefore has an innate ease to picking up and mastering new technology.”

Tha Cha, Production Manager

Tha Cha
Tha Cha

Tha Cha started his horticulture career at a young age working on his family’s farm in Minnesota.

He graduated from the University of Wisconsin River Falls, and after being awarded the Vic and Margaret Ball Intern scholarship, Cha completed an internship at Tagawa Greenhouses.

“During my internship, I was able to explore and work for various departments, from production to operations, distribution, marketing, sales, research and development. I also worked with a professional management team,” Cha says.

After completing the internship, Cha joined Tagawa as an assistant production manager. Within one year, he was promoted to production manager at the Brighton, Colo. facility. Tha currently oversees 20 acres of plant production, including vegetative liners, seeded plugs and retail ready products.

“Horticulture is a developing industry, and at Tagawa Greenhouse, mini-internships allow our employees to explore the whole greenhouse business,” he says. “Tagawa Greenhouses has opened many doors for my career path, and I hope to do the same for other youths. I believe that the younger employees like myself will continue to bring fresh perspectives and energy to the field.”

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