Why California Spring Trials Offers Young Growers Opportunities for Higher Learning

Why California Spring Trials Offers Young Growers Opportunities for Higher Learning

Greenhouse Grower’s team at California Spring Trials 2018 included (l to r) Editor Laura Drotleff, Contributing Editor Dr. Allan Armitage, CAST Scholarship recipient Andrew Scheldorf, and Managing Editor Janeen Wright.

As I sat in the airport waiting for my flight back to cold and snowy Milwaukee after a beautiful week in California, I reflected on the time I’d just spent attending the California Spring Trials (CAST). I could hear people around me talking about how irritating it was that the flight was late. It made me think about the years people work to bring a plant to market, and the level of patience a breeder has to have to develop new plants. Also, I thought about the work done after a plant is released by growers and producers in the industry. I appreciated the industry even more after experiencing it so closely during Spring Trials.

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The experience I had at CAST was everything I had imagined, and so much more. The people I met were amazing to talk to and learn from. It made me appreciate our industry, and how interconnected and important all the work that is done is to bring plants to market.

My time at CAST confirmed to me how much there is to still learn for horticulture students. There is only so much a classroom or a book can teach you. The rest you have to learn through experience. I encourage all students in the field to learn as much as possible from the amazing teachers and professionals in our industry. We need to follow in their footsteps of being innovative, creative, and passionate about our work and our industry and not be afraid to push the boundaries and imagine more.

It still feels surreal that I was given the opportunity to see a part of our industry that so few students get to see. I can’t begin to list the lessons I learned from Dr. Allan Armitage, the Greenhouse Grower team, and the professionals I met during this experience. Everyone was excited to talk to me about the industry, their jobs, and my career goals. Some expressed concerns that there weren’t enough young people joining our industry, and they were excited to see a young person at an event like this.

I understand why there aren’t many students at events like CAST. It’s expensive, and it’s unusual for a young person or student to be in a career position in which their employer would send them to CAST. However, I strongly encourage students and young professionals to try to get to CAST, if only for a short time. There are few occasions where they will have the opportunity to see so much of the industry in one place and come in contact with so many important people in the field.

I also encourage all students and young professionals to look deeper. If you think you understand something, look into it more, talk to people, and ask questions. Every plant out there has a story, and the people who can tell them are happy to share those stories. So question things, follow your passion to the part of the industry you feel the best in, and get out there. Seek out mentors like Dr. Armitage and opportunities like this scholarship. The industry is patiently waiting for us.