My childhood plans to become a chef were abruptly interrupted when my great-grandmother gave me a yogurt cup full of soil and a cilantro seed. As that seed grew, so did my love for horticulture — to the point where I am now pursuing a Ph.D. in floriculture crop improvement at The Ohio State University.
Propagating Interest in the Field
I’ve always been fascinated by propagation. My grandmother taught me to air graft and take cuttings, exposing me to the diversity of plants. My first job was at a local nursery, and at the age of 15, I started my own greenhouse business, which gave me the opportunity to grow every new and interesting cultivar I came across. To this day, it is this opportunity and innovation that makes the horticulture industry exciting and enticing as a career.
I believe the key to the industry’s future is using the experience of those in the industry, together with the potential of the young people entering the field. It is essential that companies offer opportunities for young professionals and scientists to innovate and shape the industry. Create positions for new minds entering the workforce that will allow them to expand their horizons, explore new ideas, and tackle challenges. The talented professionals are available; we just have to provide them with the avenues to create this positive change.
Cultivating a Sense of Belonging
My favorite part of the horticulture industry is the sense of community; even competitors treat each other like family at conferences and conventions. Everyone belongs to the family, whether they are engaged in research, production, or retail. Any industry that can cultivate that sense of belonging will prove to be a sought-out workplace for emerging young professionals everywhere.
Plants are always going to be in demand, but how and where they are bought is evolving. Along with innovations in production systems, we need to transform our marketing strategies and break the boundaries of breeding programs. These unique varieties, innovative products, and newly cultivated species will continue to put a spring in our step on the way to work every day and continue to drive consumers to purchase.
Of course, investment in research and development is vital. Bringing in innovative scientists and investing in research will give the industry a competitive edge. My current research is identifying strains of bacteria with the ability to confer drought tolerance and growth promotion in floriculture crop production systems. This work will provide new technologies for more sustainable crop production in the light of a changing society and industry. Investing in other young horticulturists will continue to push this agenda of an innovative and evolving industry.
My hope is that everyone in the industry will keep and share the same fascination and wonder that I felt when growing my first seed as a budding horticulturist.
About the Richard T. Meister Scholarship
Nathan Nordstedt is the winner of the 2017 Richard T. Meister Scholarship. Dick Meister built a family business in publishing for specialized growers in commercial horticulture. He is a strong supporter of the land-grant college system and through the years worked closely with many horticultural and floricultural leaders. This scholarship is dedicated to the outstanding accomplishments of those in university Extension and especially to Will Carlson in floriculture.
The Meister scholarship, managed through the American Floral Endowment, is open to graduate students in floriculture intending to pursue a career in the land-grant university system with interest in research, Extension, or teaching. The deadline for the 2018 scholarship is May 1. For more information or to apply, visit the American Floral Endowment website at Endowment.org/scholarships.