When Kim asked me if I would be interested in submitting a brief story about what I am doing in life and how my experiences at ISU helped prepare me for my career, it gave me the chance to take a walk down memory lane. This has led me to reminisce about all the good times and unforgettable experiences I had during my college years at ISU. It’s hard to believe I have been out of college for two years already. And I am told that the years only go by faster with time- yikes!
I transferred to ISU as a sophomore in the fall of 2007. Barb and Dr. Gladon were both instrumental in getting me registered and helping me plan my college career. I loved the smaller size of the department and the family atmosphere that seems to exist. I was one of the few but proud greenhouse management options in the department. I love all aspects of horticulture to a certain extent, but production greenhouse is where I really thrive. I, along with a few others, braved Dr. Gladon’s intense classes and seemingly never-ending (but valuable) greenhouse projects.
In addition to taking classes in the option I chose, several internships at greenhouses near and far solidified my career path decision. I truly enjoy working with plants in a fast-paced environment, and I thrive on responsibility. Additionally, being a two-term treasurer of the Horticulture Club and a chairman for the poinsettia crop for three years, spring annuals for one year, I gained valuable leadership experience and confidence. Most importantly, being so involved in the Horticulture Club was a great way to meet some pretty awesome people that share the same passion.
My first year out of college, I found myself working as a greenhouse co-manager at a retail grower and garden center. While I enjoyed some aspects of retail, I found that it was too much to juggle being retail oriented and being able concentrate on doing what I really wanted to do: grow plants. So, after less than a year, I decided it was time to move on into more of a commercial setting where I could really utilize my degree and experiences and concentrate my energy on growing plants.
On August 8, 20011, I began my current job at Heartland Growers located on the north side on Indianapolis. I can specifically remember the president of the company, Jim Gapinski, saying during my interview that he was really impressed with the Horticulture program and students from ISU. While I can’t say that I was shocked, it was very nice and encouraging to hear that- especially since this job was not even in Iowa.
I started out as a finish grower at Heartland Growers and got a unique opportunity in January to work with young plants. When fellow ISU Horticulture alumnus, Aaron Brand, decided to move back to Ames after becoming the new greenhouse manager for the Agronomy Department at ISU, I was offered a position to be a young plant grower. Since then, I have developed a passion for working with young plants. I partake in both seed germination and vegetative propagation. This is a more challenging environment with increased responsibility- so I am always on my toes.
I find myself using many of the skills I learned from experiences at ISU and from internships. And because I believe learning is a continuous process throughout life, I continue to search for ways to improve- there is always room to do something even better. From the horticulture classes to the business classes I took, they all gave me the tools, to one extent or another, to perform my responsibilities efficiently, properly, and professionally. Anything from fertility management, to IPM, to plant physiology, to leadership, to Spanish; I use it on a daily basis and its foundation lies at the education that I received at ISU.
On a more personal level, I am adjusting to life in Indy well. I like the conveniences of being near a bigger city- there is always something going on to do or explore. I have recently become addicted to cycling- at least it’s a healthy addiction. I enjoy long distance rides on the weekends, and I plan to start competing or participating in longer rides. It’s a great way to stay in shape, reduce any stress, and it is the most efficient form of transportation out there. Hopefully an opportunity to ride in RAGBRAI is in the future too!
I will forever treasure my college days at ISU, and the only thing I regret is not taking more advantage of all the opportunities that surround you on campus. I hope to make it back to visit soon! Fall is always my favorite time of year on campus. Well fellow alumni and friends, if you ever find yourself traveling the crossroads of America and sitting in rush hour traffic on 465, give me a holler!
Attending Iowa State University and earning a Horticulture Degree in Turf Management has helped me to obtain a job in a field in which I have always dreamt about. Following graduation in May 2011 I began working with the Minnesota Twins as a member of their Grounds Crew. I know without Iowa State I would not be in the position that I am today.
Entering Iowa State I had envisioned myself working on a golf course and it was not until I attended the STMA Conference had I thought of possibly going into Sports Turf. Coincidentally, at this conference there was an internship posting for the New York Mets, which has always been my favorite baseball team. I applied and interviewed for the position not thinking much more about it.
Thankfully, while attending the GCSAA Conference I was offered and accepted the internship with the Mets. I feel that without my education at Iowa State and the notoriety of the Horticulture Department I would not have obtained this internship.
In May 2011 I was offered a seasonal position with the Minnesota Twins; by August 2011 this seasonal positions had turned into a full time year round position. The current season has been extremely busy, which has left very little free time. Not only do we have a full season of baseball but we also have weddings, kid’s camps, college games, high school games, the RBI World Series and much more. This means, that even when the Twins are on the road we are working everyday trying to catch up and get the field prepared for when the Twins return to Minneapolis.
The biggest event this summer was the Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, Brothers of the Sun Tour Concert held on July 8th. For a week straight in 100-degree heat we helped set up and tear down for the concert. During the concert there were 2000 people and a giant stage on the field, which caused some major damage. When all was said and done we removed and installed over 14,000 square feet of sod in two days. With the team back Friday after a Sunday night concert there was very little time for repairs; especially when that much sod is need. In return, we concentrated on the major areas and have continued managing the damage into the end of the season.
Even on the days when I have worked sun up to sun down I would not trade my career for anything. With the help of Professors, Advisors and constant support of staff at Iowa State I was able to explore the world of Turf Management and be able to see the many aspects of it. It did not take long for me to realize that the Iowa State Horticulture Department has built a national reputation for providing employers with educated and skilled graduates. I am proud to say I am an Iowa State Horticulture Alumni
Iowa State Class of 2011
At the end of summer of 2001 I moved to Ames to go to graduate school. This was a big change for me and my family to move to Iowa coming from Guatemala, a country where it is Spring year round and where in about 50 miles you can go from the beach (sea level) to an altitude to 9000 feet (top of a volcano).
I began my agriculture education since I was 11 years old, I won an scholarship to study in one of the three agricultures schools that the Guatemalan government had opened in the mid 80's. The schools where created to start agriculture education at junior high school level and only 50 scholarships per year per school were granted at that time. I was fortunate that I won one of those 50 for the school I went. At that moment, this opportunity meant to move to another state away from family and friends. When I finished there, in my mind there was no other option than continue studying agriculture. The problem was that to continue studying agriculture at the high school level, there was only one Agriculture school in the whole country, and only about 100 students were accepted per year. I took the chance and applied for the scholarship, which was the only way to get accepted to study after passing all the admission exams. I was accepted as student and after four years, I received a technical degree in Agronomy and had the first experience to work in the horticulture field. As a requirement to obtain the technical degree, I had to do a 6-month internship and I had the opportunity to work on a cut-roses operation. That was the first real experience working with ornamental in greenhouses and realized it was the area where I wanted to continue. In 1993, I started my university education at University San Carlos, the National University in Guatemala, where I got my degree in Agronomy in 1998. The same year, I started working for Goldsmith Seeds Inc. as the head grower in one of the three facilities they had in Guatemala producing hybrid seeds of bedding plants. From 1998 to 2001, I also taught Statistics as part time lecturer at the Agronomy School at the University San Carlos.
In January 2001, 8 days after my daughter Wendy Gabriela was born, I received the news that I had been awarded with a Fulbright scholarship to pursue my Master studies in the US. It was a dream coming true, to study abroad and to get a degree in a well-known University; though the decision was not easy because of my new baby. My English at that time was a bit worse than it is now, so I had to take an intensive English training at UC Davis. During the time I was learning English at UC Davis, Fulbright was applying for me at different Universities. I was accepted in 3 Universities in the Midwest, and I decided to go to Iowa State. After 5 months my English level was good enough to start graduate school, and then I moved to Ames in August 2001. What originally was a 2-year plan to stay for my Master's degree, ended up being 5 years getting my Ph.D. At the beginning for my Master's degree I did not have a major professor and Dr. Gladon took the chance to accept me as graduate student in the Horticulture Department. I did my thesis on determine the best Nitrogen source and rate for impatiens. I also evaluated the effect of Calcium on the shelf life of impatiens. What started as a small idea, ended up in two published paper from my thesis.
At the end of the first year of my Master's degree, I started as hourly worker in Dr. Hannapel's lab, I was responsible for media preparation, lab-ware washing and in vitro plant multiplication. In this job I had the opportunity to learn a bit of tissue Culture and also had the opportunity to meet Dr. Delate. Around 2002, NIH granted Iowa State and University of Iowa funds to study Echinacea and Hypericum. I got the opportunity to work in this project with Dr. Hannapel and Dr. Delate producing plant material in the field, greenhouse and in the lab. They gave the opportunity continue with my Ph.D studies. I did my dissertation on the evaluation of different accessions of Echinacea and Hypericum in the field, and also the development of hairy root cultures of Echinacea in the lab. This work gave us the opportunity to publish three papers.
At the beginning of 2006, it was time to start thinking about the future, so I started applying for a job. I accepted an offer from Goldsmith Seeds to go back to Guatemala as the Research and Development manager. I moved back to Guatemala on December, one day after the graduation and started working for Goldsmith on January 2nd of 2007. It has been almost 6 years since then, and my professional career has been constantly developing. At the end of 2008, Syngenta acquired Goldsmith Seeds, which meant a big change in the way of working. With the new organization I was responsible to lead the construction of a new Tissue Culture laboratory in Guatemala to produce Pelargoniums in vitro with a technology developed by Syngenta Flowers Scientists. With this technology, what in the past required the equivalent to 12 football fields, now we can make it in a 20 square meter growth room in the lab in Guatemala. Since July 2011, I was appointed as the Flower Technology Center Manager for the Latam region, this organization is in charge of bringing technology and innovation to the flower production sites and also doing research collaboration with other areas of Syngenta worldwide. In my role, I am responsible of a team where we have specialists working on crop technology, continuous improvement, research, phytosanitary controls, diagnostic lab, tissue culture lab and seed enhancement.
Iowa State and the Department of Horticulture gave me and my family a unique opportunity to succeed in my career and I am looking forward to give something back. Currently I am looking for opportunities to work on research programs with professor of the department and to establish an exchange program between the Horticulture department and Syngenta Flowers worldwide.
I actually began my educational career at Iowa State studying Chemical Engineering. In high school I always excelled in math and science, so engineering seemed like a natural fit but it didn't take long to realize that it wasn't for me. Ever since I was a child I had always been interested in plants however being from Iowa, I knew I definitely didn’t want to be a row-crop farmer.
I can still remember the first day I met my academic advisor Dr. Richard Gladon. He introduced me to the Horticulture Department and based on my interests and skills helped steer me to the Greenhouse Management option. I have to admit, it was a tough path to follow, especially with some of the classes Dr. Gladon is notorious for. But, with the help of Barb, Dr. Gladon, Rose, Dr. Stephens and the rest of the faculty I was able to make it through and graduated in December of 2009.
Dr. Gladon always stressed the importance of an internship as a way to get a foot in the door of the Horticulture industry. The summer of 2008 I was fortunate to be one of a handful of students selected to receive a Vic & Margaret Ball internship/scholarship through the American Floral Endowment. I had an opportunity to go anywhere in the U.S. and I chose the Pacific Northwest. Mr. David Niklas, who is on the Board of Directors for AFE opened up his nursery and home for me to complete my internship at Clackamas Greenhouses in Aurora, Oregon. Originally, I had planned to do two, 6-month internships – one at Clackamas and then another in the spring at a different nursery. I quickly fell in love with Oregon and instead decided to do a full year internship at Clackamas greenhouses.
I did well enough in my internship that Mr. Niklas offered me a full-time job as a Section Grower upon graduation. I completed my final semester at ISU in the fall of 2009 and after graduation in December, I returned to Oregon where I have been ever since. Unfortunately, because of the recession Clackamas Greenhouses closed its doors in January of 2011. As fate would have it, Terra Nova Nurseries in Canby, Oregon happened to be looking for a new head grower.
In school young plant production and propagation had always been the thing that fascinated me most about horticulture. So, when Terra Nova hired me as the Assistant Nursery Manager/Head Grower I was thrilled to be able to work on what I enjoyed most in school. For a little over a year I managed around 150,000 ft2 of greenhouse space and a crew of about 25 employees to produce a little over 4 million perennial liners. This past March I was nominated by Dan Heims, co-owner of Terra Nova, for the Young Grower of the Year award through GrowerTalks and Ball Publishing. Shortly thereafter I found out that I was one of 3 finalists and was flown to the OFA Short Course. Although I did not win, it was an incredible honor and experience that allowed me to meet several large players in the horticulture industry.
During my time as Head Grower, I liked to perform plant experiments in my free time on everything from PGR trials to new propagation procedures. I had quite a few breakthroughs with plant material and the upper management at Terra Nova decided to move me into the Research and Development department full-time. Currently, I am the Stock Plant Manager and I oversee a crew of 5 people in the support of the plant breeding team as well as continuing the work I began on experimental procedures. In addition to that, I have been published in both GrowerTalks and Greenhouse Grower with articles on plant culture. I am also responsible for writing grower recipes for plant material as well as providing technical support to our grower customers, including some on-site visits.
Looking back, I owe a lot of my success to the Horticulture Department and particularly Dr. Gladon for pushing me to become the grower that I am today.
Rich Bristol and Sue Bristol (Kennedy)
Dr. Olivia Marie Lenahan
Dr. Ryan Stewart
Dr. Michael Dosmann
John M. Williams
Rolston St. Hilaire