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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Horticultural careers sprouting in NW greenhouse

By Shirlett Warren/reporter

Many people don’t realize horticulture is a business, said NW horticulture program coordinator and assistant professor Mark Schusler.

“People think horticulture is picking flowers and raking leaves,” he said. “But many of our students already have careers in landscaping.”

Professional landscapers who are certified or have a degree in horticulture distinguish themselves from the rest of the landscaping industry, Schusler said.

“Anybody can get a sign and a pickup truck and start mowing lawns,” he said. “But that piece of paper is important.”

The NW horticulture program offers training taught in many four-year universities and gives students the opportunity to become certified or degreed horticulturists. Students are trained to understand the science and art of horticulture and become equipped with marketable skills.

“We teach students how to run a business,” Schusler said. “And if they already own a business, we teach them how to manage it.” 

A core component of the NW horticulture program is ornamental horticulture, which includes training in landscaping, nursery procedures and floriculture.

Landscaping encompasses design, installation and maintenance. Nursery procedures include understanding turf and growing trees and shrubs. Floriculture is the study of greenhouse management including the art of bedding, growing and cutting plants.

“We even have landscape design software so students can learn how to design residential and commercial landscapes,” Schusler said.

Most students stay in DFW, but one landed a job in Los Angeles working with indoor plants at the Beverly Hills Hotel, he said.

“This program opens up so many opportunities,” Schusler said. “You never know where it will lead you.”

Dan Burger, park superintendent for the City of Keller Parks and Recreation Department, was one of Schusler’s first students.

“I loved the program,” Burger said. “All of the instructors were in the industry and were very knowledgeable.”

Burger said he did not start out with a desire to work in horticulture, but the vocational perspective of the program helped to shape his career.

“The hands-on training really helped me to concentrate,” he said.

After years of working in landscaping, former student Tony Johnson entered the program to gain expertise in ornamental horticulture.

“I had my own landscaping business, but it was very labor-intensive,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have enough money to hire adequate workers, and it was not very profitable.”

He said the instructors’ knowledge and skill set the program apart. Johnson is now an instructional assistant and manages the NW greenhouse.

This semester, students grew their own poinsettias in the greenhouse to help them understand the cost, labor and profit margin of the plants, Schusler said.

“We wind up giving them to the different departments around campus,” he said. “The PR is worth more than what we could make on them.”

Students get actual sales experience the first week in April when the horticulture department holds its annual plant sale. Last year, the sale raised $4,800, which goes back into the general program fund, Schusler said.

“It’s like a homecoming for us,” he said. “People start calling in January to make sure they don’t miss it.”

Two other areas of study in the program include pomology, the production and marketing of fruits and nuts, and olericulture, the production and marketing of vegetables.

“We’re even trying to get a course on viticulture,” Schusler said as he looked at the campus vineyard.

The horticulture program began in 1976 and is part of the public services department. Schusler has been with the program since 1977.

“It’s not my program. It was here when I came and will hopefully be here when I’m gone,” he said. “I just love what I do, and I love to teach.”

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