Last week I found out some rather sad news for horticulture education. The Sustainable Plant Science & Technology (SPST) program at the Career Technical Education Center (CTEC) in Salem, Oregon will be shutting down.
For those of you who don’t know, this program was one of only five in Oregon dedicated to teaching students the technical skills needed for a horticulture career. Skills taught included, professionalism, plant anatomy, plant propagation, tissue culture, hydroponics, molecular methods (DNA extraction and sequencing), and the scientific method, among others. This was the only one in the state taught at the high school level. The other three programs are at community colleges (Chemeketa, Clackamas, and Portland) and at Oregon State University.
I would like to send my thanks to the instructors, Joey Corcoran, Jasmine Filley, and Luis Valenzuela Estrada for doing their best to promote interest in horticulture to the next generation. You did a fantastic job and I am extremely proud of what you accomplished. At least one of their students used the skills that they learned to become a successful employee at Microplant Nurseries. And, thank you to Microplant Nurseries, Marion Ag Services, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and several other individuals and businesses for being such strong supporters of this program. Without you, we would be so much farther behind in horticulture education.
Although there was support from quite a few local businesses, it was always puzzling why one of the regional grower associations never publicly supported SPST. CTEC tried multiple times to get representatives to visit and write an article, but for some reason it never happened. Which is a shame, because one of the #1 complaints is how there aren’t enough qualified candidates for horticulture positions. To be clear, it’s not that I think this would have made much of a difference in the long run, but support is support and any good publicity helps. Unfortunately, there were just too few students signed up as of last week to keep the program going when school budgets are tight.
Now, more than ever, it is important for all of us to support efforts to make students more aware of the career possibilities in horticulture and to support those working towards their degree. The fact is, many of us in horticulture are aging and retiring, and there are an increasing number of nurseries that are closing. I used to count myself among the rare young-uns in the horticulture industry, but now at the age of 49.5, I no longer claim that designation. Special shout out to my friend Ann Amato over at Amateur Bot-ann-ist. You go girl! You’ve got my undying admiration and support. We will do our best to get you to the International Plant Propagators Society meeting next year!
I’ll leave you with a few photos I snapped on Monday, giving what was probably my last guest lecture and demonstration activity.
Note: The the top four photos are not my own, but were copied from the program’s website in an effort to preserve some of what they accomplished while inspiring the next generation to go into horticulture. And, full disclosure, I do have a personal connection to the program, having provided guest lectures, donated equipment and supplies, among other things. I don’t think that takes away from the importance of it though. I believe strongly in horticulture education. Please, please, please leave a comment if you know of any local horticulture programs that need support. I am already in contact with instructors at Chemeketa Community College, Clackamas Community College, and Oregon State University. But, we need to GROW the network!