Each year, high school graduates think about their future as high school life comes to an end. One of the newest and ever evolving fields is horticulture.
Locally, Spartanburg County is home to one of the top-rated associate’s degrees in the field of horticulture. The students who attend the program already have some idea what to do with their life even as they enter the first year of the program.
Isaac Kirwin is a focused young man when it comes to horticulture. He is a second-year student, preparing to graduate in May from Spartanburg Community College’s Horticulture Department.
What makes Kirwin special is that he has been accepted to Ohio State University and will go on to pursue a four-year degree and possibly a master’s degree. He plans to major in landscape design and minor in horticulture. He plans to study all areas of landscaping, including design, management, construction and sustainability. Ohio State’s Landscape Horticulture program is one of 18 two-year programs in the United States to be accredited by the Professional Landcare Network which is the national trade association for landscape professionals.
Horticulture chose Kirwin, not the other way around. When he was a child, his mother, Virginia, gave him his own plot of land in the garden to plant. He read his mom’s garden and plant magazines, and grew up around lots of basil, vegetables and perennials. He loves the family of conifers because they remind him of the pre-historic era.
Kirwin had other interests, but felt the pull of horticulture. He has a keen interest in city planning and how green spaces are planned out. His dream is to go into city planing, so he can work to change city codes and enable people in big cities or towns to rent rooftop spaces and garden on top of them. Kirwin would love to work in Detroit.
“They have been through so much as a city,” he said. “They can base their city around sustainability and give their city a new image, creating a green revolution.”
Kirwin chose Spartanburg Community College partly because of its reputation of excellence. He wanted that hands-on experience instead of being one of 300 students in a program.
“My teachers work together so well,” he said. “They are very open to each other’s ideas, and that has helped us as students a lot. We all know our own inner strengths and work well together on many projects.”
In addition to going to school, Kirwin works at Whole Foods as much as he can, saving as much money as possible.
The first year of the program was mind blowing, understanding all the Latin names, and all the studying. During last summer, Kirwin was lucky enough to do his internship with noted South Carolina horticulturist Jenks Farmer. He spent the summer doing garden maintenance and working in Farmer’s crinum business at the farm, in addition to traveling across the country.
It was during one of these trips that took them to Columbus, Ohio, to a community botanical garden where people have their own designated garden space to work. It was during a stop at Ohio State where Isaac became interested in the school and it’s horticulture program.
Kirwin knew he wanted to travel to other parts of this country and experience their climate. He applied to their 2015 summer term and was accepted. Upon his graduation in May, he plans to leave immediately for Columbus and begin his next level of schooling.
When asked where he sees himself in 10 years time, Kirwin smiled and said, “I hope to be in a big city designing and building rooftop gardens and affecting green changes everywhere.”
He hopes to change these cities who are not doing enough to promote green spaces in each community. In the meantime, Kirwin keeps his nose to the grindstone and keeps working toward his goal.
Jason Bagwell, head of the horticulture program at Spartanburg Community College, says, “We have had close to 30 job requests since Jan. 1 of this year. We rank 26th in the U.S. for horticulture programs and courses of study. Most graduates find jobs in the landscape management field for companies, municipalities and companies they own themselves.
“Beyond that, the landscape construction, greenhouse/nursery, tree care, sports turf and golf course management are the other areas students find jobs all throughout the state. ... Some students choose to further their education at Clemson (University) in horticulture, agriculture education, turf grass and forestry.“
In addition to Bagwell, Kevin Parris teaches and is involved in the field of magnolia propagation, while Jay Moore teaches and understands what it takes to run a successful nursery business.
The field of horticulture is gaining steam in the United States. It is evolving into an attainable career, and a successful one at that.
Yes, it is hard work, but very rewarding. Kirwin will tell you that as he smiles thinking about the possibilities of his future and how he can make life better for each one of us through innovative ideas in Horticulture.
View article as it appears on GoUpstate.com
For information about SCC's Horticulture programs, visit www.sccsc.edu/horticulture