The Ohio Program Cultivates International Horticulturalists at Cultivate ‘21

Aug. 3, 2021
International horticulture interns with their host company, Metrolina Greenhouses, at the ATI & TOP booths.

Cultivate is one of the largest annual national horticulture industry conference/trade shows in the US, hosted by AmericanHort in Columbus, OH. For over a decade, The Ohio Program (TOP), has exhibited at this conference and has represented CFAES.  This year, TOP’s booth was placed together with the Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) thus raising the profile of CFAES. 

Annually, The Ohio Program arranges 5 days of special educational and social-cultural events towards the professional development of their international horticulture interns during Cultivate. Interns network with their peers and industry professionals, as a group and individually, attend educational sessions and join various social-cultural events. Nine interns from four countries came to Columbus a few days before the event started, volunteering to help AmericanHort staff and members set up decorations.

The Ohio Program Supports Future Generations of Horticulturists

The Ohio Program believes in helping young generations obtain the education necessary to successfully pursue horticultural careers. TOP cooperates with faculty members at the College of Food, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (CFAES) of The Ohio State University and industry leaders such as Syngenta to support their journey both in academic and non-academic institutions. The special educational sessions during Cultivate are one of the tools used to provide training that interns need to be successful in the global horticulture industry.

One of the educational sessions, presented by Dr. Wendy Klooster, Assistant Professor of Horticulture & Crop Science and former TOP intern Hafith Furqoni (who is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Crop Physiology and Production at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln), emphasized the need for continuous learning, for a degree as well as for personal development. Dr. Benny Tjia, retired Associate Professor of Ornamental Horticulture at the University of Florida and an OSU graduate, has supported TOP for 22 years as an opportunity for students to gain valuable experience. Dr Tija has recognized the value of hands-on training as an excellent learning mechanisms.   

Dr. Gary Pierzynski, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, and Dr. Luis Cañas, Associate Professor in Entomology and Director of FAES International Programs at OSU, presented a complete guide to what is needed to prepare to pursue higher education and explained applying to graduate schools. Pierzynski explained CFAES’s role in bridging research, teaching and extension.  He detailed the drive to internationalize the college, adding that the interaction of TOP interns with the larger College community opens doors for education abroad programs.   

As there are many career options and possibilities in the global horticulture industry, The Ohio Program invited some young professionals and industry leaders to give their insights about job prospects to the interns. A former TOP, Katharina Kress (“Kata”), shared her experience and gave some advice on how to build a successful career. Kata currently works for Walter Gardens, Inc. as the Regional Product Manager. Originally from Austria, Kress did her internship at Plant Delights, Inc. through The Ohio Program in 2016. Her mentor there helped her learn many different aspects of nursery companies. This opportunity also helped Kata to make some important connections and obtain the job she wanted.

Another former intern, Eka Sari, who is currently head tomato breeder at Enza Zaden Research USA, also shared her experience. Eka graduated from Bogor Agricultural University, then joined The Ohio Program in 2012 for 6 months. Afterward, she completed an undergrad semester at The Ohio State University. She said that she had a terrific time during a short course at OSU, not only by learning about agriculture and science but also by having the opportunity to network with faculty members. Through this network, she got an offer to do a master's degree at OSU. She completed her MSc. in Plant Breeding and Genetics under the advisement of Dr. David Francis. Eka emphasized to interns that networking is very important, it helped her to land the job that she currently has. She said, “…every day I come to work, I cannot help but thinking how wonderful the journey has been, it began only by one…one opportunity that was given to me by The Ohio Program.”

For an industry leader’s perspective regarding the job prospects in the global horticulture industry, The Ohio Program invited Nancy Rechcigl, Technical Field Manager, and Chris Threadgrill, Territory Sales Manager from Syngenta North America. Rechcigl told interns that having a mentor in your life can help you along the right path in your career. For many years Syngenta has been supportive of The Ohio Program, as their priority is to help make the next generation’s future brighter.

Click here to see 10 photographs from this event:  Click on each photo to enlarge and read a longer caption. 

With thanks to Feni Sukmawati, Visiting Scholar, International Interns Program, The Ohio Program for writing and photographing this story.