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Horticulture Club takes their Skills to Competition

EKU students at the NALP competition over 2018 Spring Break

This spring break from March 14-17 EKU’s Horticulture club joined over 700 students from many different colleges to show off their skills in real-world competitive events as well as network with top companies at the largest career fair in the industry - the National Landscape Competition (NCLC) hosted by National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) and Alamance Community college in Graham, North Carolina.

The team arrived early on Wednesday to participate in a number of learning workshops - some designed to help with competition and others to learn about coming trends to prepare for future competitions and to further expand horticulture trends into U.S. and Canada markets. By Thursday students were participating in the National Roll Call, attending a huge career fair, taking qualifying exams, attending competition briefings, and starting some competitions. The competitions were diverse and practical. Some were hands-on individual tests, like Backhoe Operation, and others were 2-3 person team competitions located all over campus such as Cost Estimating (indoors) and Irrigation Assembly (outdoors).

The attending students were:

Jeff Browning - a junior studying agribusiness participated in Irrigation Assembly, Compact Excavator Operation and Tractor Loader Backhoe Operation.

Ben Buchignani - a freshmen studying Turf and Landscape participated in Skid Steer Operation, Landscape Plant Installation, and Maintenance Cost Estimating.

David Burton - a freshmen studying Fruit, Vegetable, Nursery and Greenhouse Production, participated in Plant Problem Diagnosis, Wood Construction, and Woody Ornamental Plant Identification.

Whitney Ferrell - a senior who studies Landscape and Nursery, participated in Annual & Perennial Identification and Interior Landscape Design.

Zeke Griffis - a sophomore who studies Fruit, Vegetable, Nursery and Greenhouse Production, participated in 3D Exterior Landscape Design, Construction Cost Estimating, and Landscape Plant Installation.

Grant Hagerman installing landscape lightingGrant Hagerman - a senior from Shelbyville, Ky., who studies agribusiness and turf management. He participated in Truck & Trailer and Landscaping lighting earning 1st place, this was the first time EKU participated in this event.

Joel Hardesty - a senior who studies Turf management, and participated in Irrigation.

David Jaggers - a junior who studies Fruit, Vegetable, Nursery and Greenhouse Production, and participated in Construction Cost Estimating, Plant Problem Diagnosis, and Wood Construction.

Allie Johnson - a junior from Brodhead, KY who studies Landscape and Nursery, and participated in Exterior Landscape Design, Flower & Foliage Identification, and Maintenance Cost Estimating.

Chase O'Connor - a junior who studies Turf Management and participated in Truck & Trailer, Turf & Weed Identification, and Mini Track Loader Operation which included picking up and unloading multiple pallets while balancing balls on the pallets all on a timed course. He was the only competitor, in all the time the team watched, that didn't drop a ball.

Mike Randolph - junior who studies Turf Management and participated in Landscape Plant installation and Turf & Weed Identification.

Sydney Parker - a senior who studies Fruit, Vegetable, Nursery and Greenhouse Production, and participated in Flower & Foliage Identification.

Mark Truesdell - a freshmen who studies Fruit, Vegetable, Nursery and Greenhouse Production, and participated in Annual & Perennial Identification and Woody Ornamental Plant Identification.

Bry Warner - a senior who studies agribusiness and participated in Interior Plant Identification as well as a Sales Presentation.

The students were accompanied by Cody Domenghini (Horticulture Professor), John Duvall (EKU Horticulture Technician—known as EKU MAN), and Carla Hagan (Turf Management Professor).

These horticulture competitions are extremely “real-world”. Students must possess a great understanding of science - particularly the identification of plants as well as their potential pest problems and growth preferences. They must know how to use all equipment safely and fluidly. They have to be current on technology like 3D Landscape Design and wifi irrigation and landscape lighting. In every installation competition, such as Irrigation Assembly, Landscape Lighting, etc., the installs are timed and the water must flow and the lights come on when they finish. Competitions like Cost Estimating and Sales Presentation use real projects and clients so that students have the same stresses that actual horticulturalists experience.

Grant Hagerman placed first in Landscape Lighting and said, “Having finished 1st place in Landscape Lighting at the NCLC I have found myself invited to Hunter Industries Corporate Headquarters in San Marcos, Calif. I had a great time this week with friends and I am glad to have made many new ones. I am sincerely grateful to the competition volunteers, the landscape professionals associated with accreditation organizations, and most of all to the staff and professors involved in the Eastern Kentucky University Agriculture and Horticulture programs. I am thankful they have helped me lay a new life foundation.”

“This event always impresses me with the number of students in the industry that come together to display their knowledge and landscaping skills.  This EKU team is the first group of students who have been enrolled in an AGR 300 course to prep for this event," said Dr. Dominghini. "They have worked particularly hard in learning and practice while also creating materials for future teams to study. This event is an impressive display of horticulture in action and we hope to host it in 4-5 years. This could potentially bring 2000 horticulture students, faculty, and industry to our campus.”

This trip is a great motivating and learning experience. The event brings together the top landscape and horticulture students from the U.S. and Canada, top industry companies and dozens of the biggest industry manufacturers and suppliers. It allows our students to further develop their skills and show them off! They are now more aware than ever that Horticulture career opportunities are abundant and that companies want them and their degrees.

Ms. Hagan said, “We are extremely proud of our team. They competed with purpose, supported one another (Trust me—the rest of the nation knows we have EKU team spirit), conducted themselves professionally AND we even had a 1st Place finisher in the nation! They gave up their spring break to do this but we know they got more out of it than they gave up and they know it too. They’ve already been asking about next year’s competitions.”

Published on March 19, 2018

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