Garden Variety: Green industry offers plenty of jobs

The horticulture industry is growing, and experts say there are about twice as many jobs available within the industry as there are college graduates in the field to fill them. If growth continues, the demand for skilled horticultural professionals will follow.

For those with an interest in plants or the many other things the green industry offers, this is a good time to explore options and consider a career in horticulture.

Horticulture is a type of agriculture. It is generally defined as the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, nuts and ornamental plants.

The Garden Media Group, a nationwide public relations and marketing communications firm, reported the industry’s growth and job shortage in its January 2020 Garden Trends Report. According to the report, the horticulture industry experienced overall growth of 6% in 2019, and that growth is expected to continue.

The green industry includes horticulture but is more encompassing. It includes greenhouse and nursery production; landscape architecture, design and maintenance; arboriculture; turf production and maintenance; interiorscape management; floriculture; fruit and vegetable production; entomology; plant pathology; irrigation design and installation; and cannabis production in states that allow it.

Landscape architecture, design and maintenance can be further broken down into public and private sectors. In the public sector, this work might entail designing and working in parks; college campuses; botanic gardens; arboretums; and/or landscaped right-of-ways and easements. The private sector includes theme parks and all sizes of residential and commercial landscapes.

The turf industry can be grouped into sports field management, golf course management, sod production and residential/commercial turf management.

And the interiorscape field works with indoor plants in offices, hotels, shopping centers and more.

Because of the recent legalization of marijuana in many states, cannabis production is the most rapidly growing portion of the horticulture industry right now. This is also where skilled workers are most lacking because there were few opportunities for experience until the past few years. Formal education in this field is also lacking but should improve with continued research and trials.

Although the Garden Media Group report referenced a lack of college graduates in horticulture, many professionals in the field either lack formal education or were educated in a field other than horticulture. Often, young people on a different career path take a part-time or seasonal job in the green industry and find themselves liking the work. College can be a strong foundation to work in the industry, but there are other avenues for success. If the interest is there, entry-level positions are also there.

The industry needs more than just people who work directly with plants, though: Equipment operators are also in high demand. Tractors, loaders, backhoes, trenchers and other machines are used regularly for landscape installation, loading and other tasks in the industry.

Educators are also needed. Some might teach in informal settings such as community classes or youth programs such as Future Farmers of America and 4-H. Others might work at colleges, universities and other formal settings.

Sales, marketing and public relations specialists are also needed in all segments of the industry.

— Jennifer Smith works in regulatory horticulture and has worked as a horticulturist for various government entities. She has experience in landscape design and maintenance and as an educator.


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