DOBSON — By its very definition, horticulture is a growing field — and Surry County Master Gardeners want to help local students harvest the many career opportunities it offers by providing a scholarship.
“We definitely need more students in horticulture,” according to Robin Portis of Mount Airy, one of the Master Gardeners who are part of a volunteer program operated through the Surry County Center of N.C. Cooperative Extension.
A $1,000 scholarship is offered, for which the application deadline is June 1, being extended from an earlier date.
It has been funded by proceeds from a May 5 plant sale held in Dobson by the Master Gardeners, which Portis chaired. That group provides unbiased, research-based education to the public which promotes horticultural best practices and environmental stewardship.
County Extension Director Joanna Radford indicated that the group has been well received by the community over the years and sought to reciprocate by helping local young people via the horticultural scholarship, specifically those entering or enrolled in such studies.
“So hopefully, we’ll have some good applicants for that,” Radford said.
Preferred candidates are those entering the third or fourth year of a four-year program of study, with applicants required to be a graduate of a high school or equivalent program in Surry County.
Radford said that understanding the broad nature of horticulture for educational purposes requires weeding out a common stereotype.
“Not everybody wants to be a farmer,” she said.
“Horticulture is a big umbrella with a lot of things underneath it,” Radford added.
The scholarship will assist students in completing a four-year degree leading to a career in horticulture or a related field, such as floriculture, landscape design, botany, forestry, agronomy, plant pathology, conservation, environmental science, soil science, turfgrass, agribusiness, viticulture and others.
Officials say the financial assistance is aimed at encouraging professional preparation of future leaders in the various horticultural disciplines.
Local schools on board
With agriculture an important industry — one that feeds the world no less — Radford believes interest in horticultural studies has been increasing at local schools in recent years and helped spread the word about its significance.
She cited a program at Mount Airy High School in particular, calling it “very exciting.”
Sara Lowe, a sustainable agriculture and science teacher at the school, has been involved in student projects including the planting of basic garden items and floral varieties in raised beds on the campus.
Thar project, part of a sustainability curriculum at the high school, is aimed at providing students with gardening experience they can apply later in life and a respect for the process required.
On the Master Gardeners scholarship application form — available at https://surry.ces.ncsu.edu/2023/05/emgv-scholarship-deadline-extended/ — prospective recipients are asked to list horticulture or agriculture courses taken in high school along with relevant leadership/club activities.
Details on their college courses, goals and related extracurricular activities also are sought, among other information.