Cultivating a love of gardening into a degree

DIGGING IT (Joseph Espiritu)

Kseny Boklan

Students can earn university-transferable credits while learning how to cultivate both ornamental and edible plants in Saddleback College’s horticulture department. A variety of classes offer different ways of exploring the human bond with nature in a way that’s entertaining.

“Every day is Earth Day in our department,” said Robert Farnsworth, Saddleback instructor of horticulture and landscape design.

“The growing importance of self-sustainability is attracting more students to hands-on studies of plants, ‘as we get ‘greener,’ ” Farnsworth said. “We are returning to the roots of gardening and focusing on reducing the carbon footprint.”

Pursuing a degree in horticulture and/or landscape design creates many opportunities for both personal enrichment and money-making objectives. “I am looking to become a business owner,” Susan Senkbeil, 50, horticulture, said.

Since capitalism never fails as the United States’ way of working out the tough economical times: “America should be heading towards that direction,” Senkbeil said, referring to business ownership, “instead of waiting for a job.”

Senkbeil got involved in the horticulture department after her daughter took a class there. Going back to school has allowed Senkbeil’s passion for gardening to evolve into a practical skill, suitable for pursuing a career.

Skills one could acquire through the program include familiarity with computer programs like AutoCad, which can be used to plan out land plot design.

The program is good for both left and right brainers.
“I like the science of it. I’m not much of an artist, but a lot of artists like design,” Senkbeil said.

While pursuing her certificate, Senkbeil has fun by getting involved in the South Coast Plaza Garden Show. The horticulture department is creating a 12 by 20 foot garden space, titled “back to our roots, a modern Victory garden.” It will be made from edible plants, which aim to prove that a garden can be both practical and beautiful.

Gardening doesn’t have to be a serious affair, however. Nadia Alawi, 19, psychology, was planting flowers, while waiting for her classmates. “We are planting green onions, artichokes and spinach,” she said about the plan for her group’s allocated plot of land. “My group wants to make artichoke dip.”

Alawi said that Horticulture 20 class, an introduction to horticultural science, “looked like fun.” Students like her get to enjoy the outdoors and the spring weather while earning transferable class credits.

Nadia was also taking Horticulture 29, a three credit class. “We go on hikes every other Saturday for an hour and a half, to places like Laguna Wilderness coast,” she said.

Another great class for earning easy and fun credits is Horticulture 162, horticulture field studies. Students spend three days in Yosemite National Park, studying the area’s native plants.

The horticulture department has a lot on their busy agenda. Saddleback faculty is planning to redesign the quad next year. “Something that Saddleback College will be proud of for 100 years or longer,” said Farnsworth, who intends to be involved in the process.

Horticulture students are also preparing for the Plant Sale on April 16 and 17. It will be open to the public, and prospective customers can expect inexpensive plants such as: vegetables, seasonals, house plants and cactus. Proceeds help raise scholarship money for students in the horticulture program.

“There will be extraordinary bargains and some of the most healthful plants you can buy,” Farthworth said, promoting the plant sale. The department’s program, state of the art facility and students are a source of pride for him.

Students who get involved in horticulture learn responsibility as they grow and water the plants. They also have fun, planning out the garden and taking home their produce. Farthworth said that the department’s main goals is getting students into jobs, so they can keep enjoying what they learned to do and keep doing what they learned to enjoy.