A pile of my textbooks for my horticulture program.

A pile of my textbooks for my horticulture program.

If all goes right, I’ll graduate from my horticulture program at the end of next semester! I’m super excited! Only 11 years, multiple major changes, and an ungodly amount of student loans later, I’m actually going to have a college degree. An associates degree, but hey, it’s something. Well, I’ll also have a few certificates too, so that justifies it, right? Ha ha.

In all my education, this is the first program/major I’ve been in where I got to know faculty and my fellow students. There are definitely cliques to people who study horticulture, especially at my school. I imagine there are similar cliques in many horticulture departments, but here I’d say you could sum up our cliques as follows:

  • The Turf Guys
  • The Specialists
  • The Landscapers
  • The Permies
  • The Urban Farmers
  • The Marijuana Enthusiasts

The Turf Guys

Turf Guys are kind of like the jocks of our program. They tend to be big, tough, and not concerned with things they see as frivolous. They aren’t dumb (as a lot of people take jocks to be) they are just really focused on one thing they find really interesting. Turf. Generally fairly practical and down to earth, Turf Guys are interested in making a good living, excelling at their trade, and being a part of something that reflects their interests. Their dream jobs tend to be working at sporting fields and golf courses. Their favorite fellow students are The Landscapers and The Marijuana Enthusiasts.

The Specialists

These people are the ones who get really into a particular subject or field of study. If the Turf Guys are the jocks, the Specialists are the geeks and type A, perfect GPA students. Generally they get really into something specific, like propagation or cultivating their own varieties of plants, or they are super interested in the exotic, rare, and difficult. Their dream jobs are either doing something technical like working in greenhouse cultivation, or something fancy, like working at the Botanic Gardens or Zoo. They are also the most likely to go into research and become professors themselves. Their favorite students are other Specialists and the Marijuana Enthusiasts.

The Landscapers

The Landscapers probably make up the majority of us in the program, and they are pretty diverse. They may be more interested in maintenance, installation, or design, but their common interest lies in creating and maintaining beautiful, functional, outdoor spaces. Whether it is private spaces, like residential and commercial landscapes, or public, as in parks and community gathering places, the landscapers want to be a part of something that others will enjoy. In high school, they were the creative kids, the artists, thesbians, and writers. Their dream job is owning their own business, being a groundskeeper for a cool garden, or working for a parks department. Their favorite other students are the Turf Guys and the Marijuana Enthusiasts.

The Permies

The Permies are hardcore into permaculture, and they are total hippies. They are interested in saving the world, and maybe getting some food to eat in the process. Most of them are activists. They are interested in mimicking nature, the long term impacts of their actions, and the philosophical meaning behind everything they do in the garden. They could not be less interested in money. In fact, many of them have not stopped to consider that they even need money. They live in an edible food forest or they want to. Chances are they are either vegetarian or harvest their own meat. When they’re not doing that, they’re at Burning Man. Their dream job is activism or teaching, preferably both. Their favorite students are the Urban Farmers and the Marijuana Enthusiasts.

The Urban Farmers

Lots of hort departments at colleges probably have a lot of farmers/ag students, but ours are primarily Urban Farmers. This means they are interested pretty much only in agriculture produced inside urban or suburban regions. Maybe they can’t afford large acreage, or maybe they just don’t want to leave the amenities of the city, but they’re working their poly culture in some small, creative space, and selling their harvest to local restaurants, at a farmers market, or through a small CSA. One part hippie, one part hipster, the Urban Farmers are much more practical and less idealistic that their Permie counterparts. They know they have a business to run, and if they make it to the end of their course of study, they aren’t burdened by any romanticized notions of going back to the land. That’s a nice concept, but they know what really goes into farming, and they’re ready for it. Their dream job is running their own farm and making enough money to not qualify for the earned income credit. Their favorite other students are the Permies, the Landscapers, and the Marijuana enthusiasts.

The Marijuana Enthusiasts

Pretty much all colleges, and all programs of study, have marijuana enthusiasts, sure, but not like a horticulture program in a state where both medical and recreational marijuana is legal. We’re not allowed to talk about marijuana in our program (because it’s federally funded), but we all know who the Marijuana Enthusiasts students are. These students are not just pot heads, they are sharp and keen businesspeople, as well as highly detail oriented, scientific, hard workers. People with a serious interest in the marijuana industry have to know their shit, as well as be very disciplined. You may have noticed that all the cliques love the Marijuana Enthusiasts. It’s not because we all think we can get pot from them, some of us (cough cough, raises hand) aren’t even interested in pot. It’s because the Marijuana Enthusiasts also trend to be very charming and outgoing. Like any good business people in highly social markets, they love to network and make connections. Furthermore, their work is interesting in ways that appeal to almost all of the rest of us. It’s highly technical, known for its alternative healing properties as well as its fun properties, and it’s a brand new, slightly taboo industry that everyone is talking about. Sure, we get a few potheads in the lower level classes that think they’re going to learn a few tricks to become a weed wizard, or something like that, but that chaff is quickly separated from the high quality, true Marijuana enthusiasts when they realize what really goes into the work. Marijauna Enthusiasts dream job is anything that allows them to stand out in this booming new market of medical and recreational marijuana. They like all their other students.

So what am I?

I think I probably rest somewhere between the Landscapers and the Permies. I went into this program thinking I was an urban farmer, but I know now that’s not the case. I love food plants and sustainability, and I’m definitely into activism and don’t care too much about money, but I also love aesthetically beautiful and functional landscapes, and I feel strongly about the positive impact and value of including such formal landscapes in a community. i like planting in rows too much to be full Permie, but I like including food too much to be straight Landscaper either.

Where do you think you would fit?