FC Horticulture Provides Real-World Experience to Students During its Annual Plant Sales

Denise Gonzalez grew over 700 California native plants for this year's Fall Plant Sale.

Denise Gonzalez grew over 700 California native plants for this year’s Fall Plant Sale.

Hidden near the corner of Lemon Street and Berkeley Avenue, the FC Horticulture Department is easy to miss for most students. Although small, the department is busy year-round with classes taught in the classrooms from a converted World War II Army barrack or outside in the two acres of land filled with plants, greenhouses and irrigation equipment. The normally quiet idyllic setting will be bustling this weekend when the department will open its doors to the community for its annual Fall Plant Sale.

The first plant sale began in 1992 and started when horticulture professors decided to sell extra plants used in their instruction. What was once a small sale averaging around 100 plants has now grown into a sale offering more than 10,000 plants. The sales are offered three times a year in the fall, spring, and the most popular, the tomato plant sale each March.

Last March’s tomato sale, the Horticulture Department sold more than 8,000 tomato plants from 125 different varieties. On the first day of the sale, 125 customers from around Orange and Los Angeles counties were already lined up at the gate waiting to pick from the selection. More than 25 varieties of tomatoes had sold out on the first day alone, and $20,000 was raised throughout the three-day sale.

“The Fullerton community has been a big supporter of these sales year after year,” says Horticulture Lab Technician Diane Komos. “The more that the community embraces and learns about what we do, the more we grow and have bigger sales.”

Student interns play a crucial role in the sales and are in charge of growing all the plants. The student internship program, which began in 1999, is available to seven students each year. Interns must go through a hiring process, beginning with an application and followed by an interview. Professors then decide whom to take on as interns for one year, and each intern is assigned a different section of plants from which they propagate from seeds or cuttings. Not only do the interns gain valuable experience in different aspects of horticulture careers, but they also raise funding for next year’s internship program through each sale. The department currently offers three associate degrees in Nursery Management, Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Management as well as certificates in proficiency in Greenhouse and Nursery Production, Landscape Design and Management, Irrigation, Pest Management and Ornamental Horticulture.

Denise Gonzalez has been with the horticulture program for two years and is nearing the end of her year with the internship program. After completing her undergraduate study at University of California Santa Cruz in film and digital media, she found herself drawn to a different career path that led her to Fullerton College.

“Horticulture is more hands-on, you see something from a seed become a full grown plant,” said Gonzalez. “It feels more gratifying.”

After researching colleges, Gonzalez decided to attend Fullerton College due to its program, resources available and locality. Her futures plans after graduating with a Certificate in Proficiency in Greenhouse and Nursery Production from Fullerton College are to complete her graduate work at Oregon State University or apply to the National Park Service.

Gonzalez was assigned to work with the California native plants and has propagated more than 725 plants from 50 varieties for the plant sale on Saturday. During each sale she and her fellow interns and volunteers help customers with information about the plants they are selling, advice for keeping plants healthy and ideas for different types of gardens.

“It’s nice to see entire families come to the sales and help pass on their love for gardening,” she said.

This weekend, the Fall Plant Sale will run from Saturday, Oct. 3 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Sunday, Oct. 4 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Customers can expect a selection of California native drought tolerant plants, herbaceous perennials, shade plants, house plants, vines, succulents and winter vegetables. Parking is free for the whole weekend and more information can be found on the Horticulture Department’s page and their Instagram account.

Author: Fullerton College

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