Recently, there have been articles written about the horticulture programs in universities and colleges around the country. The study that raised these issues indicated that horticulture was the number 2 most useless degree in universities and colleges today, citing a decline in the number of enrollments in these programs. While I am not able to argue the statistics, I will argue that many people electing to enter the horticulture field do so from other fields and not necessarily from only horticulture programs. I question whether this study includes landscape programs or is centered on the horticulture field specifically.
Today’s technologies require more technical savvy employees than ever before, the irrigation systems, design software and the amount of technical knowledge needed have increased significantly over the past 20 years. This then brings people into the field that have never considered horticulture or the Green Industry as a career. Most don’t have a Horticulture degree. One of the comments that I hear most often is about how easy it is to enter into the landscaping business, this would suggest to me that a number of entrepreneurial type are selecting the Green Industry. Whether they are horticulture grads or not, I don’t know. When I entered the horticulture industry in the 70′s I found that most people in the landscape industry were not business people, most had no business experience at all. Most were technicians filling a need for experienced and knowledgeable workers to work in an industry that had developed as our world became more complicated and fast paced.
To suggest that horticulture enrollments are declining may be a symptom of poor salesmanship on the part of the horticulture industry. It is also obvious that the use of immigrants in the landscape industry may have contributed to the decline in enrollment. The horticulture industry will always be part of our culture, growing food and raising crops all are part of horticulture. This may be a sign of a greater issue than that of horticulture is a useless degree, but the the decline of our society’s ability to grow its own food stuffs: just like the decline in manufactured goods, we are moving into a different world.
The landscape industry has always been a difficult industry to find quality employees, that has not changed. The work we do is a very physical in nature and requires great physical strength and agility. The older we become the more difficult it is for us to work in the landscape industry. Secondly, not everyone in our business is cut out to move into supervision or management. The truth is that we have selected a career path that is tough,mentally and physically.
The number of students enrolling in horticulture schools is not what is disturbing to me, what is disturbing is that our society is discounting the American way of life. We have always been an agricultural country we are moving in a new direction. The Landscape Industry will not change, we will always need trees and shrubs. We will always find young people who are interested in our great industry.