Making college and career connections for youth involved in community gardening

As youth participate in community gardens, make an effort to incorporate a college visit to connect them to a college major and career in horticulture and other career fields.

When travelling through neighborhoods or different communities, you may see community gardens. These gardens may be in open lots or neighborhood parks. They were started when a person or a group of people in the community came together and made a decision to start the garden. Some community gardens will have youth involvement. If you are part of a community garden project with youth or if you’re in the process of starting one with youth involvement, have you thought about incorporating an activity to educate youth on a college and career pathway related to community gardening?

Taking a college visit can change the life of a youth or student by influencing them or directing them to their future career field. As adults accompany youth on college visits, they can help make a connection to their future from the different places they visit on campus. When it comes to gardens, Michigan State University has the MSU Horticulture Gardens that adults and youth can visit as an extension of the community gardening activity.

During the visit, a connection can be made to different careers while observing the gardens. A career closely related to community gardens is horticulture. What is horticulture? The American Society for Horticultural Science states that horticulture is the science and art of producing, improving, marketing and using fruits, vegetables, flowers and ornamental plants. Horticulture provides a variety of career options like production and sales, public gardens, marketing, research, teaching, industry support, inspection, landscape and construction management, landscape design, communication and pest management.

There are also different educational options students can learn about pursuing after high school for a career related to horticulture. For example, the MSU Department of Horticulture offers a two-year certificate program in different specializations in horticulture. Students can pursue a four-year degree in landscapes, garden and urban food production; plant and crop physiology and biochemistry; plant breeding, genetics, genomics and biotechnology; and sustainable crop production, food systems and agroecology. Students can research other related majors in the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

To set up this type of activity, contact the Garden Visitor and Tour Information to schedule a visit to MSU Horticulture Gardens.

There are also other careers youth may be interested in and ways to prepare them for their prospective career. Here is an idea. During the time youth are involved in the community garden, adults can ask questions about their career interests, talents or things they are good at. Once an adult receives this information, they can work with the youth to come up with activities for the community garden and build their skills and talents for their future career field. For the college visit, they can check into getting information from the different colleges and departments at MSU.

As adults working with youth in a community garden, make a connection for their career paths through college visits. Take the time to give youth an opportunity to prepare them for a career in not only horticulture, but all careers they may have an interest in from the community garden activity.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H career preparation, money management and entrepreneurship programs, read the 2015 Impact Report: “Preparing Michigan Youth for Future Careers and Employment.”

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