High School Students Learn Horticulture at Northeast

Published on: August 27, 2019

High School Students Learn Horticulture at Northeast

NORFOLK, NE – Outside freezing drizzle was glazing streets, sidewalks and windshields. Inside it was a balmy 73 degrees as students propagated tiny lettuce seeds.

The setting was the greenhouse on the Northeast Community College campus in Norfolk. Following a classroom lecture, the students moved to the greenhouse for completion of that day’s Fridays @ Northeast horticulture class open to high school students.

Instructor Paige Shuler worked with the students in manually propagating lettuce seeds into individual cells within a plastic planting flat for a controlled germination study.

That day’s curriculum also included learning about propagation of ferns from spores and starting a research project involving the spores. Last fall, Shuler said the class topics included investigating and classifying various soil and subsoil types, as well as irrigation methods for greenhouses and large production fields.

She came to Nebraska about four years ago from her native North Carolina when she accepted the agricultural education/FFA adviser position at Chambers High School. After two years at Chambers High, Shuler accepted an adjunct horticulture instructor position at Northeast Community College.

The Fridays @ Northeast two-semester horticulture class is part of Northeast’s longtime Horticulture & Golf Course Management program.

Kurt Pytleski is the program’s full-time instructor. Classes also are taught by Shuler and three other adjunct instructors.

Pytleski, a native of northwest Iowa, previously was a landscape gardener at the Des Moines (IA) Golf & Country Club.

“While there, I fell in love with the game of golf,” he said.

He then became the first manager/superintendent at the Highland Oaks Golf Course near Ponca when it opened in 1995. His resume also includes work at Wakefield and Norfolk golf courses.

Pytleski first joined the Northeast Community College staff as an adjunct turfgrass management instructor, later becoming a full-time instructor.

Local golf courses offer his students real-life maintenance scenarios, as well as summer internships.

Pytleski and Corinne Morris, dean of agriculture, math & science at Northeast, said they are hopeful that enrollment in the Horticulture & Golf Course Management program will continue to increase.

The classes, they said, are not only valuable for the students pursuing horticulture-related careers, but for the general public in tending their lawns, landscapes and even houseplants.

Pytleski said an associate degree in horticulture and golf course management can lead to a variety of careers from managerial and maintenance roles at greenhouses, arboretums, sports fields and nurseries to parks and recreation to floriculture.

Taking horticulture classes also can benefit the do-it-yourselfers

“Knowing the basics of tree, shrub, lawn and landscape work can mean saving the cost of hiring professionals,” Pytleski said.

Morris said, “We are able to provide students with excellent hands-on experiences and prepare them for success. Our greenhouse is small, and we often need to go off campus to augment the curriculum. We look forward to updating our facilities to meet the needs of the future. There are many ties to agriculture, food and plant production where this program can expand to advance the level of expertise for our students and their future employers.”

Funding for the$23 million project is currently being solicited to enhance and expand the agriculture facilities at Northeast Community College. In addition to the College’s commitment of $10 million, Northeast is seeking at least $13 million in private funds to begin the initial phase of construction, which includes a new farm site with a farm office and storage, a large animal handling facility and other farm structures for livestock operations, and a new veterinary technology clinic and classrooms. The new facilities will be located near the Chuck Pohlman Ag Complex on East Benjamin Avenue.

For more information, contact Northeast Community College Associate Vice President of Development and External Affairs Dr. Tracy Kruse, tracyk@northeast.edu, 402-844-7056. Online donations can be made through the website agwaternexus.com. Checks can be mailed to: Nexus Campaign, Northeast Community College Foundation, P.O. Box 469, Norfolk, NE 68702-0469.

Photo Cutline – Horticulture Horticulture instructor Paige Shuler (background) assists students Katie Bathke (foreground), of Dixon, and Maddie Wolfe, of Norfolk, in propagating lettuce seeds in the Northeast Community College greenhouse in Norfolk. (Courtesy Northeast Community College)