Abby Flickner decided to attend Hutchinson Community College, but she was not sure what she wanted to major in. She grew up on a farm in Kingman, raising cattle and crops. Her mother had a garden and canned vegetables, but Flickner did not think farming was going to be her path. While at HCC, she toured their greenhouse.
“It got me motivated,” Flickner, 19, said. “I realized I wanted to study horticulture and work at a greenhouse.”
Several other students in the agriculture or agronomy judging classes at HCC want to go back home to their farm, but first they want to learn the ins and outs of growing plants and working with different types of soil. Along with HCC, Seward County Community College and Cloud County Community College have working greenhouses.
“We like the students to see more of the plant growth,” said Chelsea McCall, agriculture instructor at CCCC. “They really enjoy being able to see things grow in real life.”
The students at Hutchinson study all types of plants inside the greenhouse, including a banana tree, coffee plants and cacti. They also get to learn how to plant in diverse soils.
“There’s a lot of things they can learn,” said Kent McKinnis, agriculture instructor at HCC. “Every seed is planted at a different depth and at a different time.”
At SCCC, along with learning to grow plants and judge them, students learn about the business aspects of running a greenhouse.
“We teach students about managing a greenhouse, including making a marketing plan, balancing time, understanding labor costs, using the mechanical components and selecting the type of greenhouse to use,” said Joshua Morris, agriculture instructor at Seward.
In addition to management skills, Morris runs a hydroponics class, where the students grow lettuce, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, cucumbers and herbs in one of the school’s three greenhouses.
Spencer and Joel Came of Salina, both 19, came to HCC to study agriculture and major in Farm and Ranch Management. The cousins understand the skills they learn in the greenhouse will transfer over to when they go back to help on their family farm.
“There’s always new things happening in agriculture,” Spencer Came said. “I think it’s important to learn so we can apply it onto our farm.”
The cousins live on a cattle ranch with more than 400 animals. They also help grow several cash crops.
At all three community colleges, students are finding their calling. One student in the greenhouse program at Seward is also an HVAC major. He realizes he can learn to fix the mechanics that help the greenhouses cool and heat.
The three instructors teach students how to recognize plants, grow them and transplant them. The students also learn about insect management and plant health. All the instructors utilize the benefits of growing food year round in their teaching. In addition, they grow weeds, forages and crops, so the students can have hands-on practice with these greens.
Macy Hoskinson, 19, of Haven, who lives on a family farm, wants to teach children about raising animals and plants. After graduating from HCC, she plans to attend Kansas State University and major in education.
“Agriculture feeds the world,” Hoskinson said.
Trenton Brummer, 19, of Osborne, also wants to stay in agriculture. After Hutch, he too wants to attend K-State, but he plans to major in agronomy.
“I want to do seed sales,” Brummer said. “I like living in small towns and being able to produce food for the rest of the world.”
The HCC students are growing vegetables, herbs and flowers that they will sell in April on their main campus for their annual fundraising event.
“Agriculture’s got jobs available,” Morris said. “We need people in those jobs. We’re trying to expose them (the students) that it’s not just about growing plants. We try to do as much hands-on as possible.”