Hort Camp Sparks Interest in Plants!

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The HSSI crew of students and counselors at the JC Raulston Arboretum

The Horticultural Science Summer Institute is a weeklong, residential, pre-college program at NC State University for high school students across the country. Since 2012, this summer experience has sparked youth interest in the multi-faceted field of horticulture through experiential workshops. On a typical camp day, youth might find themselves sitting on a tree limb 30 feet off the ground and trying to determine which branches need pruning for good tree health. Or they might be problem-solving water-holding and drainage challenges in potted nursery plants by experimenting with different soilless media substrates. From propagating lily bulbs to making genetic crosses on petunias, the week that youth spend at “hort camp,” builds a strong interest and enthusiasm for the plant world. Hands-on workshops are led by faculty, staff and graduate students in the Department of Horticultural Science and with our partners at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum. Field trips to local farms, nurseries and other innovative horticultural businesses show the potential careers within the field of horticulture.

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HSSI camper ducking through the luffa tunnel at NC State University’s Agroecology Education Farm

Campers stay in the dorm, Sullivan Hall, throughout the week in a suite with other campers and have a counselor who is usually one of our current grad students or recent alumni. The friendships and relationships forged in one quick week can last a lifetime. One youth shared, “I loved getting to know people and make friends! I also enjoyed learning about the different aspects of Horticulture.” Similarly, another camper said, “I liked to be able to see the different aspects of Horticulture. It was nice to meet kids who have a similar passion as me.”

Youth that have participated in the Horticultural Science Summer Institute have gone on to enroll in a horticulture or ag-related degree program with eventual careers in the agricultural field. Other youth come with an interest in the environment and gardening and simply enjoy a life-long interest and awareness of the importance of agriculture in our daily lives.

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Workshop on post-harvest physiology with the floriculture research group.

Applications for the 2019 Horticultural Science Summer Institute are now open and youth are encouraged to apply! This year’s program is Sunday, July 7 through Friday, July 12, 2019. The cost of registration is $600 and includes lodging, all meals (except one), and program supplies. Campers with financial need may be eligible for scholarships. Contact HSSI program director, Liz Driscoll with any questions: liz_driscoll@ncsu.edu