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BACKGROUND Luther Burbank was a famous horticulturist who spent his life searching for ways to improve plant quality so the world's food supply could be increased. In 1875 he left his home in Massachusetts and moved to California to take advantage of the year-round growing climate. He settled in Santa Rosa and established his nursery. Here he conducted plant breeding experiments that brought him world-wide recognition. When he died in 1926, at the age of 77, he had introduced more than 800 new plant varieties. Today, Horticulturists who follow in his footsteps continue striving to make the fruit and vegetables on our table more nutritious, our gardens more beautiful and our environment healthier. THE JOB HORTICULTURISTS are agricultural scientists dedicated to finding better ways to grow, harvest, store, process and ship fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants. Also concerned with insuring healthy and hardy plants, they work with plant pathologists and other experts to develop plants that resist disease and grow well in all climates. The field of horticulture is both dynamic and exciting. Horticulturists have opportunities to work in many interesting, challenging and different areas. Horticulturists who want to remain rooted to their profession work in nursery production. These specialists in "growing" know everything about plants. They are experts in all parts of plant cultivation and propagation including seeding, cutting, layering, budding, and grafting. They also protect the plants from pests and diseases. Individuals who enjoy meeting people and sharing their plant knowledge might find their niche working in garden centers, the retail arm of the field. Serving as a link between the nursery industry and the plant buying public, Horticulturists can work as buyers, landscape designers or as managers. Floriculturists, those who specialize in flowers, bedding and potted plants, will find challenges in floral design and wholesale and retail florist work. Landscape designers work with both commercial and residential customers and have opportunities to convert clients' visions and dreams into reality. Landscape maintenance specialists work to maintain and protect the beauty of established landscaping. Horticultural Therapists know just how therapeutic plants and gardening can be, and they plan therapy projects to help senior citizens and those with emotional and physical disabilities. Still even more Horticulturists have rewarding careers working as: -- Country Cooperative Extension Agents -- Teachers and Educators -- Agricultural Inspectors -- Sales Representatives -- Golf Course Superintendents WORKING CONDITIONS Working conditions for Horticulturists vary with the type of work being done. A Horticulturist doing Research may spend most of the workday at a desk, in an experimental greenhouse, or out in a test field. On the other hand, a Horticulturist providing landscaping sales or services probably works most of the time in the garden-like surroundings of a retail nursery or outdoors in a public park or on a golf course. On the down side, Horticulturists may encounter noxious smells or be exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals. Persons allergic to certain plants, pollens, or agricultural chemicals may not be able to work in this occupation. Horticultural occupations can be adapted for workers with disabilities. With the founding of the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) in 1973 the horticultural industry has become a leader in assisting both disabled workers and employers. Horticulture Hiring the Disabled (HHD), the national employment project of AHTA, has assisted placing over 12,000 qualified employees in the horticulture industry. EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK The following information is from the California Projections of Employment published by the Labor Market Information Division. The figures represent the broad occupational group Agricultural and Food Scientists which includes Horticulturists. Estimated number of workers in 1990 1,560 Estimated number of workers in 2005 1,990 Projected Growth 1990-2005 28% Estimated openings due to separations by 2005 810 (These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover.) The California Association of Nurserymen reports our State's Horticultural industry commands more than a quarter of the nation's wholesale nursery production and retail sales. The association expects that increasing environmental concerns combined with California's population growth and the continuing urbanization and resulting residential and commercial development will positively affect career opportunities in this field. Information furnished by the California Polytechnic (Cal Poly) State University at San Luis Obispo Horticultural Department shows industry demand for their graduates outstrips the supply and at least 4 to 5 positions await each graduate. WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS Horticulturists follow a variety of different career paths, and salaries vary considerably. A 1995 survey conducted by the Farm Employers Labor Service for the California Association of Nurserymen showed an average annual salary of $33,444 for a horticultural crop supervisor. The federal government typically starts beginning Horticulturists in California between $19,081 to $23,634 a year depending on the job candidate's academic record and job experience. The State Department of Food and Agriculture beginning salary for fruit and Vegetable Quality Control Inspectors is about $27,950. Horticulturists generally work a 40-hour week. Although there are seasonal aspects to some types of jobs, most Horticulturists work year-round. EDUCATION AND TRAINING Employers hiring professional Horticulturists prefer to hire those with a bachelor's degree in horticulture or a closely related agricultural science. Specialized course work or prior experience usually determines the field of horticulture entered. A number of public universities and colleges in California grant bachelor degrees in horticulture with two of the campuses offering graduate studies. Over half of the community colleges throughout the State offer associate degrees in horticulture. High school students preparing for college horticultural study should take chemistry, biology, botany and other recommended mathematics and science courses. Agricultural courses if available would also be valuable. Those considering a career in this field might also want to tour the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa. Visitors can see the gardens, free of charge, every day of the year. From April through October the carriage house museum is open and docent-led tours are offered every half hour. ADVANCEMENT Most advancement is to positions in management and supervision. Horticulturists specializing in the development and use of products to assist growers may promote to marketing positions. Specialists in plant types may manage plant-growing operations or retail outlets such as nurseries. Some become self-employed as growers or as consultants in the use of plants. Many government positions for horticulturists provide promotional opportunities as supervisor or department manager. Colleges and universities have career ladders leading to full professorship for those with advanced degrees. FINDING THE JOB Part-time or summer job experience often leads to full-time jobs with the same employer. Job seekers interested in Plant Inspector positions with the federal government should contact the United States Department of Agriculture. Those interested in working for the State can contact the California Department of Food and Agriculture. University horticultural departments maintain placement services for local and statewide jobs. The California Employment Development Department Job Service may also be a source of employment opportunities for Horticulturists. ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION California Association of Nurserymen 4620 Northgate Blvd., Suite 155 Sacramento, CA 95834 (916) 567-0200 American Horticultural Society 7931 East Boulevard Drive Alexandria, VA 22308 (703) 768-5700 American Horticultural Therapy Association 362 A Christopher Ave. Gaithersburg, MD 20879-3600 (301) 948-3010 FAX (301) 869-2397 RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES Landscape Architects No. 216 Horticultural Workers No. 520 OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev. 1) Horticulturist(profess. & kin.) 040.061-038 Horticultural Therapist 076.124-018 OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System Agricultural and Food Scientists 243050 Source: State of California, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, (916) 262-2162.Note: This is NOT a job opening. The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions. If you are searching for a job, go to:
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