Horticulture Training Program

photography by Smith Hardy

As we bring subject matter experts in agriculture, ecology, and environmental science to the table, it will expose the kids coming to the Teen Center to opportunities for growth. I think that is going to be a lifetime transformation.”
—George Jones, Senior Conservation Manager, Triangle Land Conservancy

Alice Hinman sees the future of urban planning, and she’s already begun recruiting the workforce. “The future of landscaping will be focusing on conservation horticulture—landscapes that actually contribute and provide ecological services rather than just look pretty,” she says. She says she also believes that with the right training and exposure, communities in need of job opportunities could be a part of this future.

Hinman should know. As the founder of Apiopolis, an urban bee sanctuary in Raleigh, she is a pioneer in reimagining urban landscapes in Wake County. To that end, Hinman developed the Conservation Horticulture Training Program. The program is in partnership with the Wake Boys and Girls Club Teen Center, the Triangle Land Conservancy, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, and the NC Botanical Garden. The semester-long, certified course launched in September and is for teens aged 13-18. The group meets once a week at the Raleigh Boys and Girls Club Teen Center. It is designed to give students hands-on experience, skills, knowledge, and exposure to a variety of professions in the field of conservation horticulture. Chris Burwell, High School Programs Director at the Teen Center, says he’s excited about “the opportunities and doors that it opens up to our teens. Some may be encouraged to start a career in horticulture or decide to start growing their own food.”

Community experts in the green industry present a new module each week that include topics such as soil health, biodiversity, greenhouse management, vegetative propagation, and landscape design. Hinman says she called in all of her favors and the list of guest speakers shows it: George Jones, Senior Conservation Manager, Triangle Land Conservancy; Jesse Crouch, Alliance Medical Ministry, Garden and Wellness Coordinator; Aaron Scheduler, Grounds Manager, Meredith College; Kofi Boone, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at NC State; and Brian Starkey, Founder OBS Landscape Architects.

Highlights of the program include field trips to horticultural hot spots like JC Raulston Arboretum and Triangle Land Conservancy’s Walnut Hill Preserve, where students will participate in experiential learning activities. Students will also take part in a pop-up installation. They will design, plan, and install a garden in a high profile, public location in Raleigh. Plans are still in the works, but Hinman anticipates it will give the students and program public recognition.

The program is still in its fledgling stage, but enthusiasm is high. Burwell says that the teens that participate love it and the upside is that they are “finally starting to pay attention to the Club’s greenhouse.” Hinman thinks of the program as an incubator. If it takes off with the kids, she hopes to take the model and offer the course to others groups in the community.  Katherine Poole