Today’s floriculture industry consists of three major sectors: growers, wholesalers, and retailers. The total value of floriculture crop production, including bedding plants, cut flowers, foliage/indoor plants, greenhouse fruits, berries, and vegetables, and flower seeds in the United States is $4.37 billion (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2016). Bedding plants comprise the largest segment of these earnings, bringing in $1.86 billion, whereas the total wholesale value of domestically produced cut flowers was $374 million (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2016).
Although the number of producers in the floriculture industry has been growing slightly in recent years (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2016), a shortage of qualified applicants remains one of the most limiting factors when hiring new employees at greenhouse and nursery facilities. When asked in a recent survey of greenhouse and nursery owners, “What, if anything, has caused your location to limit new hires in the past 12 months?,” the most frequent response (39%) of respondents indicated insufficient availability of qualified labor in the market (Hall, 2017). These findings indicate a need to graduate more qualified individuals capable of working within the floriculture industry.
Similarly, the average age of farmers in the United States is 57.5 years, which is 1.2 years older than that reported in the last census in 2012 (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2017). Of the more than 3 million farms in the United States, only 8% are operated by someone younger than 35 years (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2017). The trend of an aging and experienced farm population is considered typical in the United States. It illustrates the need to facilitate the transfer of skills and knowledge of agricultural practices to a younger population of agricultural professionals. These trained professionals will be able to take over and ensure the continued success of agriculture professions in the United States as the aging population begins to retire (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, 2017; U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2017).
University horticulture programs have experienced federal and state budget cuts as high as 19%, as well as low student enrollment (LaWell, 2011). Low student enrollment is based, in part, on the perception that people cannot make a good living wage with a horticulture degree (LaWell, 2011). In 2018, tuition revenue for universities outpaced government funding as the main source of income in the majority of states, indicating tuition dollars are becoming a more important revenue stream as lawmakers struggle to fund higher education (Quinton, 2018). Underfunding results in a loss of faculty, extension, research, specific curriculum within the program, and sometimes even the need to merge horticulture departments with other departments (LaWell, 2011). In response, horticulture departments are surveying options for alternative and external sources of funding to help meet the needs of their programs (LaWell, 2011).
The current format for a floral design class in a traditional 4-year university often consists of a lecture portion, during which students are taught the process of creating a floral design, handling and caring for fresh cut flowers, the importance of the elements and principles of floral design, and the history of floral design. The lecture portion of floral design is then reinforced by a laboratory section, during which students use what they have been taught during the lecture portion to create their own individual floral design with the guidance of an instructor (Hunter, 2013). Generally, each style of design taught in the laboratory section is created by students one time, with students creating a different style of design during each laboratory section (J.M. Zajicek, personal communication).
Nursery and greenhouse production classes are formatted very similarly to floral design courses in practice; clear objectives established by the professor teaching the course act as the benchmark to determine student success. Examples of objectives include learning production methods of crops within a greenhouse, media selection, irrigation options and design, pest identification and management, the use of plant growth regulators, and chemical use and storage (F.A. LeDuc, personal communication). Specific objectives are covered during the lecture portion of the class and followed-up with hands-on learning and application during the laboratory portion of the course. However, traditional formats for teaching horticulture courses sometimes fail to incorporate service-learning and real-world client and scale to client needs types of experiences in the curriculum (Waliczek and Zajicek, 2010).
Although there are many definitions of service-learning, there are commonalities among the discussions regarding the practice. Service-learning teaching includes pedagogies that bring together academics with meaningful community service in a way that enriches both (Cone, 2009; Ehrlich, 1996). This occurs when students take specialized knowledge and skills learned in the classroom and/or laboratory and undertake projects in the community (Kalivas, 2008). Because of the academic component, service-learning is more than just community service (Education Commission of the States, 2002). Quality service-learning projects are designed with learning outcomes in mind and provide an opportunity for students to apply knowledge learned in the classroom within the community (Cone, 2009; Garner, 2011). The service-learning model has been successfully adapted to many educational and community needs (Billig, 2002). Service-learning conducted in a horticultural classroom improved student views toward community involvement and increased the understanding of course material, especially as alumni (Waliczek and Zajicek, 2010).
Service-learning was found to impact students beyond the classroom in areas such as emotional growth both during and after their service experience (Largent, 2009). Research also found that service-learning affected both short and long-term identities of participants (Largent, 2009). Students who engaged in service-learning 2 to 4 years in the past suggested that their experiences in the service-learning classroom continued to influence their sense of self in terms of efficacy and empathy (Jones and Abes, 2004). Finally, research indicated that those participating in service-learning were more open to new experiences and ideas and were more aware of their own socioeconomic status and had an understanding that with privilege comes responsibility (Jones and Abes, 2004).
Quality of life is multidimensional and has been conceptualized as physical, psychological, environmental, social, and motivational states (Travaglini and Cosgrave, 2019). In the United States, employees spent an average of 34.4 h per week at the office, with many employees spending most of that time at a desk or workstation, which can lead to reduced job satisfaction and increased levels of stress and ill health (Duffin, 2019; Parker, 1990; Sparks et al., 2017; Spector, 1997). Studies have suggested that physical workplace environments influence psychological and physiological factors of employees, specifically job satisfaction, and that people benefit from interactions with plants and nature (Bringslimark et al., 2007; Dravigne et al., 2008).
This study aimed to document program fundraising over time and to measure the experiential value to the students and the quality of life benefits to the campus community.
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