MOUNT VERNON — For 19 years, Craig Campbell helped build the horticulture, now Landscape Design and Management, program at the Knox County Career Center, and now his son John Campbell has taken on the reins.
Craig Campbell started teaching at the career center in 1997, following a job at the Mount Vernon Developmental Center where he started a greenhouse program. The career center contacted Craig Campbell when the environmental management program educator announced plans to retire. He was asked to help change the program from environmental management to the horticulture program. In his first year, Craig Campbell helped turn the room the program currently occupies, then used for storage and telecommunications, into a space that would be useful to the students. With the help of the former building trades teacher, the Coshocton County Vocational School’s greenhouse, which had closed their program, was moved to Mount Vernon. John Campbell explained that the program changed names from horticulture to Landscape Design and Management around 2013.
Within the Landscape Design and Management program, junior students learn several different aspects of the career field that they focus in on in their senior year, according to John Campbell. Campbell, who has 20 years of experience working on golf courses with a background in turf, said that he has changed the program’s focus, which had been oriented more toward design and a computer oriented class to a class focused more on forestry, urban forestry and turf, though the class does still teach some aspects of design as well as flower arranging, which Campbell said has increased female participation in the program.
“There’s no job opportunities for a high school designer, you need to go to college to design and there’s a lot more immediate jobs in urban forestry and turf for kids coming straight out of the program, and they can also go to college then,” John Campbell explained. “A lot of equipment operation. They have the opportunity to get certification in chemical application, which a lot of jobs that’s an additional dollar or two an hour. Some people just like to do greenhouse operations. Some people just want to do hardscape, pavers. A lot of different areas, avenues.”
Chuck Hurlow, a 1999 graduate who was in the second class Craig Campbell had in the horticulture program, explained that he still uses everything he learned from the program in his career as the sports turf manager at Kenyon College and in his day to day life. He was drawn to the program by his love of being outside and his distaste for sitting still. In the years after graduation, Hurlow said, he briefly opened a lawn mowing business with his bother before transition to lawn treatment, which he has done ever since. Beyond his professional career, Hurlow has used the lessons learned at his time at the career center to help with his home garden and even to help attract deer to where he hunts.
“Joining the program, it’s something that you’ll keep for the rest of your life,” Hurlow said. “I mean if you like to be outdoors, you have an apartment, you have a house, you’re going to have a landscape and a lawn. Just the knowledge behind it to know proper placement of plants, just a basic knowledge of grass and plants, you’re going to use forever.”
Throughout the program, students spend time connecting with the community through various sales and community projects, John Campbell explained. The students conduct mum and poinsettia sales and in the spring operate a garden center, open to everyone in the community, which can bring in as much as $20,000, he said. Students also planted 60 trees this fall and 3,000 daffodil bulbs in the downtown area of Mount Vernon around Public Square.
“I think it’s important the community knows what we do, and so that kids know what opportunities there are in this building, so they can see what we do throughout the community and what we focus on,” John Campbell said.
Senior Brandy Thompson explained that she got involved in the program because she enjoys being outside and wanted to learn more about flower arrangement. Through the program she also got involved with Mount Vernon’s FFA program.
“I got this whole new opportunity to do something new and interesting,” Thompson said. “The part that I like about the program is the greenhouse. I was in there last year with all the plants, watering, taking care of them, and I’m going to be doing that again this year.”
Because of her experience with the program and with FFA, in which she is able to participate in competitions, Thompson said that she has decided to go to school at Wilmington College with the goal of becoming an Ag Teacher. She is currently the treasurer of the Mount Vernon FFA chapter.
As the only girl in her senior lab in the program, Thompson advised other female students considering joining the program to go for it.
“Don’t be afraid to come in here, you’ll learn a bunch of interesting things,” Thompson advised. “I’ve learned to be more open to possibilities and I’ve learned to get out of my comfort zone, talk to more people and there are a lot of opportunities in this lab that you could do. It’s quite interesting, you go out and look at the industries … and it’s a pretty diverse program. It just depends on what you like to do. … You could run equipment if you feel comfortable on it … and there are other places that girls will feel comfortable in here like the greenhouse and other little features as well. We do a bunch of competitions as well and don’t be afraid to jump in on those, find something that you like and get involved. Try new things.”
Lane Browne, a senior in the program from Clear Fork, explained that he got involved with the program because he had an interest in the equipment portion of the program, such as taking care of mowers and doing maintenance. He has enjoyed doing maintenance around the school with mowing, tree care and planting flowers, as well as participating in the competitions both with FFA in forestry and soils as well as the Ohio Landscape Olympics. The OLO competition gives students a chance to compete in hardscaping, maintenance operation, irrigation, cost estimating, design and plant identification, Browne explained.
Browne also said that he learned the importance of confidence and communication through mock interviews with professionals in the industry.
“If you really enjoy the outdoors and you enjoy plants and want to learn more about that stuff you’ll really enjoy this lab,” Browne shared. “And even if you don’t like the plants aspect, you still have the maintenance and machinery. There’s a little bit of everything in this lab for everybody.”