When returning student Carly first entered the horticulture’s “green” industry, she was one of the only women in her field.
Now, more than two decades later, not much has changed, especially at leadership levels. According to a recent study of gender equity in the industry, manager-level roles were overwhelmingly male dominated. Carly is hoping to change that.
“I chose to work in an industry with very few women in leadership roles,” shared Carly. “But I do this because I love it. So I’ve been fighting that glass ceiling for years.”
Ever since she was young, Carly has had a passion for plants. Growing up in the Dust Bowl of America, everyone in her family was either a gardener or an engineer.
“We always joke that it’s not blood in our veins, it’s soil,” quipped Carly.
When Carly was little, she would hang out at the local hardware store with her siblings. They each got a section of the garden at home and could plant whatever the wanted. She still remembers looking at all the tools in the store and imagining all the ways they could use them in the garden.
As she grew older, Carly continued to hone her passion for agriculture and farming. She tried her hand at college for a while but realized that the shortest route to success in the green industry was to get hands-on experience early.
Shared Carly, “Back then, the best way to succeed in this work was to work your way up, starting out digging ditches and filling pots with soil.”
As the years went by, more and more supervisors recognized Carly’s expertise and work ethic, and Carly found herself taking on more and more responsibility. Yet as she rose through the ranks at various companies, she often found herself speaking as the only female voice in the room.
Today, that’s something she hopes to solve through her leadership in the field.
When asked why she chose to return to school and enroll at MiraCosta College, Carly recalled a moment with her family at the dinner table. Her stepson was home from college and they were preparing an ahi tuna salad. Her partner caught the fish that day, and the greens were harvested from plants right on the front porch.
“My stepson was blown away that things on his plate were grown just steps away,” shared Carly. “It was an impactful experience for me because I grew up around farms most my life but in that moment I realized he didn’t have that same connection between production and consumption.”
The flyer described a program, which is unique among community colleges and universities alike, that offered classes on sustainable design, organic crop production, and nursery maintenance, among others. Carly knew that if she could complete the courses, she would be able to expand and grow in ways she had been planning for years.
To her delight, the program was as thorough and state-of-the-art as any she had seen.
“When I first went to college more than two decades ago, we didn’t have the quality of microscopes or robust set of resources we have now,” said Carly. “Plant science and its technologies have evolved so much, and MiraCosta College has invested heavily to create a leading Horticulture Department.”
Adjacent to the main MiraCosta College campus sits acres of green houses, orchards, and farming technology dedicated to the science of horticulture.
There is also a wide support network of students engaged in the work on campus. Alongside her peers, Carly helped reinstate the Horticulture Club at MiraCosta College. To her shock, at the most recent Club Rush, the group had a line of nearly 100 students waiting to get their hands on a plant and learn more about the club’s upcoming events.
Carly is grateful to the support MiraCosta College provides and the opportunity she has right in her community’s backyard. As a returning student, it isn’t easy to juggle life as a full-time student, with her two jobs and family responsibilities, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s challenging, but I’m lucky to be doing what I love,” shared Carly.
Once she completes the two-year course-load, Carly plans to continue transitioning her career from landscape plants to food production, where she hopes to continue serving as a role model for young women in the field.