Grown Here at Home: Students get hands-on experience in green industry through Ag Tech program at Virginia Tech

Published: May. 28, 2019 at 6:40 AM EDT
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The Hahn Garden at Virginia Tech is quite a site to take in. And there are many students who have had a hand in making it that way.

Brandon Walters and Robert Armstrong are taking a walk along a path built by students in the Agricultural Technology program. These guys are in the landscape and turf management side of it. Tom Martin is one of their teachers. He says they’re like a family in the Ag Tech program, at any given time there’s only about 120 students.

“We have a rolling admission policy in our program that allows us to look internally at applications as they come in and we focus less on GPA and more on experiences,” Martin said.

If you have a clear idea of exactly what you want to do in the ag or green industries, Ag Tech might be for you.

“I’m the first in my family to actually take a big leap in the landscape industry. Personally it’s been a good goal of starting my own thing,” said Ag Tech student Robert Armstrong.

“I didn’t want to go to a four-year school. I wanted a two-year degree. It gives a really hands-on approach to the green industry,” explained Ag Tech student Brandon Walters.

It’s that hands-on approach to learning that gets students to work building things like this rain garden.

“The great thing about these classes is that these teachers really walk you through and dive deep into why these things are built the way they are and how they’re built the way they are,” Walters said.

“When we come back with our family or something like that we can say, ‘Hey look. This is something we did. This is something we learned,’ instead of just showing them a grade on a test,” Armstrong said.

They also work closely with companies within the industry.

“A lot of companies in this program are very inviting and want to talk to us, and want to teach us, and want to hire us in the end, which is much different from any other four-year program I know,” Armstrong explained.

“Our students are essentially 100 percent employed when they graduate from our program in the field that they are interested in,” Martin said.

You get the hands-on experience, you land the job, and now it’s time to create!

“Landscaping is art in the world, right? We get to create things that look beautiful the day we put them in and if we do it well they look beautiful in 10 years and 20 years and they look different and it changes constantly,” Martin said.

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