interview with Gene Giacomelli, CEAC:

US: U of A feeding growing need for practical horticulture education

As the interest in hydroponic greenhouse growing continues to rise in the United States, there will be more of a need for qualified people to work in the industry. The Controlled Environment Agricultural Center (CEAC) at The University of Arizona addresses that need by providing a range of educational programs for those working or looking to work in greenhouse horticulture.

“Society is demanding fresh, locally-grown, hydroponically-grown produce,” said CEAC's director, Gene Giacomelli. “So there's a great need for education.” But that education goes beyond the standard four-year degree that U of A offers, added Giacomelli. Because of the changing landscape of horticulture in the U.S., where a greater number of small operations continue to pop up, teaching institutions must also provide instruction that is geared to growers who want a quicker route to growing.

“We offer multiple short-term, one-week courses that focus on tomatoes, lettuce and general information about growing,” said Giacomelli. “The tomato and lettuce courses are offered January 5-12, 2014, while the general course will be March 23 – 28, 2014 and include topics on marketing, business development and food safety. It gives a person new to the industry a quick way to get started on what they need to know.” There are also four-month internships that include much more hands-on work in the 600 square meter Educational Greenhouse. Those programs have also appealed to commercial growers who want their new employees or managers to gain more experience.

The CEAC, which has been operational for 15 years, is playing a vital role in the burgeoning greenhouse industry in the U.S., according to Giacomelli, who believes the interest in horticulture and vegetable (and fish) production has never been higher.

“Since 2000, but especially in the last five or seven years, interest in horticulture has really increased,” said Giacomelli. “Our students leave here and can become growers, design greenhouses, stay in academia, go into sales or become part of the industries that support growers.”

To learn more about the CEAC courses offered in 2014, please visit their website at http://ag.arizona.edu/ceac/public-courses or email them ceac@ag.arizona.edu.


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