Loma Vista Nursery Internship Program

03-12-2019    19:01   |    Greenhouse Grower

US/KANSAS-Five years ago, the Ottawa, KS-based grower (and finalist for Greenhouse Grower’s Operation of the Year award in 2019) developed an out-of-the-box curriculum that continues to train new professionals for the horticulture industry, where jobs tend to be off-kilter with demand for qualified, creative talent. What’s most remarkable to Lyndsi Oestmann, Vice President of Loma Vista, is the internship program became as much about fortifying Loma Vista Nursery’s leadership and staff as adding to its talent pool.

“The definition of intern has changed so much,” Oestmann says. “When I started out, hiring interns was simply a way to bring in extra pairs of hands to meet quotas and goals during growing season. You hoped you were also providing a beneficial career experience. Today, career-building internships are much more symbiotic. They are an effective way to foster teamwork, trust, and skills among staff and leadership, while growing talent for work within the company and serving the industry by preparing workforce-trained professionals.”

What’s different about Loma Vista Nursery’s internship program, which requires annual budgeting and forecasting at every level of the company, is that its leadership and staff developed a curriculum that is based on divisional rotation, which enables interns to gain practical understanding and experience within each business sector of the company. Following that, interns concentrate on the area of specialty they are interested in pursuing. Along the way, managers and staff provide mentorship and professorship, enhancing their own advanced career-level growth through the process.

“An incredible amount of inter-departmental communication, teaching, learning, and bonding happens throughout the company, which improves every level of our business, from customer service and internal business practices, to employee morale and our company’s appeal to future interns,” Oestmann says. “We also learn from our interns. The program continually evolves as they provide feedback about what they’ve learned and how they can apply their internship experience to their career priorities.”

Each mid-May through August, Loma Vista Nursery hires up to four interns from across the country who receive wages and college course credit for working up to 50 hours a week. In addition to horticulture, the internship provides experience in agriculture business and communications, as well as environmental sciences and sustainability management. Housing is provided through nearby Ottawa University. Interns attend the annual Cultivate show in Ohio to network with industry professionals. They also lead company initiatives and participate in community service projects and field trips.

“Our interns spend the summer in hands-on work with staff members from each team and they learn every aspect of our operation, including propagation, plant health, perennial production, nursery production, marketing and communications, and quality control,” Oestmann says. “We care about mentoring our interns, so they receive practical knowledge to complement their theoretical coursework and ultimately become informed and active members of our horticulture industry.”

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Photo courtesy of Loma Vista Nursery


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