A large part of our industry’s future relies on the minds and green thumbs of young professionals studying, researching, and working in the field.
The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recognizes one such prodigy by awarding the 2nd annual Paul Thomas Floriculture Production Intern of the Year Award. This year, we are pleased to bestow this honor on Sherman Hartman of Iowa State University for his exceptional hard work and dedication to our industry.
Sherman made his skills and passion for greenhouse floral production clear during his internship at Tagawa Greenhouses in Denver, Colorado. Sherman completed this internship in 2020 through the Endowment’s Vic & Margaret Ball Intern Scholarship Program, qualifying him for this prestigious award.
About the Paul Thomas Floriculture Production Intern of the Year Award
The late Dr. Paul Thomas served as Professor of Horticulture and Extension Floriculture Specialist at the University of Georgia from 1990 until his retirement in 2019. He was a strong advocate of student internships and helped mentor hundreds of students.
This award honors Dr. Paul Thomas’s spirit for the industry by recognizing an AFE intern who demonstrates a similar passion and valuable curiosity for floriculture and horticulture. The recipient receives paid hotel and airfare to Cultivate conference, free registration to Cultivate from AmericanHort, a $500 stipend, networking opportunities and photo op with AFE Representatives at Cultivate, and a feature article in AFE publications. Through this opportunity, Sherman and other interns alike weave a new kind of creativity and innovation into the fiber of our industry.
Having grown up in a small town in Southeast Iowa on the Mississippi River, Sherman had always had a keen interest in plant life. Choosing to pursue this field was an easy decision – one he said would bring him the most joy and fulfillment.
Sherman explains, “I am passionate about horticulture. I enjoy hands-on activities, whether it be at a workplace or home. I find great pleasure in making decisions and guiding plant growth on the scale of a few plants or a few thousand plants all the same.”
Now an Iowa State University alumnus, Sherman graduated this past December 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Greenhouse Horticulture. He spent his undergraduate career involved in the ISU Horticulture Club and took on many greenhouse work positions to deepen his understanding of flower greenhouse production and growing practices.
One of his most impactful professional experiences in our industry so far was his previously mentioned internship at Tagawa Greenhouses. Tagawa was his top choice for internship hosts when he applied to the Vic & Margaret Ball Intern Scholarship program in 2019.
Sherman’s 6-month internship at Tagawa exposed him to various position rotations in operations, production, and retail. Each provided a different perspective of the business, coupled with unique responsibilities and valuable industry lessons. From following plant order preparation in operations to spearheading irrigation decisions in production and delivering top customer service in retail, Sherman seemingly experienced it all. He said of the rotations, “I was especially appreciative of this diversity of work. I saw first-hand how things worked differently between each facility at Tagawa. Interns get the opportunity to see many different positions in the industry that they may not have known existed prior. Cycling through rotations gave me a better view of real-world greenhouse floral production and how that varies from what university horticulture programs teach. Certain constraints like the scale of production, space, time, and labor dictate many things, unlike in an academic setting.”
Not only did Sherman have the chance to witness a wide range of roles, but he also was encouraged to tackle them himself. Tagawa’s head growers would guide him in his decision-making but ultimately gave him the reigns, earning Sherman the kind of knowledge and experience that’s hard to replace.
“Sherman’s passion, dedication, and hard work is inspiring. He exemplifies what the Paul Thomas Floriculture Production Intern of the Year represents and the devotion Dr. Thomas taught to his own students,” says AFE’s Executive Director, Debi Chedester. “Internship experiences like these grant students a greater understanding of how the industry really works. These experiences provide so many learning opportunities and connections – shaping career paths.”
Carrying Knowledge into the Future
As one of many of AFE’s scholarship success stories, Sherman notes, “The Vic and Margaret Ball Intern Scholarship was a blessing. It allowed me to choose a floriculture production facility to work and study at while still in school. I was able to gain real-world, hands-on experience in the industry before I even graduated. It greatly aided my professional and intellectual development and will no doubt help me land a greenhouse job and thrive in any such position.”
And such a position he received! Thanks to his experience and outstanding work during the internship, Tagawa offered Sherman a job at the end of 2020 as their Assistant Head Grower. He says most everything he learned in his internship rotations remains highly relevant in this position. He explains, “This is a great area of horticulture for me to spend the early part of my career learning all I can and becoming a better grower. I hope to remain a greenhouse grower and become an expert at what I do with enough focused effort and experience.”
Unsurprisingly, Sherman looks forward to the possibilities the industry holds for him. In what he describes as “a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Sherman will be attending Cultivate 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. He’s hoping to take advantage of AFE’s Young Professionals Council networking opportunities and attend exciting seminar sessions, like the Greenhouse Pest Diagnostic and Efficiency Trends for Greenhouse Optimization.
Beyond that, Sherman’s future is sunny-bright. With unwavering curiosity, he says the resilience of the floral industry inspires him. Sherman has plans to learn all that he can and possibly pursue his master’s down the road. But for now, he says he intends to continue learning in a greenhouse floral production environment to develop his skills as a grower.
It’s no doubt Sherman’s enthusiasm for floriculture and drive to learn will serve the industry well. Exceptional young professionals and interns like Sherman honor Dr. Paul Thomas with their strong dedication to the industry. With improved growing techniques, holistic plant care, responsible chemical practice, and sustainability in mind, we know our industry is in trusted hands! We wish you continued success and all the best for the future, Sherman.
AFE Internship Programs
Internship opportunities like the Vic & Margaret Ball Intern Scholarship or the Mosmiller Intern Scholarship are precious tools for young professionals in the green industry. The American Floral Endowment works to connect interns like Sherman to leading floriculture operations to prepare them for their careers and equip them with the skills and practical knowledge necessary to tackle current and forthcoming industry challenges. In addition to the paid internship experience, students also receive a generous scholarship from AFE upon the completion of their internships. The next application deadline for students to apply is October 1st. Visit endowment.org/internships for more information.
Check out our YouTube Playlist to see what Sherman and other AFE Interns do on the job!