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Machete in hand, clad in a pair of work boots, blue jeans, and a black oilskin hat, Alex Susko scans the landscape slowly and methodically for any sign of his quarry. Halfway down along the sloping stream bank, he successfully finds his mark. 

The third floor atrium is a hub of activity for Alderman Hall. This area is a popular spot to study, hold impromptu meetings, eat lunch, or wait for classes to begin — but it is sorely in need of updates and a redesign. Your support can help us create a more welcoming and functional space for building users. Our vision includes an expanded seating area and a flexible design to allow for a variety of uses.

Gifts up to $10,000 will be matched—doubling your impact. Give today!

Bailey Nurseries, a fifth-generation family-owned company, has been involved with the department for decades. They have provided plants for the display garden, scholarships for graduate and undergraduate students, and supported conferences hosted on campus. On October 6, the Bailey family was invited to campus to thank them for their myriad of contributions.

Science does not happen at the University of Minnesota without support from intersecting industries. This support can take many forms, such as directly working with a company to release a new variety of plant into the market, or the industry lobbying to get public funding for a research area. Other times these relationships are more tangential, formed when the research experience at the University compliments the needs of an organization that may or may not have plants as its end product.

The greenhouse at North Community High School is a small space, just big enough to fit the 10 students in Mr. Vreeland’s 11th and 12th grade science class. Five years ago this space was just one more unused room in a school facing the cutting block. Today it is the apex of an initiative around youth development and urban agriculture in North Minneapolis, led by the University of Minnesota, social justice non-profit organization Project Sweetie Pie, and North High.

When Royal Heins was first starting graduate school, he made a decisive promise to himself that he would continue to be an active part of the floriculture industry until the very last day of his career. This spring he will receive the inaugural Horticultural Science Distinguished Alumnus Award for his accomplishments and present as part of HortSci Grows.

Wind blows through the leaves of the forest canopy, the smell of fish and wet grass in the air. Insects buzz through the morning mist and birds chirp territorial warning calls to one another. Water gently laps the rocky shoreline, the sun glinting off Lake Tamarack. Today, Madeline Esterl (B.S. 2017) plans to set this scene on fire.

It’s a fungus that can devastate an entire grape crop from leaves to fruit, eliminating entire yields: powdery mildew. The fear of powdery mildew leads to frequent fungicide applications, but graduate student Soon Li Teh (Applied Plant Science, Ph.D.) hopes for a better way to control it. Advised by professors Jim Luby and Adrian Hegeman, he is combining DNA marker-assisted breeding with metabolomics to speed up the selection process towards powdery mildew-resistant wine grape varieties.

As Jack Pahl (B.S. Horticulture ’14) picks up a slice of pizza and heads to the table at the front of 310 Alderman Hall, he admits this is the first time he’s been back to campus since his graduation. Since leaving the U he’s been hard at work at Pahl’s Market Garden Center in Apple Valley, where he’s learning the ropes to manage the 6th-generation family-owned farm. What brought him back for his first visit to Saint Paul was the chance to sit on the department’s inaugural alumni panel to share with students the the lessons he’s learned since graduation.

What sparked your interest in a career working with plants? Many people can trace their interest in plants back to one or two people. Now you have a chance to get the next generation interested in horticulture. CFANS has started an exciting opportunity called the Alumni Ambassador Program, which invites alumni to share their professional and collegiate experiences with students who are looking to explore careers in the food, agricultural, and natural resource sciences.

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Have a Story?

We’re always looking for new stories to include in our alumni newsletter. If you’re a current member of the department or an alumni and you’re doing something interesting, tell us about it by emailing Echo Martin at mart1794@umn.edu