For alumna Stacey Noble (B.S. Horticulture ’11) there is no typical workday. Her home base is in Chicago, but about half of her time is spent traveling. Where to? At the beginning of May she flew out for a conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. However, as a Burpee home gardens program representative for Ball Horticultural Company, her work spans the western U.S., Midwest and Great Lakes — which adds up to roughly half the country.
Noble showed an interest in horticulture from an early age. Although she happily recalls growing up on a farm and showing flowers at 4-H, she started at the University as a biology major. “I met someone in the turf program and they suggested a horticulture degree. Switching majors two years in was scary, but I did it,” she said. “I’ve always been one to put myself into difficult situations. Having the grit to get it done has really helped.”
That grit and flexibility that encouraged Noble to switch majors helped her to define her career. Noble knew that she wanted a job involving travel when she entered the workforce, but attaining that took a little more thought and time. Before working for Ball Horticultural she worked as a landscaper for LandSculpt, Inc. and as a sales representative working with cut flowers at Koehler & Dramm. She wanted to return closer to her degree focus on greenhouse management and floriculture, so she thought about the skills needed to get her there. “In landscaping I was dealing with customers, and having conversations with them. I used negotiating skills to build more garden space, which earned my company more money. I’d built relationships, which transferred well to sales.”
Despite having graduated only four years ago, Noble is already thinking about the future of the horticulture industry. Much of her work involves promoting gardening to urban residents by focusing on products that work well in small spaces such as window boxes or balconies. She hopes that getting younger generations interested in growing plants will help the industry as a whole. “I have growers asking me all the time for people to work in the bedding plants industry. There’s a dearth of qualified people. Hopefully this means there will be more opportunities and higher paying ones.”
Noble reflects fondly on her experience at the University and her degree program, offering words of advice and encouragement to current students. “Any time there’s an opportunity to network, take it. The great thing about this industry is that we’re willing to share our information. You don’t see that often.” She was warned upon graduation that a degree in horticulture doesn’t pay a lot or that it might be difficult to find work — but if anything that’s only fueled her. “You need to know what you want, and then go out and ask for it,” Noble finished. “If it feels right, it probably is right.”