1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
My STEP Project involved myself and some travel buddies traveling out to California where we studied west coast horticulture and agricultural growing conditions. Our activities ranged from hiking Sequoia National Park to exploring local orange farms. As agriculture students at Ohio State, my friends and I not only saw but we reflected on the “how” and “why” to west coast agricultural production.
2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.
Before taking this trip I assumed that production was similar to here in the Midwest, just with different crops. I expected it all to be hills where I was traveling, where farmers used upland farming techniques. Although these things were kind of true, I more so learned that California’s agriculture is much more in depth. The growing seasons in this region are so everlasting and rich with production. Yet the work is intensive with factors including heat and relentless pest management. Although I see these things in play here at home, I saw these issues to be very evident in this region. Additionally, while traveling between LA and Sequoia National Park I discovered that Farmers in this region capitalize on all flat land available. There were farming in the hills, but I was amazed that with every flat area I traveled on there was not one acre of land wasted.
As for myself, I expected my travel to be simplistic and purely exploratory. However, I ran into quite a few speedbumps along the trip that taught me so much. Luckily, I had friends there for group decision making, and because of their experience with world traveling I too was able to learn and overcome travel barriers and arising issues. I also discovered truly how passionate I am not only about plants but about soil and climate as well.
3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
When we first landed in LA I felt the soil in the bed gardens as soon as I could. The general aesthetic of this state involved tropic flowers and succulents and I had to know what kind of soil was sustaining these beautiful displays. Almost every soil encounter I had in LA resulted in a sandy rich soil. On our way to Sequoia National Park I was amazed at how we would drive through huge mountains but were driving on a dusty, flat road in a matter of minutes. And finally, when in Sequoia National Park I discovered that the soil was quite moist, with a thick clay feel. The air was cold, so much that there was snow on the ground!
In Ohio the weather changes but the climate and its composition is pretty much consistent. This was one of the biggest transformations in my knowledge about the world and California alone. This state is so diverse in climate and this enables them to hold an abundance of industries, even in the 3 hour stretch I was able to witness. The weather was so consistent allowing for consistency in farm management and conveniently for our travel preparations!
One thing I really loved about my exploration was the people and their willingness to teach us Ohioans about their life on the West Coast. They take pride in their plants, whether it be grown by them or their biggest competitor. They care about the consumers (and the learners) who encounter their product and I treasure this perspective. I also was able to bounce ideas off of my travel friends who all were experts of their own passions!
4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
I am very excited to teach one day to a group of high school learners. Before this trip I had a surface level knowledge of a handful of categories. It’s nice to be a jack of all trades, but to be honest I didn’t feel like a master at any of them. I decided before this trip I was passionate about plants and this was going to be the topic that I will call my best and capitalize on someday in agricultural education. My trip to California was nothing shy of a learning curve for me and I am over the moon excited with what I was able to take away from it.
Not only can I talk about how to calculate Ohio corn yields but now I can lecture in detail about Eucalyptus and why it is a versatile and durable plant. I can share with my students why protecting the climate is important, sharing from more than a perspective that they already have. I am excited to provide photos, stories, and information to my students about the vast opportunities that the world holds to learn about agriculture, horticulture, and travel.