‘Superstar’ in our midst: Horticulture student places second in national competition

By Faith Boyum

Staff Writer


Jeremy Garner

PROVO, Utah — Five RCTC students attended the National Collegiate Landscape Competition, and one of them, Jeremy Garner, placed second overall.

This is not an easy feat. The National Collegiate Landscaping Competition allows contestants to compete in five of 30 events, which range from running landscaping equipment to analyzing the cost of a project, and the evaluations can be tough.

Each event has a sponsor, which provides judges to evaluate the contestants’ work. For example, the Caterpillar company might sponsor an event using machinery, and the judges come from that industry. This means that the judges are knowledgeable about the field and know what they are looking for.

Additionally, the National Collegiate Landscape Competition, which this year was held at Brigham Young University, is one of the biggest horticulture events at the collegiate level. Garner described it as the “Mecca” of all horticulture competitions because more than 670 students from 70 different colleges compete at it.

“You feel like a little ant, almost,” said Garner to explain what it feels like to be a part of this competition.

However, it is not just one of the biggest events for the green industry in the nation. It can provide opportunities for students all over the United States.

From left to right, RCTC Horticulture Team members are Colton Heins, Libby Heilskov, Abe Berg, Jeremy Garner and James Vangilder. (Photo courtesy of Robin Fruth-Dugstad)

“The competition is a lot of fun, but the networking with other students and employers from across the nation is more valuable … or at least I believe it is. It is not uncommon for students to interview for a job and receive an offer for employment before the event ends,” said Robin Fruth-Dugstad, an instructor in the Horticulture program at RCTC.

So, it is a challenging event, but it can have great payoffs, including a job offer in a student’s chosen field. In addition, it is not hard to secure a place at the competition. In Garner’s case, he simply signed up, though who is able to go varies from year to year because of funding.

This is Garner’s fourth year at the event, and each time he has placed in the top ten. Now this year, he has topped that record by placing second overall and first in the tractor loader backhoe operation and skid steer operation events. The top five overall finishers are given the designation “Superstar.”

How does one person make himself stand out so consistently? Garner says that it is experience and hard work. He has been working in horticulture for a long time and has gained a lot of experience.

This doesn’t make it easy, though. There are other people with less experience but quite a bit of raw talent doing almost as well or as well he does, and that is a challenge. However, he is ready to take on a new challenge very soon.

This spring, Garner plans to start his own business, Boulders and Building, which will specialize in high end outdoor living spaces.

“I am very excited,” he said about launching his own business, but he is also nervous. Like any big decision, it can be hard to make that choice and commit one’s self to it. He has a wife and children who depend on him, so failure is not an option. So, though it is exciting to take this step, there is some risk involved.

Throughout his time at RCTC in the horticulture program, Garner has enjoyed the opportunity that the National Collegiate Landscaping Competition has been for him, and he credits his success to the help of Robin Fruth-Dugstad. Without her, he and the other students, Abe Berg, Elizabeth Heilskov, Colton Heins, and James Vangilder, wouldn’t have had the amazing opportunity to go to this horticulture contest.

“She’s the best teacher I’ve ever known,” he said


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