Have you ever heard of the National Collegiate Landscape Competition? Neither had my classmates or I, until Dr. Margaret Hoffman mentioned it to us in our Introduction to Horticulture class last fall. The NCLC is hosted by The National Association of Landscape Professionals, which is commonly called the NALP. This contest is held every year in the United States and is passed from school to school across the nation. This past year was the 40th annual competition that was held in Starkville, Mississippi which is home of Mississippi State University. An interesting fact about the location was that MSU was the first school to host the very first competition. Last year 62 teams from both the United States and Canada combined, attended this event over a five day span. Besides the contest it also has many other events. Some of these events include student workshops, social events, career fair, and of course the award ceremony. This event seems to grow every year with the hopes that this will become even bigger.
So how does the Western Illinois Horticulture team come to this event? Well, last year was the very first time a team from Western Illinois University attended this contest. Thanks to the hard work of both Dr. Margaret Hoffman and Dr. Andy Baker, our team was allowed to bring qualified five individuals and a coach to this major contest. These individuals that made up our team included: Spencer Smith (Galesburg, IL.), Dillon Martenson (Shabbona, IL.), Zachery Woodbury (Lee, IL.), Nathaniel Anderson (Byron, IL.), Kennneth Tryggestad (Rockford, IL.) and our coach/ adviser Dr. Margaret Hoffman. Before heading out we all spent many countless hours studying and practicing for the events that we would partake in, down at the contest. We all could feel the pressure that was put on us, as we were the first WIU team to go down and show off the talents of our agriculture program.
During the grueling nine hour drive to Mississippi State University words couldn’t describe how we became closer as a team. From the countless questions regarding the events members were participating in, to identifying plants on the side of the road, we all seemed to enjoy this time we had with each other. In parts of Tennessee and Mississippi we saw first hand what mother nature could do to the landscape. Many farmers fields were under water that it felt like we were on a boat sailing through the ocean. This seemed to hit home with a lot of us, as we all could feel for the farming families that lost everything that was planted in those fields. As we got closer to Starkville, Mississippi the attitude in the van changed from joking around to game faces as we were ready to bring home the W.
The first day of the event included: various student workshops that any and all team members could attend. Some of the main ones which were attended was the truck/trailer driving, arboriculture and woody plant ID. These workshops provided excellent information that can/would be applied to the real world.
The second day involved the career fair. When I describe the career fair it was a huge gathering for multiple companies. The companies ranged from large machine makers, landscapers, to even wholesale landscape supply companies.
Our group did an excellent job of communicating with these companies and many of them were very impressed with our horticulture program. Another thing they were also impressed with was the knowledge of our students. It was very apparent that they were impressed with one member as he accepted a position that was offered to him during the career fair.
The third/fourth day was the competition of the different events. Some of the members participated in the irrigation assembly. The irrigation assembly required them to follow a plan and construct an irrigation system within an hour.
Our team did very well but did have several mistakes that ended placing them in the middle of the pack. Another event that our members competed in was turf, woody, and perennial ID. The three individuals who competed also placed in the middle of the pack. Some hurdles that they encountered were plants which were native to Mississippi. Some other events we participated in were truck/trailer driving, arboriculture techniques, and landscape installation.
Landscape installation is the last event of the competition and involves all attendees standing on the sidelines where they would cheer on their respected schools. This competition involves a three person team who installs sod, trees, and even plants. Our members had to endure heavy rain storms and the thick Mississippi clay, which was near impossible to work with. Even though the weather did not cooperate we ended up placing middle of the pack. For this being our first appearance we did a great job representing the WIU School of Agriculture.
This year we are in the process of planning on competing at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. We are currently seeking qualified individuals who display a passion for the horticulture industry to compete. Even though we represented WIU respectfully at Mississippi State University, our expectations have increased. Our team expectation is to be in the top 20% of the overall competition.
My name is Dillon Martenson and I’m currently a senior at Western Illinois University. I’m majoring in Agriculture Business with an emphasis in Horticulture. I was born and raised on a grain/ livestock farm located in Shabbona, IL, which is just 1 hour and 30 min from downtown Chicago. While growing up on the farm I helped out with the day to day operations of growing corn and soybeans, but I also got to branch out and raise my own set of show pigs. Not only did I learn about the farm at a young age but I also got to experience and learn about the landscape industry from my grandfather and father. This was due to the fact my family owns and operates Martenson Turf Products, Inc., a wholesale grass seed company that supplies materials to IDOT, landscapers, golf courses, and even sports facilities. All of this has contributed to me becoming a well-rounded individual regarding agriculture.