May 4, 2023
2023 Paul Thomas Floriculture Production Intern of the Year Awards

Each year through the Vic & Margaret Ball Internship Program, the American Floral Endowment (AFE) has the opportunity to match future horticulturists with top production greenhouses across the nation. These students get to see first-hand what it’s like to work at top floriculture facilities, train under industry experts, and gain insight into their future career paths. Each intern is hand-picked and placed based on their wide range of experiences, perspectives, and unique studies. Students who successfully finish their internship, including completing a written report and multiple video blogs, are eligible for our Paul Thomas Floriculture Production Intern of the Year Award.

This year, one intern stood out from the rest for her limitless passion, drive and curiosity in horticulture, which she exemplified in her internship. AFE announce s that Emily Larsen of the University of Wisconsin – River Falls is the 2023 Paul Thomas Intern of the Year!

“In choosing the Intern of the Year, our committee deemed it necessary to recognize two other interns who shone exceptionally bright in their internships and demonstrated the key characteristics of the Paul Thomas Award—Hannah Kramer and Zach Rosenkrans,” AFE Vic and Margaret Ball chairman, Dwight Larimer, AAF, PFCI, says. “We are happy to announce Hannah and Zach as Honorable Mentions for our Paul Thomas Award.”

About the Paul Thomas Floriculture Production Intern of the Year Award

This annual award pays tribute to the late Paul Thomas, a retired University of Georgia professor and an advocate of AFE’s Vic & Margaret Ball Internship Program. Recipients of this award truly embody the passion Thomas displayed for student programs and keep his spirit alive by pursuing industry opportunities. This award provides recipients with paid hotel and airfare to Cultivate Conference, free registration to Cultivate, $500 cash, networking and a photo op with AFE representatives and faculty members (if present) at Cultivate, and a feature article in AFE publications.

Emily Larsen
University of Wisconsin – River Falls
3 Month Internship at Altman Plants

Emily’s favorite thing about being in the horticulture field is that there’s never a dull moment – and there’s always something new to learn. “Whether it’s making a prettier petunia, decreasing world hunger through grafting techniques, or studying bioremediation with sunflowers, horticulture spans a wide and diverse range of subjects and specialties.”

Now, Emily is a junior at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, studying horticulture with a minor in Crop Science. In 2022, she spent three months at Altman Plants in Peyton, Colorado, through our Vic & Margaret Ball Internship Program.

While on her internship, Emily really got to see first-hand what each step of the process looks like for large-scale crop production. She spent dedicated time in each department, including propagation, growing, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), availability, transportation, planting line and maintenance.

“Every day, I was working hands-on in the greenhouse, doing jobs like taking EC and pH readings, pinching young plants, sticking cuttings, and collecting chrysanthemum height data,” Emily said. She was also one of the main workers in the Altman Plants trial garden, which she was able to take pride in inventorying, planning, and tending to the garden throughout the summer. The 2022 Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association Barbeque was held in the trial garden at Altman Plants, and attendees got to see the trial garden Emily had worked so hard on.

Part of being chosen as the Paul Thomas Intern of the Year includes a paid trip and registration to Cultivate, the premier event for the horticulture industry. “I’m looking forward to being connected with the brightest minds and the newest technologies in the horticulture field,” Emily said about the event. “Cultivate will help me get closer to accomplishing my goals by connecting me with leading people in the research and development sectors, as well as inspiring me with new technology.”

Hannah Kramer, Honorable Mention
Iowa State University
6-Month Internship at Tagawa Greenhouses

Ever since she can remember, Hannah has been interested in plants and gardening. From picking out plants with her mom at the local plant nursery to tending to her family vegetable garden, she has always been drawn to the world of horticulture.

Hannah is currently finishing her senior year at Iowa State University, where she is pursuing a degree in horticulture with a newly-added minor in entrepreneurship. Before her internship at Tagawa Greenhouse, she worked at a garden center in her hometown, Wagner Nursery, and a public botanical garden, Reiman Gardens. Both of these experiences helped her hone her horticultural skills that led her to her success in her Vic & Margaret Ball Internship.

Starting her internship in the seed room at the Brighton facility, Hannah learned the importance of keeping new seeds strictly organized upon receiving young plant material. Next, she moved to the operations department in the Tagawa Foothills facility in Golden, Colorado, where she worked on the sticking line and completed germination and inventory counts prior to shipping. From there, she moved to a different facility in Golden, Tagwa Table Mountain, where she worked in production to learn crop management. After that, she got the chance to go to Estancia, New Mexico, to Tagawa Southwest, where she worked with irrigation and growing teams to learn more about crop management.

In the fall, Hannah will be pursuing her Master’s at Iowa State. After graduation, she hopes to have a promising career in floriculture greenhouse production where she can use what she’s learned from these experiences every day.

“I think the biggest thing [about receiving this award] is that it helps recognize me as a true member of the industry,” Hannah said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get a foot in the door with these things, and AFE has really helped to connect me to different people and organizations that are doing exactly what I want to do.”

Zach Rosenkrans, Honorable Mention
Kansas State University
6-Month Internship at Olive Hill Greenhouses

“I want nothing more than to use my passion for plants and people to reconnect society with nature and bring joy to others through plants and landscapes.”

From an early age, Zach has always been creative and passionate about plants. He took an early interest in his high school’s FFA Floriculture Development Event, where he practiced flower and foliage identification, created floral designs to compete at the national level, and studied common practices in the greenhouse and floral industry. Now at Kansas State, he studies Horticulture with an emphasis on Production with a minor in Business.

Reflecting back on his internship, Zach definitely feels at home in the horticultural industry. “I chose this field because I’m repeatedly awed by the beauty of plants. It’s my favorite part of this field. Every day I get to work with something I find fascinating, and every day I learn something new,” Zach said. “I’m inspired by my friends, who also happen to be my future coworkers. Everyone in this field holds such a personal passion for plants; it’s almost impossible not to feed off that energy.”

As for the future, Zach’s career plans focus on botanic and public gardens. “After my internship, I feel less nervous and more excited to graduate,” he said. “I know that wherever I land, I’ll get to grow amazing plants or use them to create something beautiful.”

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