Delta graduate runs Horticulture program

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Many students are unaware Delta College offers a Horticulture program supported by a state-of-the-art Horticultural Center on the Delta campus and a 160-acre farm in Manteca.

Associate Professor Tina Candelo-Mize, a Fall 2017 hire, plans to change that.
“I’m excited to get people excited about plants,” she said.

Candelo-Mize, a Lodi native, comes to Delta College from California State University, Chico where she was associated with the College of Agriculture.

She takes over responsibility for the Horticulture program from Mike Toscano who recently retired from Delta College after a 22-year teaching career at Delta College.

It was at Delta, studying under Toscano, Candelo-Mize first became interested in horticulture.

As a re-entry student, she planned to study early childhood education but discovered in a pruning class that working with plants required the same creativity as her former career, hairstyling.

She went on to earn an A.S. degree from Delta College, followed by B.S. and M.S. degrees from California State University, Chico.

Delta’s Horticulture program currently has an enrollment of about 150 students. They do coursework in three specialty areas: Landscape, Nursery and Turf Management.

Students range from recent high school graduates to older reentry students, including U.S. military veterans. They’re almost evenly split between male and female.

According to Candelo-Mize, the Delta Horticultural program has historically been under-enrolled, a fact she can’t explain as jobs in the field are plentiful.

“I feel like my task is to start exploring why that’s happened and try to overcome those obstacles,” she said.

At the same time, the program’s student success rate is high.

“We have people finishing their certificates and finishing their degrees so that’s good,” she said.

At present, the Horticulture Center is divided into four areas: a retail nursery, greenhouses, a demonstration garden, and a meadow.

Candelo-Mize has a number of projects planned to expand and enhance the existing facilities.

One of these projects is especially important to her.

It is an “edible” garden that will be created to promote agricultural literacy, of which she is an advocate.

“We’re overall lost a bit of connection with our natural systems,” said Candelo-Mize. “That’s nationwide and so it doesn’t surprise me too much that we see that here locally.”

The new garden will be designed to follow the principles of permaculture, a system of cultivation that creates a self-sustaining ecosystem by integrating human activity with natural surroundings.

The majority of plants to be featured there will produce something that is edible. They will include asparagus, artichokes, sunflowers, sun chokes and strawberries.

The Delta Horticulture program is partially supported by the sale of plants cultivated by students.

Sales take place three times a semester at the retail nursery.

The next sale is planned for Friday, Oct. 20 and a poinsettia sale, which has yet to be scheduled, will take place around Thanksgiving.

All sales are open to the community.

Candelo-Mize encouraged students who might have an interest in horticulture, whether general or professional, to attend an upcoming plant sale or visit the SJDC Horticulture Facebook page for more information about the program and its activities.