Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES--For six months, New Mexico State University student Keeley Muncrief's life revolved around the fate of 100,000 poinsettia cuttings and a potpourri of floral and foliage plants.
Muncrief, a sophomore studying ornamental horticulture, was one of only nine students from across the nation selected for an internship in commercial flower production. Her work at Alex R. Masson Inc., a wholesale greenhouse in Linwood, Kan., was funded by the American Floral Endowment's 1998 Vic and Margaret Bill internship program.
While Muncrief, of Las Cruces, previously participated in small-scale floricultural production projects in high school and at NMSU, she admitted to being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of a wholesale nursery.
"There's just no way you can imagine watching 100,000 poinsettia cuttings that start out as just little green sticks growing into gorgeous plants," she said.
Though she also worked with other plants, Muncrief's main task was helping to carry the poinsettia crop from cuttings to final production. Growing and shipping the massive crop during the narrow holiday window was a challenge. When unseasonably warm temperatures threatened to fade out the colorful crop, workers had to reduce the greenhouse temperature for the final few weeks.
Though the real-world pressure was new, Muncrief picked up pointers about production, communication and management. "I felt well-prepared from my classes, but i needed experience." she said. "I learned a lot from watching the manager and asking about a million questions."
While she missed a semester of school for the long-term internship, Muncrief considers it well spent. "I feel that I gained about two years of knowledge," she said. "Most internships are only for a summer or semester."
She plans to add management classes to her schedule as preparation for her ultimate goal: owning her own floral shop and wholesale floral greenhouse.
"Keeley performed well, made significant professional contacts and has clearly progressed in her knowledge of greenhouse floral production," said Geno Picchioni, Muncrief's adviser and assistant professor in the agronomy and horticulture department. "I hope that she will be able to transmit this to horticulture students."
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