Father and daughter gear up for PLANET comp
by Mark Andrews
Mar 16, 2014 | 1720 views | 0 0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jim Humphreys shows a flash card during a woody plant identification drill to his daughter Jillian, who looks a little puzzled about the plant before quickly giving the correct answer. Both Humphreys will be competing in PLANET this week at Colorado State University. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Jim Humphreys shows a flash card during a woody plant identification drill to his daughter Jillian, who looks a little puzzled about the plant before quickly giving the correct answer. Both Humphreys will be competing in PLANET this week at Colorado State University. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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With a long history of success, Chattahoochee Technical College’s horticulture students currently are preparing to compete against hundreds of other students at the Professional Landcare Network’s Student Career Days — also known as PLANET, which will be held March 20 to 23 at Colorado State University. This year, local students Jim Humphreys, who serves as a Master Gardener Extension Volunteer, and his daughter Jillian Humphreys, both of Euharlee, are taking on the challenge.

Jim Humphreys is competing in 3D CAD and Compact Excavator Operation while Jillian Humphreys is taking on Landscape Plant Installation and Woody Ornamental Plant Identification and Plant Problem Diagnosis.

“We have to get between plus and minus 10 percent. We have [designs] from the class of previous years and this is one of the exercises where practice gets you there,” Jim Humphreys said, adding he is learning 3D CAD on the fly.

Both Jim Humphreys and his daughter are graduates of Ole Miss, with Jim graduating in 1978 and Jillian graduating in 2009. Jillian Humphreys is a 2005 graduate of Woodland High School.

“We’re both working toward our associates in applied science in horticulture,” Jim Humphreys said.

Through a partnership between CTC’s horticulture program and local businesses, Jillian holds a position at the Acworth-based Pruning Guru doing landscape maintenance.

Jillian Humphreys previously held a post-college career in teaching in Augusta, but said she wanted something different. While in college at Ole Miss, Jillian Humphreys said she worked at a medicinal plant garden.

“For landscape installation, you get the plan the night before, you do measurements, and then the next day you are just in it to win it. You’re measuring stuff [and] you’re digging stuff out until your hands hurt,” Jillian Humphreys said.

When asked why he chose 3D CAD, Jim Humphreys responded, “I was just trying to be a team player. I figured all the ID competitions seemed to fall to the younger guys, I’m 57 years old and my brain is pretty good, but it takes me longer now, so I thought it would be good having a more flexible mind, ... so I went for the events nobody else seemed to want to do.

“... One of the classes I had last semester, landscape management, we did maintenance cost estimation and when the list came out my name was beside it and I thought ‘Hey, I can do that too,’ so it’s just a matter of practicing and applying what I learned in class last year.

“For both of us, we have education but we lack hands-on experience and that’s the value of this program — this is actually a hands-on program. ... It’s a holistic experience, it’s not just a classroom experience, you learn how to do it and apply what you’ve learned.”

Jillian Humphreys reiterated her father’s comments.

“Even with woody ID, the way [instructor John Hatfield] did woody ID was he gave us all the residuous trees first so we could see them with their leaves and as their leaves fell we would still go and notice the buds on the maple tree or notice how the trees change, and now we have to worry about how the actual shape looks because a maple tree will look 100 times different from an oak tree, so you have to know how to identify it when you don’t have the crutch of the leaves,” Jillian Humphreys said.

Hatfield was positive about this year’s competition.

“We competed for 21 years and stayed in the top 10. There were 72 colleges last year and we expect the same this year. We’re taking the smallest team that I ever remember, we have 16 people and we have 28 events,” Hatfield said. “A lot of times people can take one event or two events. This time we have two people going for five events and we’ve never had that.

“These people are putting their heart and soul into this and I expect good results.”

He said while it may seem unique to have a father and daughter in the same class, there is no stereotypical student in his program.

“We do not know what that means — traditional. ... What [this program] caters to specifically is people wanting to make a living in the landscape community,” Hatfield said. “We cater not to hobbyists, we have a few sometimes, but our main student body is people that will go into this business as a business.

“They are not here for a hobby, they are here to start a new career.”

As of Tuesday, March 11, there were 19 jobs posted for current students and recent graduates on the horticulture program’s job board. For PLANET results, read The Daily Tribune News.