Deb Figura is currently the part-time horticulturist with the College of Lake County (CLC) Horticulture Department. She is also one of the program’s graduates, having had earned her A.A.S. in Sustainable Agriculture in May, 2014. For Deb, the pursuit of this degree is built on a long interest in horticulture and plant production. She started her education with McHenry County College’s (MCC) horticulture program, and then participated in a 6-month internship in plant propagation with the Chicago Botanic Garden. Deb then pursued studies with CLC in the natural areas management track, receiving her NAM degree in 2012. She was doing seasonal work at a local nursery and returned to classes when CLC began the sustainable agriculture program. Deb united her interest in native plants and propagation through an internship with the Lake County Forest Preserve District’s native plant nursery in 2014, which provided great hands-on experience in growing materials from local seed sources.
When the CLC Horticulture Department advertised for a part-time horticulturist to manage the program’s greenhouse and plant production in fall of 2014, Deb was the perfect fit. She not only had a solid technical education, she also had wonderful real-world experience. Currently Deb is learning on-the-job as she helps the department prepare for its annual plant sale. She is coordinating with the teachers and students in propagation and greenhouse production classes, managing student workers and volunteers, and making sure the crops are ready for sale and the greenhouse is running smoothly – all in just 25-hours per week. Once the plant sale concludes, Deb will turn her attention to maintaining the outdoor learning laboratory for the program, helping care for the arboretum and display gardens, and working more with the College’s Local Food Coordinator, Matt DeRose, on the food production goals for the department.
Department Chair, Rory Klick noted that program is lucky to have Deb. “We not only hired a very good horticulturist, we hired one of our own, and she understands the growing tasks needed as well as the student perspective. We want to always be demonstrating horticultural best practices, and have the physical resources like our gardens and greenhouse serve student learning – Deb gets that.” Klick notes that seeing program graduates become successfully employed in the industry is one of the most rewarding aspects of her job. Getting to hire and be colleagues with one is an added bonus.
“One of my passions in life has always been the plant world. Getting paid to do what one loves is an added bonus. Working at the College of Lake County will help me keep up-to-date on current trends, use my degrees, and encourage me to learn even more from my work experience with instructors, staff, and students,” says Deb.