Beaumont Nursery transforms to classroom

horticulture students walking through the beaumont nursery greenhouse

September 27, 2018

IPF and academics came together, and MSU's Beaumont Nursery became the classroom. Students gained hands-on experience Sept. 13 through a tour given by IPF Beaumont Nursery staff, a long standing tradition of the class.

Beaumont Nursery was formed over 50 years ago and has continued to be a crucial part of creating the landscape of MSU, from growing new trees and plants to buying trees from outside venders, taking care of trees and plants, replanting trees into new pots and extensively recording all the information about each plant.

Beaumont Nursery staff collaborate often with the IPF landscape architects. While architects make designs for projects on campus, Beaumont Nursery supplies plant materials for those projects. If the nursery does not have what the plans call for, the workers at the nursery buy them on the open market. They then store the new materials and take care of them until the project is ready for the trees and plants to be moved and installed onto campus.

Jay Andrews, who led the tour, has been working as a Nursery Technologist at the nursery for the past 20 years. Andrews enjoys giving students this tour because it gives them an idea of how a nursery works. “We do many of the same things that would be done at a commercial nursery, it’s just at a much smaller scale,” Andrews said. Throughout the tour, Andrews led students through various parts so students could see and interact with all the different procedures.

Andrews and Tom Fernandez, a professor in MSU’s Department of Horticulture, have been collaborating on this tour for 19 years. They both see the academic and personal value of connecting students to Beaumont Nursery. “Coming out here you get to see everything from them starting plants with seeds to finishing with a 40-foot-tall tree,” Fernandez said. “The practices that are done here are very much in line with the best practices nurseries should follow.”

The students asked questions, were exposed to new concepts and one even caught a caterpillar throughout the tour. “I think it is necessary to visit a place you could potentially work at,” said student Elise Baker. Another student, John Slinkman, said the tour is “…helping us apply what we’ve learned in lecture, actually getting on the field and seeing it. We get first hand examples of what [our professor] talks about.”

While many people at MSU do not know Beaumont Nursery exists, Andrews said the benefit is tremendous. “Any plant that gets planted on campus comes through here,” he said. Giving the students the opportunity to visit the nursery allows for them to understand all the processes that contribute to the campus in which they attend classes.