When Hayden Shuping graduated from Mount Tabor High School in 2008, he knew he wanted to do something that would let him use his hands. He chose Horticulture because of an interest that went back to childhood. “Growing up my grandma always had a vegetable garden and a rose garden,” he says, “and my mom was constantly out in the yard working. I’d ask her a hundred questions about plants just because I found them fascinating. So I decided Horticulture was a really good option.”
He chose to attend Forsyth Tech because, he says, “I knew plenty of successful people who went there,” and it turned out to be the right choice. He credits two instructors in particular with inspiring him: “Lisa Swarthout, she’s a tremendous instructor who really has a knack for preparing you for the real world work environment. And Susan Andrews, the plant identification teacher, is a really good instructor with a wealth of knowledge. I learned a tremendous amount from her.”
Hayden also benefited from real world experience working as a lab tech assistant at the college. “I would maintain the greenhouses and the tropicals, help out with the spring plant sale, and set up labs for classes,” he recalls.
After graduation, Hayden joined L.A. Reynolds, one of the largest garden centers in the Triad. Soon he was made Nursery Department Manager, where his training in identifying plant diseases, insect issues and nutrient deficiencies was put to good use. “Every day customers came in with a plant problem of some sort,” he says, “and it was up to me to ask the right questions and investigate how the plants had been growing and things like that.” He also found that his time at Forsyth Tech prepared him in other ways. “Working with other students, working collaboratively in groups, you have to learn to talk to people. It helps prepare you for working with the public,” he says.
Recently Haden took a new position as Greenhouse Manager at world famous Reynolda Gardens, where he will help with maintaining the greenhouse, tropicals and conservatory. “It’s almost like what I did at Forsyth Tech,” he says. “Making sure the plants are properly cared for, watered, and propagated. I’m also in charge of two garden plots with vegetables, perennials and annuals, changing those seasonally and maintaining them.”
As for the future, Hayden thinks Horticulture is a career with almost unlimited potential. “There’s always a demand for plants,” he says. “The beautification of homes and landscapes, that’s never going to go away. And the need for food crops will never go away.” And at some point he’d like to start developing his own unique breeds. “It would be fun to develop my own plants. That really interests me, because there’s always a plant that needs to be bigger or smaller, have more blooms or different colors.”
In high school Hayden knew he wanted to work with his hands, and now he is. “For me the joy is being hands on, dealing personally with the plants, growing and maintaining and propagating them. That’s my passion.” Finding his passion and making it his career – that’s what makes Hayden Shuping a true Forsyth Tech success story.