Nathan James

Departments - Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight brings you the perspectives of horticulture students and insights into the future of the industry.

October 19, 2020

Photo courtesy of Nathan James

Nathan James has always had a love of the outdoors.

“Since I was very young, I’ve been very interested in plants and nature in general,” he says. “Especially from living in west Michigan.”

James says he was introduced to the green industry early on in life.

“A few family friends introduced me to the horticultural and greenhouse industries,” he says. “They worked on living walls and living roofs, which were really unique. They also worked with me to find sustainable methods to help the community.”

James, 20, is now pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in fruit and vegetable crop management at Michigan State University’s Institute of Agricultural Technology.

“It was tough to decide where to start with college,” he says. “Working with MSU has introduced me to a lot of different aspects of the industry.”

Through his studies, James’ interests have continued to blossom. He has enjoyed learning about nursery management, food science, conservation, plant pathology and entomology.

“I’ve always been pretty interested in conservation,” James says. “It’s been another outlet to help me understand our surroundings and the natural benefits of the world around us.”

Being a student at MSU has also given James the opportunity to volunteer.

Most recently, he participated in an Alternative Spartan Breaks service trip to Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida, in March 2020.

“With a couple of other Michigan State students, I helped find ways to reduce the impact humans have on the ecosystems in Florida,” he says. “We also stained the pier, planned for destructive weather, did beach cleanups and more.”

James adds he also enjoys volunteering with the Michigan Natural Association.

“We’ve preserved different nature sanctuaries and ecosystems,” he says. “We also learn ways to reduce environmental abuse.”

James has also worked to eliminate invasive species and establish barriers to environmental abuse with MNA.

While James, a sophomore, is keeping his career aspirations open for now, he had the opportunity to intern with Hortech in Nunica, Michigan, last summer.

“I worked with them for three summers, and was most recently an intern,” he says. “As an intern, I worked in three departments where I got to know each plant they specialize in. I learned how to care of all of them.”

While interning, James was also responsible for fertilizing plant beds, applying lime to assist in plant growth, performing pest management and analyzing products for potential disease. He also got a chance to get back to one of his early interests — living roofs and living walls.

“I took care of weed management, mulching and helped design some of the walls,” he says.

James says he isn’t sure exactly what he wants to do in the industry but insists sustainability and conservation will be at the forefront of it. He is eager to see what the future holds. “I just want to find sustainable ways to help everybody,” he says.

The author is assistant editor of Lawn & Landscape magazine.