Focused on Problem-Solving and Advocacy

A young woman crouched down next to a cabbage plant.

Peyton Gardner, a freshman at NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was determined to create her own path and not follow in her father’s footsteps. Her father, an NC State alumnus, has worked in the agriculture industry since graduating. But Gardner’s passion for horticultural science, problem-solving and advocacy for farmers made her realize NC State and CALS were exactly where she needed and wanted to be.

What made you choose NC State?

I actually didn’t want to come to NC State at first. My mom and dad both graduated from State, and my dad has since worked in the agriculture industry in crop solutions. I’ve always been the one to do my own thing, which my parents have always supported. As a sophomore in high school, taking health, I told myself I was going to be a doctor. Then one day I was placed in a horticulture class. I went to my guidance counselor and she said, “Peyton, sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do because you need to go outside of your comfort zone.” I went back to class the very next day thinking this was ridiculous, I don’t want to be here. The next week, my teacher took us out to the greenhouses. That was pretty much it. Once there, I realized I actually enjoyed it. I ended up getting really involved with FFA, and I’ve been on the same track since. It’s obvious coming to NC State was meant to be since my parents went here. Of course, they are thrilled I’m here and so am I.

Why the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences?

I heard everyone talk about how CALS offered that family vibe, and it’s true. Whether I’m walking to class or somewhere else around campus, nine times out of 10, I’ll see someone else who’s in CALS. Also, we’re all proud to be in CALS, and the professors here really care about you and your grades.

Why Horticultural Science?

Since that first day in my high school greenhouse, I fell in love with it. I built my own greenhouse at home with my dad, growing and selling plants for a couple of years. It might be cheesy to say, but I love being able to see my hard work literally grow and produce. It honestly feels like a hobby. The main reason I was drawn to horticulture is because of what I am doing now, which is focusing on production systems and entrepreneurship.

Plants at the Wageningen Greenhouse in the Netherlands
Gardner was fortunate to spend her spring break in the Netherlands as part of a study abroad trip. The students toured the Wageningen Greenhouse.

My goal is to look at producing more food with less resources, especially in a growing world. Both of my parents instilled in me to leave this world better than I found it. I don’t think anyone’s done a good job of that in the past few years and that needs to change. 

What impact do you hope to have on the industry?

Being a Thomas Jefferson Scholar allows me to double major in horticultural science and communications. I see myself being a voice for farmers, advocating for policies and regulations. Having both degrees will set me up for success. With my degree in horticultural science I’ll be able to understand the science on a deeper level, but with the communications degree, I’ll better be able to relay that science in a way that puts what we in the agriculture industry are doing in a positive light. I will be able to bridge the gap between the consumer and the grower.

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