NHF supports students creating sustainable food sources

Dylan Kovach displays the tomato plants he is monitoring in his lab at Cornell University. PHOTO COURTESY DYLAN KOVACH

Dylan Kovach displays the tomato plants he is monitoring in his lab at Cornell University. PHOTO COURTESY DYLAN KOVACH

NHF has been helping to train future industry leaders since 1996. Cornell University graduate student Dylan Kovach is one of those future leaders. 

Kovach is one of NHF's 2017 general scholarship recipients. 

In an effort to attract young people to the nursery and landscape industry, NHF provides scholarships each year to bright students with the hope they rise up in the industry to help solve future industry challenges.

A 22-year-old Ocala, Florida native currently studying in Upstate New York, Kovach is passionate about uncovering new methods for creating sustainable food sources for the world’s growing population.

One of three categories of scholarships awarded by NHF, the general scholarship seeks to equip bright new minds with the financial support they need so they can have a firm and successful footing when they enter the horticulture industry, according to Linda Reindl, NHF’s administrator, who added this program is offered to students attending academic institutions within and outside of the state of Florida. 

“We’re happy to lend support to Dylan as he continues to excel in his studies and we look forward to all he brings to the horticulture industry,” Wes Parrish, Scholarship subcommittee chair said.

Prior to making the move to Cornell, Kovach studied Horticultural Sciences at the University of Florida.

The motivation to stay focused in his graduate studies in plant science, he says, is his dream of one day owning his own sustainable vertical farm.

We caught up with Kovach, who is currently working with tomatoes in controlled environments, to see what he’s doing these days to prepare for his horticulture career.

NHF: So, Dylan, tell us on what you are currently working:

Kovach: I am currently studying the effect of CO2 and light on juvenile tomato production in controlled environments. For the first half of my program, I will be growing [roughly] six-week-old tomato plants in growth chambers. The second half will be performed in a greenhouse. I am currently in a Master’s of Science program in Plant Science with a focus in Controlled Environmental Agriculture.

NHF: When did you realize your interest in pursuing a horticulture-related career?

Kovach: I first realized my interest in horticulture when I first started working in my backyard garden during middle school. It was originally my dad’s project, but I gradually took it over and always had something growing! My dad is not a horticulturist by trade, but we share a common green thumb. My mom is in charge of all of the butterfly plants around the house and my dad does vegetables! 

In high school, I became even more interested when I learned about food security and the potential of high density greenhouse production! This was the deciding factor that led me to attend UF and graduate school at Cornell. 

NHF: How did earning a scholarship from NHF assist in your career goals?

Kovach: The NHF scholarship has been instrumental in my transition to graduate school and my travels. I am looking forward to attending conferences regarding my work and making connections for opportunities in the future! It also provides me with the funds to ease the burden of moving costs from Florida and keeping in touch with family back home. The scholarship funds also will help me in my future quest to provide sustainable food options for our growing population.

NHF: What are your future career plans?

Kovach: Upon finishing my masters, I have yet to decide whether to continue into a Ph.D. program, although I will definitely be entering the industry after graduate school. My aspiration is to first work for a company that specializes in controlled environment agriculture. With enough experience, I would then like to have my own business running a vertical farming operation! At the end of the day, I really do love Florida and I still call it home. Regarding my future, I foresee myself going where there is a prime market for vertical farming. If it brings me back to Florida, I will definitely be happy!