PARIS, Ohio — Paul Snyder is a natural when it comes to horticulture. The Kent State sophomore can rattle off information about dozens of flowers, trees and shrubs with no trouble.
Last year, he learned to identify more than 250 woody plants and now he’s working on annuals, perennials and weeds. It sounds like a daunting task of memorization, but Snyder is nonchalant about his studies.
For him, it’s simply a stepping stone to his future career.
A 2007 gradate of Minerva High School, Snyder claimed two of the top spots at the Ohio FFA Convention this year. He was the state winner of the Diversified Horticulture Proficiency award and runner up for the Floriculture Proficiency award.
“I was surprised,” he said. “I was glad to be up there.”
Snyder earned a $250 scholarship and a plaque for his efforts.
The Stark County youth is currently majoring in a four-year horticulture program at the Kent State University Salem Campus and hopes to teach high school horticulture courses.
To win the state award, Snyder submitted a 15-page application to the Ohio FFA Association detailing the work he completed during his Supervised Agriculture Experience in high school. The application described the skills Snyder learned while working at Mott’s Greenhouse, maintaining the Paris Cemetery and caring for a local backyard apple orchard.
The award focused on high school achievements, but Snyder said his classes at Kent were crucial to his success.
“I don’t think I could’ve won my proficiency award without my college education,” he said.
In college, Snyder has studied subjects like landscape construction, soils, geology, plant identification and irrigation, but he’s still trying to decide what he likes best about the industry.
“One thing is for sure,” he said. “I don’t like pulling weeds.”
Snyder got involved with FFA as a freshman. At first, he wanted to be a meat cutter or a wildlife officer, but during his sophomore year, he changed his mind.
His grandpa had a small greenhouse that Snyder enjoyed and he’d always admired his neighbor’s garden. Plus, he realized he liked being outside and working with plants. The combination of those influences pushed him toward horticulture.
Minerva FFA didn’t have a horticulture program, so Snyder talked to teachers with the Marlington High School FFA chapter and got permission to attend contests with them.
As a senior, he took first place in the district nursery and landscape contest and fourth in the state. He also earned fifth place at a national competition as a member of the Ohio Junior Horticulture Association’s plant identification team.
This summer, Snyder completed a full-time internship at DeHoff Flowers and Greenhouse in Alliance. He worked with a maintenance crew doing weeding, mulching and planting. He was also part of a hardscape crew that installed patios and retaining walls.
“I’m trying to do as much as I can while I’m there,” Snyder said.
During his internship, Snyder helped create a landscape plan for a Habitat for Humanity house in Alliance. Snyder and his foreman performed a site evaluation and drew up plans for the site, which included choosing the plants to use and deciding where to place them.
When the landscaping around the home was done, Snyder got to see the final result. It was a good experience, Snyder said, as he saw the project through from beginning to end.
Snyder keeps a small greenhouse on his family’s dairy farm in Paris, Ohio, where he grows annuals, vegetables and trees. He also started a hosta and daylily collection this year and he’s working an outdoor patio area for the home.
Although Snyder spends hours nurturing his plants, he’s actually growing something much more important than a hosta or violet or lily. One plant at a time, the young horticulturist is growing his future.