We’re committed to the success and empowerment of women working in horticulture and we love to celebrate women across the country who are taking names and kicking butt! We’ve experienced the loneliness of working in our male-dominated industry and battled against the stereotypes that try to tell us we just can’t succeed here. Our mission is to inspire, educate, and empower women to get outside and get their hands dirty – this may mean working in your own yard for the casual plant lady but this might also mean pursuing a career in horticulture or turfgrass.
We’re all for it and so excited to use our Industry Spotlight Series to celebrate women who are pushing the limits, changing the game, and taking our industry by storm!
We’re thrilled to introduce you to Chelsea West, an incredible inspiration to any aspiring plant lady! Chelsea started her professional career after college as an elementary school teacher. She moved frequently as a military wife and taught for several years but always held a passion for plants… keeping them on her apartment balconies through college and every move after that – and yes, the plants moved too! When her husband left the military, they settled in Maryland.
Chelsea had already started to consider a change in careers and, after hearing about a program called American Landscape Institute, she took the leap to join the horticulture industry! Here is her story of pursuing her dreams:
After hearing about American Landscape Institute (ALI) through a friend, I decided to apply. It’s a two-year program that combines both school and the workforce. I would work 4 days a week in a production greenhouse and then attend horticulture classes at a community college. Thanks to that program, I was able to gain valuable work experience while also obtaining an associate degree in Sustainable Horticulture on scholarship.
I began ALI in August of 2018 and finished the summer of 2020. It was quite a challenge managing work, school, and pregnancy. It did not get any easier with a pandemic and newborn later, but I made it and would not have changed a thing. During ALI, I was able to explore different aspects of horticulture and realized my niche. At my job, I worked with perennials, succulents, herbs, and vegetables. I enjoyed the herbs and vegetable plants the most. Nearing the end of ALI, I heard Cavano’s Perennials, Inc. had started a program for edibles, and I wanted to be part of it. So, I applied, and it was a dream come true!
I am the lead grower for the Sunshine Avenue Farms (SAF) program at Cavano’s Perennials. I am in charge of planning and growing herbs, small fruits, and vegetables. I plan the grow schedules, fertilize, seed, prune, water, plant, and maintain roughly 75,000 plants over a year, and I LOVE it! I enjoy getting up in the morning, going to work, and getting my hands dirty.
Fun fact: SAF is a program within Cavano’s Perennials that is run solely by women. Every aspect is managed by women, down to the planning and growing of plants. I love Cavano’s and everything they stand for. Through SAF and Cavano’s Perennials, I hope to motivate and educate others on how to enjoy the beauty and practicality of plants, especially herbs and vegetables.
We have major love for Chelsea’s story and are so impressed by the all-woman crew leading the charge at Sunshine Avenue Farms at Cavano’s! Serious women power! We asked Chelsea a few more questions to help empower and inspire our Plant Ladies community.
Q: What would you give as advice to another woman who would like to join the horticulture industry, especially from another career path?
A: The best advice I can give another woman entering this industry, especially after a career change, is to listen and ask questions. Listen to others who have been in the industry, listen to the plants, and listen to your intuition, but do not be afraid to ask questions. There are a lot of knowledgeable people in this field and more often than not they are willing to teach and pass on their knowledge. Listen to the plants and your intuition.
Q: What do you love most about what you do?
A: There are so many things I love about my job. I love going to work with other people who love to talk about plants as much as I do. There have been days that I have spent the entire day just talking about plants. I also love watching tiny seeds or plants grow into these big and beautiful plants and watching them leave to be enjoyed by others. I also enjoy the challenge or mystery of trying to grow a new species of plant and having that moment of success when that plant you have struggled to grow suddenly starts to thrive and flourish after months of research and trial and error.
Q: What is the greatest challenge you have had in your career and how have you grown from dealing with that challenge?
A: Greatest challenge I have had is deciding to change careers and the fear to change into this career. I wish I had done it sooner. If I had not decided to take that leap of faith into changing careers, I would not be where I am today and in love with my current job.
Q: Do you have a favorite plant to share with our plant ladies?
A: Oh gosh, there are so many to choose from, but I would have to say that lavender is by far my favorite plant. Not only is it beautiful in the landscape but it is great for cooking with, smells heavenly, and is a great stress reliever. It is a plant that has it all.
We’re obsessed with everything about Chelsea’s story! We know how much courage it took to leave the career she had been trained for and are so inspired that she allowed her passion for plants to lead her into our industry. She has found so much success and we are honored to spotlight her. We know there are so many women like Chelsea who may not love their current jobs and would absolutely thrive working in horticulture. If this might be you, please please please reach out for advice. We all win when we lift each other up and celebrate the successes of others!
Connect with Chelsea by following her on Instagram at @west_plantobsessed!
If you’re interested in being featured in our Industry Spotlight Series, we’d love to connect with you! Get all the details here.