From a high school class hiccup to a horticultural businesswoman, Peyton Gardner’s journey at NC State has held more than crop production classes. With the Interfaith Food Shuttle, Gardner has helped fill the food deserts of low-income communities in Wake and Durham counties by providing raised bed beds and supporting home and community garden projects through to harvest.
A native of Princeton, North Carolina, Gardner has a dual major in horticultural sciences with a concentration in entrepreneurship and production systems as well as communications with a concentration in public relations. She is also a Thomas Jefferson Scholar earning a dual degree from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
What inspired you to study horticulture?
I accidentally found myself in a horticulture class my sophomore year of high school and did everything in my power to change that. I wanted to get into the medical field and become a doctor. When my course transfer request was denied, I showed up to my horticulture class with a bit of an attitude. My teacher took us outside to see the greenhouses on the second day and the rest is history. Before the end of the year, I had built my own greenhouse in my garden and was running a small business. NC State was pretty much the only option to continue doing what I love and spending hours working with plants.
How did you learn about your internship?
I found my internship with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle as a Gardens for All Intern while volunteering at their farm in Tryon [Road]. I was working in the greenhouses there one day when their volunteer coordinator approached me with a flyer.
What roles or responsibilities have you been given?
Since this is a non-profit organization, I have worn many hats. I was responsible for reading and submitting applications for the program and conducting site visits to potential gardeners. I oversaw the scheduling, coordination and management of our volunteers and also created various promotional materials. I was also responsible for starting seeds in the greenhouse and taking inventory of what we had and needed, as well as what was in season. I kept records and ordered wood and dirt when needed and made sure power tools were charged and accessible for builds. Finally, I assisted and directed constructions, often driving the truck responsible for the organization.
What is the most valuable thing you have learned or experienced?
I learned to defend myself. Many of our volunteers were retirees who had worked in construction all their lives. They sometimes disagreed with the instructions I would give or wanted to use a different construction method. Because I had the prospect of running the program (mainly how limited our resources were), I had to use my voice and stick to what I knew was right, even if it meant some uncomfortable confrontations.
How did your internship prepare you for your future career?
This internship prepared me to manage stress and time. As I mentioned before, this was a non-profit organization with limited resources, which meant I was asked to do a lot of things that weren’t necessarily in the job description. . Some days I showed up and hoped I could get through the new disasters of the day without crying, but I came away assured that because I could do this, I could do anything. It also helped me to know that I was making a positive difference in the community. I’m willing to be flexible with any situation and manage my time to be the most productive.
Are you looking for an internship in horticulture?
If you are a student interested in gardening, crop production systems, and horticulture entrepreneurship, be sure to check out the undergraduate programs for two- and four-year students.
Explore the Department of Horticultural Science’s student career experiences database and find your internship opportunities in landscaping, gardening, laboratory research and more. If you’re looking to host a student horticulture internship, check out the Employer Career Experience Database.