NORFOLK, NE - Sydney Fling unexpectedly discovered what would be her declared major soon into her first semester at Northeast Community College in Norfolk in fall 2016.
The Ainsworth student, who was enrolled in general education classes, said she took “Introduction to Horticulture 101” as one of her electives. Fling said the instructor, Kurt Pytleski, told her that “my eyes opened with brightness” and “joy was on my face” when she stopped into a greenhouse on campus for the first time that fall.
“It was then that I thought (horticulture) was the major for me,” said Fling, who is now a sophomore and only weeks from graduation. Her classes, she said, primarily focused on greenhouses, golf course management and landscaping.
Fling, who is personally familiar with essential oils, said she also wanted to learn more about herbs than what is currently offered to horticultural students at Northeast.
Unsuccessful in landing an herbal-related paid internship last summer, she turned to Corinne Morris, dean of agriculture, math and science at Northeast, in hopes a special herbal class could be offered.
Morris said she saw the potential and turned to Rachel Liester of rural Pilger
While Liester had taught herbal adult education classes at Northeast in the past, this class was the first credit class she taught students at the College. The resulting one credit-hour special topics class, “Herbs and Herbal Products,” was recently offered for two hours weekly over eight weeks.
Liester said she “covered everything from cultivated herbs to wild herbs, ethical wildcrafting (harvesting plants from their natural, or wild, habitat), at-risk herbs and preparing herbs.”
Amy Seger, of Mint & Mullein Herbals of O’Neill, was a guest speaker during one class period.
“I loved teaching the class,” Liester said. “They were such enthusiastic students.”
Fling said, “My voice was definitely heard. The class worked out great. It was really fun.”
Joining her in the classroom were three other horticultural majors at Northeast: freshman Elisia Vogel of Dodge, and sophomores Sarah Kudrna of Leigh, and Rebekah McGill of West Point.
Thanks to the class, Fling said she wants to further her herbal and business studies following graduation in May with an associate of applied science degree in horticulture and golf course management.
Her ultimate goal, she said, is to one day own a greenhouse and related business with an emphasis on herbs.
Since the pilot herbal class went so well, Morris said the College is considering adding it permanently to the course catalogue.
“I think the students really loved the class,” she added. “I feel it provided a nice complement to our horticultural curriculum.”
Herbalist Rachel Liester (third from left) spends time in a Northeast Community College greenhouse with students she recently taught in a special herbal class: Elisia Vogel of Dodge, (from left), Sarah Kudrna of Leigh, Rebekah McGill of West Point, and Sydney Fling of Ainsworth.