Alum Mike Johnson's Career in Horticulture
Took Root at MCCC

7/09


If you are one of the many visitors to the gardens of the historic Pennsbury Manor in Morrisville, Pa., you are more than likely to meet Mike Johnson. As the historic garden interpreter, he reveals volumes of colorful facts and anecdotes about the property surrounding William Penn's 17th century manor house, the 43-acre estate of America's foremost Quaker, statesman, and diplomat.

Growing up helping his grandfather tend his garden, Johnson recalls his love of plants as a youngster. During his youth, he also learned a lot about the horticulture industry while working summers for landscapers and plant nurseries.

But when it came time for college, he focused on political science and history, first taking classes at Bucks County Community College and then transferring to Cabrini College, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1988. He embarked on a career in public service, then served as public relations coordinator at Pennsbury Manor, and later as executive director of a non-profit organization.

Johnson's love of gardening, however, continued to beckon. Hearing about Mercer County Community College's first-rate horticulture program in a newspaper ad, he decided it was time for a career change. He enrolled at MCCC in 2004, graduating with honors from the Ornamental Horticulture program in 2007.

Mike Johnson '07
The herb garden at Pennsbury Manor

It was also during this time that Pennsbury Manor created the position of garden interpreter and asked Johnson back to assume the post. "The position and school have worked hand in hand. This is a good lesson in not burning bridges," Johnson said. "You never know what is in store for you in the future."

In addition to educating visitors about William Penn's gardens, both past and present, his responsibilities include maintaining the Kitchen Garden, helping with volunteer recruitment and special events, and arranging horticulture and garden tours. He also helps to care for the farm animals at Pennsbury.

"I love meeting visitors and being involved in all aspects of gardening," Johnson said. "It is a challenge, though, to keep up with the weeding and the thousands of school children who run though 'my' gardens," he said with a chuckle.

Johnson is currently continuing his studies at Delaware Valley College to earn a bachelor's degree in Ornamental Horticulture and Environmental Design. He credits Mercer for leading him to his new, fulfilling career path.

"While at Mercer I was awarded two scholarships for academic achievement," Johnson recalls. "I was very flattered. It further convinced me that I had made the right decision to change careers. MCCC's program provided me with a good basic formal education in horticulture. I am right on par with everyone at Del Val. Depending on my class and work schedule, I hope to graduate in three to five years." Johnson is also considering going on for his teacher certification.

Johnson maintains that for adult students, MCCC is well worth the time and investment. "The schedule is flexible enough to make it work," he said. "I greatly appreciated my instructors' understanding of the work world. It might sound like a cliché, but if I can do it, so can you. If anything, try one class, and go from there."

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