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MCCC Welcomes Spring with
State Horticulture Expo for High School Students

3/20/12


West Windsor, N.J. - The skywalk surrounding the Mercer County Community College quad on the West Windsor campus was awash in brilliant colors and the scents of spring as Mercer hosted the 2012 Horticulture Expo for the first time March 16-18.

The annual event, which is sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, drew 530 high school students from around the state who are members of the FFA. Over the weekend, approximately 300 community members stopped by to view the hundreds of beautiful displays.

According to MCCC Associate Professor of Horticulture Amy Ricco, who was Mercer's on-site coordinator for the event, state agricutlure officials and horticulture professionals served as judges for 30 classes in four divisions. Categories included bridal bouquets, arrangements for Mother's Day and Father's Day, holiday-themed designs for Easter, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day and Fourth of July, and other categories such as Jersey Fresh, recycled materials, terrariums and dish gardens.

A live floral design competition took place in the gym, where students were provided with flowers and greenery and given 30 minutes to create their arrangements. They were judged based on two rounds.

Team awards included first place for the Burlington County Institute of Technology's West Ampton Campus; second place for Northern Burlington Regional High School, and third place for Newton High School. Individual awardees included first place to Kelly Gangel of Northern Burlington Regional High School; second place to Catherine Cincotta of Northern Burlington Regional High School; and third place to Dana Gould of Cumberland Regional High School.

Best of Division winners included Raymond Kelly of the Middlesex East Brunswick FFA Chapter for "Cactus/Succulent Foliage Plants" (Horticulture Division); Deirdre Sabo, Bankbridge Regional FFA Chapter for "Cascade Bouquet" (Fresh Flower Division); Kimberly Roach, Freehold FFA Chapter for "Leprechaun Festival" (Permanent Flowers Division); and Kate Stickney, Burlington County Institute of Technology Medford FFA Chapter for "Remember When" (Adult Division for post-secondary students/advisors).

Ricco says the event was a visual treat. "It was great to see so many young people visiting the college who are excited about horticulture. The creativity and talent on display was amazing. It was quite a spectacle."

Noted FFA officers Gillian Armstrong and James Ferguson, both of whom are now in college, the leadership skills they have developed as part of FFA have been invaluable. Observed Ferguson, "The opportunities the group provides have been great." As an FFA spokesperson, he said it has become second nature to him to talk in front of large groups. As an FFA officer, Armstrong recently traveled to China with a national group that visited tea farms, livestock operations and a commercial fishing operation. She is studying environmental policy related to agriculture at Rutgers University, while Ferguson is pursuing his degree in Political Science at Neumann University.

Ricco notes that as one of only four community colleges in the state to offer Horticulture and Plant Science degree programs, MCCC was the ideal central location for the Expo. Her own students assisted with the event by directing traffic and telling the high schools more about horticulture studies at Mercer.

The first place winner in the July 4th category featured Coca Cola cans as vases.

"Jersey Fresh" was a popular category.
The creative container category featured shoes and disco balls.
Marissa Richie, of Middlesex Piscataway Vocational,
was the winner of the Mardi Gras category.
FFA officers James Ferguson and Gillian Anderson
Busy at work during the live floral competition.
Jessica Tegano with her "Jersey Fresh" display.
Live arrangements await judging.

Judges tally the results of the live floral design competition.
A floral rainbow led to this St. Patrick's Day pot of gold.

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