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