Olivia Hart recently completed the Horticultural Industries Diploma at Algonquin College. With a passion for edible gardening and pollinators, she was awarded a $500 scholarship by the Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation in 2020.
How did you come to choose horticulture as a career path?
A green thumb and a passion for gardening runs in my family. My grandmother is an avid gardener and so is my mom. I have many fond memories of helping them both in their gardens and taking trips to local plant nurseries. I graduated from Carleton University with a BA in psychology, but felt lost as to what to do next. I ended up returning to school to take biology at Trent University. At Trent, I volunteered in the student-run vegetable gardens and thoroughly enjoyed my time weeding the rows, harvesting vegetables, and saving seeds. I realized I wanted my career to have hands-on elements, as well as room to be creative. Most importantly, I wanted to work with plants, so I applied to Algonquin.
"My dream is for people to understand that we are not separate from nature. We are nature."
— Olivia Hart
What work experience do you have?
The summer prior to beginning my diploma at Algonquin College, I worked as a gardener at The Ivy Lea Club in the Thousand Islands where I gained valuable experience maintaining the extensive gardens for the hundreds of visitors that come from far and wide to enjoy the beautiful St. Lawrence River.
What are some of the career opportunities you want to pursue?
I am hoping to gain some more hands-on experience in the landscaping industry before I open my own landscape design business. I believe that experience working in the field is an important part of what it means to be a good designer. Ideally, I would like to work for a company that prioritizes native plants, as I would like to become more familiar with the native varieties and their care.
Where did your interest in pollinators and sustainable landscape design come from?
I have always been very passionate about environmental issues. Growing up in the beautiful Frontenac Arch has given me a huge appreciation for wildlife and wild spaces. I have always admired the living things around me and maintained the desire to help them in whatever way I can. The sustainable landscape design courses at Algonquin resonated with me very deeply. It seemed the perfect way to unite my love for gardening and horticulture with my passion for the environment and wildlife. I remember sitting at my desk during my very first design class and thinking, "Yes! This is exactly what I am meant to do."
Has anyone been a mentor to you?
I would like to thank Sundaura Alford-Purvis, who taught my sustainable landscape design courses. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to be a part of her class. She is such a wealth of knowledge and her passion for sustainability is truly admirable. Sometimes the environmental crises that we are facing feels completely overwhelming, but Sundaura taught me that we all have the capacity to make a difference, and what we choose to do in our own backyard matters. Whether it be choosing to plant a native instead of an invasive, or opting to go turf-free, Sundaura advocates that we are all making an impact, so let's make it a good one. Sundaura offers such a refreshing perspective that I think our industry desperately needs, even if it means asking some tough questions.
What is one dream you have?
My dream is for people to understand that we are not separate from nature. We are nature. And by protecting the wild spaces, we are, in fact, protecting ourselves. My hope is that someday, all of our actions will be rooted in that knowledge, regardless of what industry we find ourselves in.