Meet Keith Bemerer | OSU HCS Alumnus Class of 2004
Keith currently lives in Cincinnati, OH, with his wife, Julie who's a Doctor of Child Psychology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital working with Trauma patients, and together they have three children, identical twins Audrey and Samantha and a son, Ryland. In Keith's own words "Ryland already has the horticulture gene! He follows me around helping water the flowers in the yard and was gifted a Dramm Watering Wand by Roger and Linda [the Feist's are the owners of West Hills Greenhouses] when they found out he loves to water! I think he’s a keeper for the industry!"
Thankfully, Keith had time to elaborate on what working in the greenhouse industry is really like + some advice for students considering studying horticulture or controlled environment agriculture (CEA):
How’d you initially become interested in horticulture?
I loved and still love mowing grass. You would think I would have gotten into Turfgrass, but it's more of a hobby. My maternal grandfather was a farmer, and we use to go pick pumpkins when I was little. So, the horticulture bug was prevalent at a young age!
When I was 15, my father introduced to me to one of his childhood friends, Roger Feist (a fellow OSU HCS Alum) who owned West Hills Greenhouses, Inc. with his wife, Linda (OSU Nursing Alum) and I started out working in greenhouses filling pots, and sticking geraniums and new guinea impatiens. Roger introduced me to Dr. Peg McMahon (OSU HCS Professor Emeritus), and I started discussing with her my path at OSU and what classes and direction I needed to take. Starting out this way really got me interested in horticulture and wanting to grow into it as a career.
How did your time in HCS help prepare you for your career?
It helped to gain the intrinsic book and science knowledge needed to round out being a grower. When working in a greenhouse at a young age and basically working on a full production indoor farm, giving you the book and hands on experience was a must. This allowed me to expand in my career and excel at entomology, plant health management, controlled environment agriculture and agri-business. Today, this helps me in my career be able to “talk the talk” with growers, owners, and managers who don’t see you as a salesman, but as someone that they can ask questions and understands the science of what they are growing and how to improve upon what they do.
What’s the rough career path that brought you to Inside Sales at Prospiant, Inc?
I worked at West Hills Greenhouses for 17 years as an assistant grower. I would come back from OSU during winter, spring and summer breaks and continue to work to help pay for books. In my senior year of OSU, I did my internship with Darby Creek Growers (Cuthbert Greenhouses) in the Summer of 2003. This allowed me to learn large scale, computerized greenhouses, and different techniques in growing.
After graduating I continued to work for West Hills. In 2012, I was asked to be Treasurer of the Cincinnati Flowers Association, and still do that today. I was recruited in 2014 by RBI (Rough Brothers Incorporated) to work on their inside sales team, as they wanted my horticulture experience coupled with my local relationships with growers. In 2021, Rough Brothers, Nexus Greenhouses Systems, and Thermo Energy combined to become Prospiant. Now I handle sales and parts for our sales team, sell to local greenhouses and growers, and work with our marketing team to expand our business.
What’s a normal day like for you?
I do many things in our company. I handle a specific greenhouse product line, The Windjammer, our introductory ground to ground structure from quoting, sales, materials, design, and logistics of the structure. I also quote parts replacements for our Nexus and RBI divisions. I sell many items to local growers from parts, computer control systems, and large commercial structures.
I also work with marketing, writing many industry articles on greenhouse subjects, blog posts, podcasts, and photography. My day is thousands of emails, phone calls, numbers, and data!
What have been a few highlights of your Career so far?
I always try to one-up myself and strive for more. I think the pinnacle of my career was being GPN’s Forty Under 40 class member in 2019. That was a great experience and every year I like to support this initiative and see the other class members at AmericanHort Cultivate. I also for the first time was able to speak at Cultivate 23’ and that was an exciting moment for me as well.
In 2020, I was asked to join the D.C. Kiplinger Floriculture Crop Improvement Chair Committee at Ohio State, we meet yearly to discuss the college, floriculture, and education that is currently happening at the Wooster and Columbus Campuses.
any advice for students considering studying horticulture or CEA + working in the industry?
One of the best quotes I learned and still use to this day is, “The person at the end of your hose, will make, or break, your business”. Every horticulture person knows how tough and how many long hours it takes. You can really be well rounded in education, but hands on, seat of your pants knowledge really excels people in this industry. Be prepared to work your way up, working from the bench, understanding what needs to be done, and implementing, day in and day out. If you thrive and excel, you will make it in the industry, and achieve goals higher than you can imagine.
Today, we have a wide variety of academic paths for you to choose from to help you grow your career…