New Hire Announcement – Welcome, Dr. W. Garrett Owen!

Oct. 25, 2022
Welcome, Dr. Owen!

We are pleased to announce that Dr. W. Garrett Owen will be joining HCS in January 2023 as an Assistant Professor in Sustainable Greenhouse Nursery Systems at The Ohio State University!

Department Chair, Dr. Doug Karcher, summed up our collective excitement best: “We are excited to have Dr. Owen joining our department in January. He has emerged as a national leader in ornamental Extension and will be a valuable addition to our growing ornamental horticulture team. Besides Extension, Dr. Owen has impressive research and teaching records, and we are pleased that he will be working in all three of our land grant mission areas. Considering the current outstanding research and teaching programs of Dr. Michelle Jones and Dr. Wendy Klooster, respectively, the onboarding of Dr. Owen next year, and soon-to-be-filled faculty director positions in the Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center and the Chadwick Arboretum, the future of ornamental horticulture in CFAES at The Ohio State University could not be brighter.”

Currently, Dr. Owen is an Assistant Extension Professor for the Department of Horticulture at the University of Kentucky (focused on greenhouse & controlled environments). Prior to this role he was an Academic Outreach Specialist for Michigan State University.

He has spent time participating at many horticultural-related events over the years, including judging at the National FFA Convention for the Floriculture Career Development Event, leading Twilight Tours of greenhouses, and leading industry workshops. Dr. Owen has served as a research mentor to dozens of bright young students and plans to advise many more. Additionally, he has conducted countless extension presentations both domestically & internationally. 

Dr. Owen received his Ph.D. at Purdue University under the advisement of Drs. Roberto Lopez and Cary Mitchell. His dissertation focused on Supplemental and Sole-source Light and Root-zone Temperature Influence Cutting Physiology, Morphology, and Rhizogenesis of Herbaceous Perennials - 2017. Prior to pursuing his Ph.D., Dr. Owen received his M.S. (Thesis: Pine Wood Chips as an Alternative to Perlite in Greenhouse Substrates: Cultural Parameters to Consider - 2013) & B.S. (Horticultural Science - 2011) from North Carolina State University.

Some core areas Dr. Owen plans to focus on at Ohio State:

  • Extension
    • Developing a nationally recognized and regionally relevant extension program to respond to the needs of a diverse green industry including ornamental, floriculture, nursery, as well as other high value crops.
  • Research
    • Leading a strong interdisciplinary research program, responding to horticultural industry needs that advance the sustainability and increase the resiliency of responding to global climate change and labor shortages.
  • Teaching
    • Furthering undergraduate and graduate student education by leading sustainable nursery and greenhouse courses + advising research and extension programs.

Wow, that's quite a broad range of high-impact responsibilities & we could not be happier to bring Dr. Owen on board for this exciting task! Luckily, he had a minute to step away from the greenhouse & sit down with us to give us a brief glimpse into his thoughts...

What are you most looking forward to about this next step in your career?

I am thrilled to be joining the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, to educate the next generation of green industry professionals, and to serve an industry I’m so passionate about.

What are some of your initial plans for your 1st year with HCS?

Within the first few months of joining HCS, I plan to introduce myself to the industry through visits to greenhouse and nursery operations. 

Within the first year, I plan to:

  1. Compile a list of stakeholders throughout the state
  2. Assess the green industry
  3. Conduct a needs assessment to identify short- and long-term Extension initiatives, impactful research projects, and to determine educational needs of small to commercial operations and to create curricula to educate students

Dr. Owen & Students Attending the Annual ASHS Conference

What initially sparked your interest in greenhouses & nurseries?

My interest in greenhouse and nursery crops was first sparked in high school when I enrolled in the horticulture class. With no previous greenhouse experience, I became fascinated with rooting cuttings, and how to grow fall pansies, Boston ferns, and poinsettias. This experience led me to start my own greenhouse and nursery business (Owen’s Greenhouse and Nursery) for my supervised agriculture experience as a part of the National FFA Organization (formerly known as the Future Farmers of America). With the help of my parents, I was able to operate the business for ~10 years until I pursued my doctorate degree. During the time of operation, I was able to apply my undergraduate and graduate education and commercial greenhouse growing internship experience into my business.  

What have been a few highlights of your career so far?

While I have included a few highlights of my career below, these would not have been possible without all my formal and informal mentors, which I’m forever grateful for. Here are a few highlights:

  1. Nominated and awarded the Early Career Award for Extension and Outreach by the American Society for Horticulture Science.
  2. Collaborating with colleagues to provide e-GRO (electronic grower resources online) Alerts and Blog, and other electronic grower tools.
  3. Co-creating Fert, Dirt, and Squirt, an e-GRO nutritional monitoring website.
  4. Co-authoring a book chapter (Ball Redbook) and plant growth regulator guide (GrowerTalks PGR guide for herbaceous perennials).
  5. To have the opportunity to educate undergraduate and graduate students in floriculture and the capacity to expose students to research and Extension through independent research projects, conferences, and grower visits.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my two Australian shepherds, running, gardening, and photography.

Dr. Owen with his 2 Australian Sheperds

We look forward to watching Dr. Owen continue to grow in this role & seeing the impact he will have in enriching our growing ornamental horticulture team. We hope you'll join us in welcoming him with open arms into the vibrant Ohio greenhouse & nursery community!