Photos and Story by Jon Peacock / Staff Writer
On ratemyprofessor.com a former student describes Jorge Ochoa, coordinator of the horticulture program, as “the Indiana Jones of Horticulture.” Jackson Smith, current student and horticulture major, describes him as a “stud”. Smith goes on to explain that he likes having Ochoa as a teacher because he has a passion for plants.
The former student now teachers at LBCC and is not only the department head for the horticulture program, but also teaches all the classes.
Ochoa started at LBCC in 1995 as a student in the horticulture program, believing that horticulture was his destiny. In 2003, he started teaching at LBCC as a part-timer and in 2009, became full time.
The horticulture program at LBCC offers four classes: Plant Identification, Basic Horticulture, Principles of Landscape Design, and Plant Propagation. The average number of students per class is about 25.
“Our program is 60 percent practical and 40 percent academic,” Ochoa said.
“It’s important for people to realize you’re not going to be mowing lawns. … You can still find a niche where you are still going to be happy. … Just don’t think about it as mowing lawns because it’s beyond that,” Ochoa said.
Ochoa goes on an annual exploration looking for passion flowers. South America is one of his favorite places. Costa Rica, Brazil, Southern Mexico, Ecuador are a few places he has gone for his annual exploration.
The LBCC plant sale is planned Saturday and Sunday, March 28 and 29 and April 4 and 5. The horticulture program hopes to raise around $20,000-$30,000. Organizers expect around 7,000-10,000 people to attend, making the plant sale one of the biggest events for LBCC. About 100 different types of plants will be for sale, with over 10,000 plants sold. All the money raised from the sale goes back into the horticulture program.
Ochoa, his instructional associate Brian Hastie and the students of Ochoa’s Plant Propagation class have been preparing for next year’s plant sale. Every plant sold this year is at least one year in the making.
In past years, the sale was Wednesday through Saturday, but parking issues existed. This year, organizers will be trying something new by splitting up the days and having the plant sale strictly on the weekends.
Ochoa’s thoughts for the future are that LBCC’s horticulture program can follow the transfer model curriculum, changing the program drastically. The changes will allow students to take courses at LBCC that would transfer directly to Cal Poly Pomona.
Ochoa said he hopes that students thinking about majoring in horticulture or simply taking his class will “research the different fields and get to know all the niches and all the opportunities out there, so you come with an open mind.”