Student Spotlight brings you the perspectives of horticulture students and insights into the future of the industry.

Photo courtesy of Ethan Taylor

At one time, Ethan Taylor figured he would end up in the Marines.

That’s what his role model and uncle, John Taylor, did when he graduated high school, and it’s what a lot of Ethan’s peers did as they grew up, too. Ethan grew up in a suburb near New Orleans, where many of his classmates dropped out of school. His brother and mother each did that, albeit at separate times, and Ethan – the “black sheep,” as he calls himself – wondered if college was even going to be an option for him.

He also says he was in a rocky spot with his family, so when his uncle stepped in and relocated him to Houston at 15 years old, he was exposed to a whole different world.

“He knew the type of situation I was in before I even knew what type of situation I was in,” Ethan says of his uncle. “I was just a little kid living in this scenario.”

Ethan says that his uncle, who’s now the CEO at Taylor Irrigation Service, showed him the plethora of jobs available in the green industry. Ethan has interned there each summer for the last four years, working as the company’s go-to man for anything they need.

But first, Ethan got to watch his uncle – the man he now calls his father – get to work.

“He would take me to different jobsites and stuff like that, and I would just see him work his magic and be the type of professional that he is,” Ethan says. “I instantly wanted to be a part of that because I saw that it’s a very unique community. I just kind of fell in love with it.”

Now, just a few months away from entering his junior year at Kansas State University, Ethan is halfway done with a horticulture degree and a specialization in landscape design. He was interested in architecture outside of landscaping at one point, but he says combining his natural love for the outdoors and a career was exactly what he needed.

At the university, he’s also involved with the horticulture club and is involved with the National Collegiate Landscaping Competition team. He also works 15-20 hours a week on the grounds crew.

Of course, college has also been a whole new world for Ethan, perhaps just as eye-opening as his first trip out to a landscaping job with his uncle.

Ethan still remembers the first time he had to reckon with snow preparations, which he never really had to worry about in New Orleans or Houston.

“My very first semester, they told me, ‘Hey, we’re laying down salt’ and I had this very puzzled look on my face,” Ethan says. “I said, ‘Okay, good thing I have boots.’”

Ethan is now aiming to graduate and go back to Kansas State or attend Texas A&M to earn his Master’s degree in landscape architecture. He knows he’s years from this, but Ethan also aspires to own his own architecture firm someday that focuses on all aspects of landscape design, including interior.

He says in the next several years it takes for him to complete his degrees, he wants to see how other people learn. He watched his uncle work firsthand and learned from that. He also has had plenty of hands-on experience through his work on campus and at TIS.

Now, with at least two years left at Kansas State, he wants to take a bit of knowledge from everyone else at school.

“I really want to push my effort to unbelievable places,” Ethan says. “They may not have the same story as me, but (my peers) definitely have the same angle: Graduate college and get the best, most enticing job that they can. They’re going to put in unbelievable hours and I want to be able to top that.”