April 15, 2016
Denise Hostrawser
Denise Hostrawser
Growing up in an agricultural family in Bellwood, Ont., Denise Hostrawser understood the importance of the land from an early age.

“I guess I always knew that growing your own food is one of the smartest things you can do,” she says, thinking back on her grandparent’s dairy farm where they grew corn and wheat and had large, beautiful gardens.

Now, Hostrawser is focusing her attention on caring for flowers, shrubs and trees as a student in the horticulture technician program at Niagara College.

But her path to the green profession wasn’t a straight line.

After high school, the small town girl left home to study photography at Fanshawe College in London, Ont.

That led to a series of jobs working independently, for studios and finally for Princess Cruises, where her passion for plants came to life.

Already an avid gardener with a growing collection of house plants and a vegetable garden at her family home, travelling the world on a cruise ship gave Hostrawser the chance to see “the plants that were lining my window sills at home in their natural environment.”

Visiting some 40 countries gave her a glimpse at the possibilities in the field of horticultural, she adds.

“One spot that really stands out were the fruit orchards in New Zealand; there were orchards of apples, peaches and apricots that were so vast they seemed endless.”

Inspired, Hostrawser has become one of the top students in her class at Niagara College, where she works part-time in the greenhouse.

For her hard work, she earned a $1,000 scholarship in 2015 from the Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation.

She says the scholarship was, “a huge reassurance to me that I am in the right program and that I am pursuing the right career for my future. To know that I am being recognized for my schooling and my grades and the passion I have is amazing.”

She adds, “When I opened the cheque, I was in the elevator at my apartment and I actually started crying. Going to school full-time makes it really difficult to work enough to make ends meet with rent and tuition, so it is truly helpful.”

After graduation in April, Hostrawser hopes to find work either in arboriculture or in the grower sector, though she is keeping her options open.

“The ideas are kind of bouncing around in my head right now,” she says, when asked about her plans for the future.

Hostrawser then thought back to some of the practical experience she’s gained so far at Niagara College.

“We had a chance last semester to do tree pruning on our campus. We were up on the pruning ladders using the loppers and pruning saws and actually learning about the physiology of the trees so that we could prune them properly and give them the best chance to thrive. That’s one area that I’m really interested in.”