May 6, 2020
Meghan Thompson
Meghan Thompson
In her final year of the Horticulture Technician Program at Fanshawe College, Meghan Thompson says her planned career in the horticulture profession is in part due to having “a little bit of a hero complex.”

“I really like helping people,” Thompson explains. She originally began studying to be a paramedic, before switching to horticulture. “We have a huge issue with the environment and climate right now, and I think it’s really important I address that, and I would be helping a lot of people in doing so.”

Growing up on the western isles of Scotland, Thompson says horticulture was an influence at an early age. “I was submerged in more fauna than any other kid I know. I think that had an impact.” She also has memories of climbing trees as a kid — something her parents encouraged. “I would even bring bugs in to the table,” she recalls. “Coming to school in Canada and being here, I felt drawn to the outdoors and that I should be outside. I knew I could never work in an office and I could never sit down like that.”

At Fanshawe, arboriculture and plant identification are favourite classes. “Latin is a wordly language, so I like that I could go anywhere in the world and talk with anybody about plants,” she says. When it comes to arboriculture, Thompson explains “It’s so hands-on. You’re literally climbing trees and I’m getting marked to climb a tree. What more could I ask for?”

Thompson cites Jeff Rowley, Horticulture Technician at Fanshawe as one of her mentors. “I also work for Fanshawe as a student gardener right now, and he’s taught me a lot outside the classroom. I feel like he’s always got an answer for my questions and in a very practical way.” Thompson says her on-campus work experience includes a mixture of interiorscape in the winter and grounds maintenance and greenhouse production the rest of the year.
Whether it’s winter or summer, Thompson takes comfort in her green surroundings all year long.

Landscape Ontario’s Sally Harvey is another mentor. “I’m inspired by women in landscaping and everybody knows who she is and she’s built so many connections and made such an amazing place for herself in her craft. That’s something I aspire to be like.”

Thompson says one of her dreams is to do some traveling and see the boreal forest in Brazil. To achieve this, she plans to take Fanshawe’s Environmental Design and Planning program which has an option to spend a semester in Brazil to learn more about plants.

After completing the four-year Honours Bachelor program at Fanshawe, Thompson plans to make her way across Canada, designing aesthetically-pleasing and sustainable landscapes in various municipalities. Her next destination is British Columbia. “If all goes according to plan, maybe study my Masters in forest sustainability at UBC,” she cites as the next goal in her journey.

“I want more people to realize the benefits of nature and the outdoors. In society now, we’ve gotten so lost into buildings and in concrete jungles that we forget the true benefits of just sitting down in nature every once and I want to be able to provide that to people,” she says.

In 2019, Thompson received a horticultural scholarship from the Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation. Her reaction: “I was ecstatic. I honestly didn’t believe it for a second because my classmates are all so very qualified as well. I was genuinely surprised.”

Each summer, Thompson volunteers at a week-long vegetarian eco-camp, where she looks forward to teaching about 200 kids aged 9-17 about their impact on the environment. “It’s a pretty awesome experience because I get to talk about plants with kids. It’s a place where everything I’m learning gets put into action. I get to inspire youth while also making an impact.”

Wherever her career path leads, Thompson is confident about the future. “I’m excited because it’s such an expanding industry right now. I’m not worried about getting a job. I’m looking forward to how many opportunities there are right now.”