If you have discovered the joy of planting and growing or would like to develop a green thumb, a visit to the Horticulture Center at San Joaquin Delta College will surely inspire and engage your senses.

Nestled behind the Delta College Police Station and just off Burke Bradley Drive and the campus service road, you will find two state of the art greenhouses, including a dedicated section for hydroponics, a retail nursery, a botanical demonstration garden, and the beginnings of a future community garden.

Inviting walking paths bordered by a variety of seasonal colors, and benches under protective shade, offer a cozy retreat from the daily rush of life.

“The community is always welcome to enjoy the setting. People come here to think, read, study, and often to take  engagement, family and graduation photos,” stated Tina Candelo-Mize, Associate Professor of Horticulture and Plant Science.

For the 25 students enrolled for the spring semester of the Horticulture Program, the setting is an outdoor extension of their classroom. Here they learn to grow a variety of indoor and outdoor plants and vegetables. 

“This two-year program is definitely a project based, hands on learning approach. We get the students out of the classroom and into the green houses and gardens right away,” said Candelo-Mize. 

At completion of the program, students are skilled enough to work in a retail nursery, a municipal grounds setting, or start their own business, said Candelo-Mize.

The Horticulture Center grounds and the retail nursery are run and managed by the students.  There are great deals on woody perennials, (camellias, azaleas, salvias) succulents, houseplants and subtropicals, and three different varieties of seasonal poinsettias become available at Thanksgiving.  Proceeds go to support the school, students are eager and on hand to answer questions and assist with plant selections.

“Just being out here everyday and watching the plants grow and change is so satisfying,” student Joseph Salvador said. “It feels good to be giving back to the environment.”

Student Taylor Thomas says she appreciates all the guidance and support form her professors and hopes to find employment as a large-scale nursery manager.

Additionally the horticulture center provides fresh greenery and large plants to beautify special campus events, ceremonies, and graduations.

A stroll on pathways through the botanical demonstration garden, showcases student artistry and work in landscape design, plant selection, maintenance and irrigation.

For the first time ever this fall an “Edible Landscaping”  class will be offered. “The focus will be growing edibles on a small scale in an urban environment,” said Candelo-Mize. The class will cover appropriate plant and herb selection for vertical planting, hydroponics and the utilization of various containers to maximize space. 

On the other side of the service road a two-acre parcel that was once a cabernet vineyard has been transitioned to a poly culture urban farm, aptly named Mustang Acres. 

“The ribbon cutting won’t come until Spring of 2024, but this is going to be an incredible opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience running a farm. Additionally the farm will offer a fresh component in fighting food insecurity in Stockton and specifically for Delta College Students,” said Candelo-Mize.

Tina Candelo-Mize, Associate Professor of Horticulture and Plant Science, shows off the work of her students. (Sue Daugherty)

Delta College has a food pantry on campus for students and a portion of the seasonal fruits and vegetables grown on Mustang Acres will be donated to the pantry as well as Harvester Farms and Stockton Emergency Food Bank.

Also in the works is a Community Garden that will be completed in 2024. 

“People in our community will be able to select their vegetables and herbs and grow their own rows. Plus it will be wheelchair and child accessible,” said Candelo-Mize. 

The Community Garden will serve as another tool in our efforts to combat food insecurity in Stockton,” said Candelo-Mize.

With student participation in Delta’s Horticulture Club, Candelo-Mize anticipates a campus beautification project including litter removal. 

“I’d also like to organize students in selecting a specific part of Stockton to do litter removal. We need to work together to be part of the solution, and make a difference,” said Candelo–Mize.

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