AmericanHort announces the HortScholar class of 2021
HortScholar Jayden Black
Provided by AmericanHort

AmericanHort announces the HortScholar class of 2021

Meet the six students who have demonstrated leadership in the horticulture industry.

For the past fifteen years, AmericanHort has identified and supported emerging leaders in the horticulture industry through the HortScholar Program. After a rigorous application process, six students are chosen who show qualities such as a passion for the industry, growth mindset, teamwork, and leadership. Previous classes of HortScholars have gone on to become successful horticultural researchers, educators, growers, retailers, and much more - and the class of 2021 promises to do the same.

The 2021 HortScholars will be set on a path to success at Cultivate’21 where they will be exposed to the breadth of the horticulture industry, its opportunities, and its leaders. The program offers a beyond-the-classroom experience, giving insight and awareness of the industry, its supply chain, and where they might find a home for their passion. With a focus on professional development, the HortScholars will attend educational sessions, network, and explore the horticulture industry at Cultivate’21.

AmericanHort is excited to announce the HortScholar class of 2021. Take a moment to get to know them in their own words.


Jayden Black headshot

Growing plants and loving nature has been my passion for my entire life—for as long as I can remember. This hunger to learn more and expand my experience naturally led me to pursue a degree in horticulture at Ohio State University, one in Sustainable Plant Systems (Horticulture Specialization) and the other in Agriculture Business. I continuously strive to create sustainable, ecologically functional, and horticulturally enriched landscapes for people to enjoy. I hope to have a career in horticulture production, outreach, education, or state extension. I believe in the immense potential of teaching the world how to grow beautiful plants—inspiring others to make a change.


My interest in cooking and nature evolved into an interest in horticulture when I learned about the health benefits of eating plant-based foods. My interest in horticulture solidified when I interned as a farmhand at Field and Fork, Farm and Gardens at the University of Florida as an undergraduate. I enjoy the combination of art, nature, science, and business that comes with working in this field. I am currently a graduate student at the University of Florida, focusing on controlled environment agriculture of fruiting vegetables. I hope to build on this experience by learning from other growers so I can be on the path to becoming a grower myself upon my graduation in December 2021.


As a child who grew up in a big city, I always sought to link people to nature. While earning my Bachelor in Agriculture at the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), ornamental plant production sparked a special interest in me, as I saw it as a way to bring nature to city dwellers. Since August 2018, I have been working at the University of Florida (UF), where I expect to earn my Master’s degree in Environmental Horticulture this Summer and to start my Ph.D. in the Fall. As a horticulture professional, I hope to bring scientific knowledge and methods to advance ornamental plant production and better meet consumer demands.


My passion for horticulture was inspired by the tireless work and commitment of my parents to successfully run their ornamental greenhouse business in Quito, Ecuador. I had the opportunity to pursue a degree in agriculture at Zamorano University in Honduras and later a master at The Ohio State University doing research focused on floriculture crop improvement. In my last position as technical advisor, I had the chance to get very into the use of beneficial microbes and bio-stimulation for crop production. These experiences prompted me to pursue a Ph.D. at The Ohio State University and study plant-microbe interactions and how these interactions can influence plant growth and health. I want to promote an innovative and sustainable horticulture industry through developing environmentally friendly tools for crop production.


I am a doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut (UConn), where I am studying the technical and financial feasibility of the novel GREENBOX technology (USDA funded). Through my research with GREENBOX, I aim to further the knowledge of large-scale urban horticulture that reduces the food transportation network’s strain and provides fresh, nutritious produce to the urban populous. I enjoy teaching environmental science and scientific writing to college students (freshman-seniors) and being a graduate mentor to high school students, as they take on environmental projects at UConn. I hope to have a career in sustainability or teaching.


I have always been captivated by the biodiversity and improved well-being that plants bring to individuals since I grew up in a subtropical city located in southeast China. I started my undergraduate study in Landscape Architecture, where I was exposed to both nature and plant sciences. Later I joined Texas A&M University for my master’s degree in Plant Breeding, which ultimately leads to my current pursuit of doctoral-level education in Horticulture. I am currently working on a multi-state multi-disciplinary project to combat the crapemyrtle bark scale (CMBS), an introduced pest species in the United States. I believe my research goals would allow me to develop innovative and sustainable pest control and management methods in the horticulture industry.

Read more about this year's scholars here. For more information about the HortScholar Program, visit