Horticulture major Megan Bazin would be perfectly content living off the land given the opportunity.
“I’ve thought about what I would like to do after graduation so much. I would be happy with any job that involves plants and the outdoors,” said Bazin, who will head on to her next stop after graduating from Temple University’s Horticulture program in May. “I think what I would truly like to do is be a homesteader! If I could just provide for myself and live off the land, I’d be just fine.”
Modern life — bills to pay, responsibilities to meet — sometimes get in the way of “simple plans.” Bazin, however, has found the perfect compromise — urban agriculture. She just took the scenic route to get there.
“I was a glass major in Temple’s Tyler School of Art in 2010; it just wasn’t the right fit for me. The passion wasn’t there, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” she said. “Friends of mine were involved in urban farming in vacant lots throughout Philadelphia. I loved everything about it.”
That led Bazin to go “WWOOF-ing,” short for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The organization connects volunteers with organic farms and growers all over the world.
“I went to British Columbia and Ontario. It’s similar to an internship — you are provided room and board while you work on the farm,” she said. “Being a glass major, I found a farm with a glass foundry.”
Gaining a true love of plants and farming, Bazin said her father, Jeff Bazin, who works in Computer Services at Temple’s Main Campus, suggested she explore the university’s horticulture program at the Ambler Campus.
“I wasn’t sure if that was right for me either but I called and spoke with Eva Monheim (an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture) and she invited me to come to Temple Ambler and see for myself,” she said. “Instead of a hard sell, she talked to me about my interests and my hopes for the future. I really enjoyed the community feel — four years later, I know everyone and everyone knows me.”
Bazin said she entered the horticulture program “because I cared about farming; I didn’t want to be a landscape designer.”
“I love the science, not making people pretty gardens, but I’ve learned so much more than I ever thought I would. Botany, plant physiology, I didn’t know how much I truly needed to know,” she said. “At Temple Ambler I’ve also been given the opportunity to take on leadership roles in Pi Alpha Xi (the national honor society for horticulture) and work in the greenhouse and Ambler Arboretum. That has definitely given me more confidence in my skills — I think every horticulture student should take a shift in the arboretum or greenhouse because you gain so much hands-on experience, which is invaluable.”
While her WWOOF-ing excursions took her to Canada, the horticulture program took her even further abroad. In fall 2015, Bazin spent four and a half months in India for a study abroad program through the University of Minnesota. Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Pauline Hurley-Kurtz helped her connect with the program and all credits transferred back to Temple, she said.
“I was able to use electives. Initially the culture shock was unreal, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I was taking classes while also taking part in a farming internship on a biodynamic farm (a form of alternative agriculture similar to organic farming),” she said. “I learned a lot about what happens to a place that becomes industrialized very rapidly, how a city of 11 million exploded in size over just about 30 years. I was also interested in the region’s geology — India has some of the oldest exposed rock formations on Earth.”
Outside of the classroom, Bazin’s interests and activities are many and varied. On campus, she has coordinated Sustainability Action Days at Temple Ambler, is helping to coordinate the Ambler Spring Plant Sale and was one of the students who readied plants for Temple’s multiple award-winning 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit. She was a recpient of an Ambler Campus Leadership Award at the recent Ambler Campus Academic and Leadership Awards ceremony for diligently supporting the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Graduation Program that will be held on May 11 and her role as vice president of Pi Alpha Xi during her senior year.
After graduation, she’ll be embarking on a two week trip to Europe, including stops in Germany, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic. A performance artist with the troupe “Rompus,” she will act as the visual arts co-director at an art and music festival — Beardfest — in New Jersey in early June that, in addition to several headline musical performances, also includes sustainability and eco-oriented workshops.
Professionally, Bazin has been accepted into the Longwood Gardens Intern Program beginning in June. While at Longwood, she will be keeping the arboretum’s vast array of plants healthy as the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Intern.
“I’ve known about IPM for some time through my classes — it’s an amazing skill that I’d like to have. IPM is used in a broad range of horticultural endeavors, food crops, for example,” she said. “I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to gain experience and work at the best botanical garden in America.”
While at Temple, Bazin said one of the most important lessons she has learned is “to think critically and not just accept the surface level of an explanation.”
“Statistics class really blew my mind because I realized that statistics are often used irresponsibly. I also had a hard time with math and science in high school, but college level courses made me really apply myself and I feel confident in those areas now,” she said. “College definitely changed the way my brain works in a good way. If I didn't understand something right away I used to just dismiss it, but now I know how to activate my brain to really figure something out.”
And while Bazin looks forward to the future, she is also fondly looking back at her time at Temple Ambler.
“I don’t believe there is a Temple horticulture program without the campus and the arboretum. The amazing old historic trees, the buildings and the history as a school for women are very important to me,” she said. “This location gave women a chance to learn a vocation at a time when they weren’t even given the right to vote. Going to a school founded by Quaker women that gave women opportunities and a voice in an age of rampant sexism; that I’m part of that history now is a huge point of pride.”
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