Farm Intern Rob Shortell

Road trip to San Luis Obispo: $919
Annual tuition engineering degree program: $16,000
Standing out in the field with old experienced farmers: Priceless

Rob Shortell

Rob has come a long way from growing up in Hasbrouck Heights near Giants Stadium. After high school he began NJIT with his chosen major Engineering, and did well…but his heart wasn’t in it. He switched to Actuarial Science, and did well… but his heart wasn’t in it.

So he changed course, and enrolled in Raritan Valley Community College to study Horticulture. He worked for a swimming pool company to earn his way through college. In addition to learning the values of rigorous outdoors work serving customers, Rob noticed the handsome ornamentals in the residential customers’ backyards. He snipped cuttings and propagated the plants – this became a side business helping to fund his college education.

Rob applied for an Internship at Rutgers Snyder Farm. His first summer, he worked with knowledgeable Ed Dager on tomato and herb research. He stayed to help with winter seeding of fine turf experiments. Mentored by the energetic John Grande, Ph.D. in Weed Science and Snyder Farm Director, Rob came back the next season as a Rutgers undergrad studying Plant Sciences. During an educational event at the farm, a question was raised about turf seeding. Someone put the microphone in front of him and said, “Here, Rob will explain the answer.” It was at that moment Rob knew he had found his passion.

“Priceless,” Rob says. “I don’t want to minimize campus learning. But it is different than being out in the field with older farmers with experience. All the little detailed steps of producing crops. It is so much more than plants. It is weather. It is equipment. It is timing. It is dynamic. There is no set prescription to what farmers do. It is attentiveness to details. From the field days on the farm, you see how your work affects the end user. I got such a kick out of it and it felt so rewarding. The Cooperative Extension demonstrations drove me into research.”

So now Rob is packing for a one-way trip to San Luis Obispo, California where he’s beginning an exciting new position as Assistant Professor of Sustainable Landscape Horticulture at Cal Poly.

He’s taking his big grin with him.

Education: Ph.D. Turf Management, Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences; B.S. Plant Sciences

Hometown: Hasbrouck Heights, NJ

Position After Graduation: Assistant Professor of Sustainable Landscape Horticulture, Cal Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California