IA scholarship winners 2022: Biggs, Bowman

Learn about Molly Biggs and Troy Bowman, two of the 18 winners of the IA's 2022 Anthony W. “Tony” LaFetra Scholarship Program.
Discover what brought the 2022 Anthony W. “Tony” LaFetra Scholarship Program recipients into the green industry, their future career plans and industry experience.
Learn about Molly Biggs and Troy Bowman, two of the 18 winners of the IA's 2022 Anthony W. “Tony” LaFetra Scholarship Program.

In this series, learn more about the 18 recipients of the Irrigation Association’s 2022 Anthony W. “Tony” LaFetra Scholarship Program sponsored by Rain Bird, given to college students studying and pursuing careers in the irrigation field.

The scholarships, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, were awarded based on the candidate’s letter of intent, financial need, resume, list of irrigation courses and letters of reference.

Since the program’s inception in 2016, 107 students have been awarded scholarships.

Molly Biggs

Undergraduate student at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas
Graduation date: May 13, 2023

Recognized as a 2022 Anthony W. “Tony” LaFetra scholar, a special designation awarded to the top two winners each year.

How and why did you get involved in agriculture/turf/landscape?

I grew up on a small custom beef and cow/calf operation and was heavily involved in 4H and FFA. I loved all things agriculture, whether it was showing animals, going to fairs or participating in workshops, the community of agriculture felt like home.

When I got to middle school, I started playing golf on my school team. My dad used to be a marshal at Lake Shawnee in Topeka, and I have three younger brothers that all play golf as well. Golf became a family sport, and my siblings and I started getting competitive with each other.

With college rapidly approaching, I recognized my passions for both agriculture and the game of golf. I looked into a few different combinations of playing golf and studying different fields in agriculture, but I felt like I found the perfect fit when I visited Kansas State and learned about the turf management option in horticulture.

What experience do you have in the agriculture/turf/landscape industry?

The majority of my life, my exposure to the industry has been on the golf course, playing the game. My first experience on the maintenance side of things was the summer after my senior year of high school when I worked in the maintenance shop at Topeka Country Club.

During the school year at Kansas State University, I took a job in a soil testing lab to get more hands-on experience learning about the different soil analysis tests. Last summer, I had my first internship working at Firekeeper Golf Course in Mayetta, Kansas, then returned to school where I began working at Kansas State University’s Rocky Ford Turfgrass Research Center.

What is a personal accomplishment within the agriculture/turf/landscape industry that you’re proud of?

A personal accomplishment in agriculture that I am proud of is my high school show cattle. I grew up in 4H, and that’s how I got involved in agriculture. My love for the people in the agriculture industry and the honest hard work it takes to be successful are skills I have gained and ones I will always be proud of learning in the ag industry.

What kind of career in agriculture/turf/landscape are you working toward?

I am working for a career in the golf side of the turf industry. I want to continue on to graduate school, and eventually work in the industry as a turf consultant or in the construction side of golf.

What does smart irrigation mean to you?

Smart irrigation is evolving irrigation technology with the goals of saving money, time, energy and most importantly water. It is more precise and requires less inputs.

Troy Bowman

Undergraduate student at Cincinnati State, Cincinnati, Ohio
Graduation date: Dec. 16, 2022

How and why did you get involved in agriculture/turf/landscape?

I grew up in a rural Tennessee town and spent my childhood secluded in nature. As soon as I was able to leave, I eagerly sought a higher education and a metropolitan lifestyle.

After years of clamoring to make a career for myself in the white-collar corporate world, I realized that office work substantially reduced my happiness and restricted my overall personal growth. While I was struggling to achieve professional fulfillment, I was also turning to horticulture in my free time to relieve stress, find meaning and connect to my roots. I can confidently say that working with and in nature has been a spiritual experience that I have absolutely zero regrets about.

What experience do you have in the agriculture/turf/landscape industry?

After my corporate experience, I sought to rebuild my career from the soil up. I needed a job that could provide a flexible schedule, so I began serving in restaurants. I started small by getting a master gardener certification and volunteering my time. One day, I was presented with an opportunity to work a part-time job at a nearby organic farm. I loved this side hustle so much, that I decided to go back to school for landscape horticulture as a boot camp for my long-term graduate school goals. Since then, my intention has been to work in a different green industry job every year until I found a path that aligned with my passions.
I’ve since worked as a horticulturalist at Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum in Cincinnati and as an irrigation technician at a local landscaping company. This summer, I have upcoming positions with Bartlett Tree Experts as a tree care specialist and at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden as an irrigation technician. I’d also love to get some experience working with green roofs before I graduate this fall.

What is a personal accomplishment within the agriculture/turf/landscape industry that you’re proud of?

When I worked at Foxtail Farm, we built a 30-feet high, 48-feet wide, 192-feet long gothic-style hoop house in a day (9,216 square feet). I was very nervous because I’m not tool-savvy and I had never built any sort of structure before. The process was not as difficult as I had imagined but it did require consistent communication, teamwork and sunscreen. I loved seeing how the interior layout improved upon flaws from the other four greenhouses, including aisle width, storage, crop schedule rotation and automation. We used drip irrigation for the greenhouses. Since it’s the last thing installed, it always felt like putting the icing on the cake. It’s still gratifying to reflect on the process from conception to completion.

What kind of career in agriculture/turf/landscape are you working toward?

I started down this career track with the hopes of becoming a landscape architect. My goal is to attend graduate school at Cornell University when the timing is right.

I’m currently interested in ecological preservation, stormwater run-off management, erosion control and agricultural irrigation (particularly in greenhouses). As I learn more about jobs in the green sector, I’m keeping an open mind as to what my long-term career will entail. Meanwhile, I’m leaning into the subjects and opportunities that gravitate to me. Irrigation was one of them!

What does smart irrigation mean to you?

Smart irrigation equates to sustainable practices that improve coverage, scheduling, and resource conservation. These can be achieved through automation, rain sensors, drip irrigation, mobile monitoring software, material sourcing and rainwater collection where legal.

Read about the other 2022 LaFetra Scholarship winners.

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