As a child, Noah Burley picked dandelions and sold them to local wineries that made dandelion wine. It was a dream; he saved the plants from being sprayed, communed with nature and connected with neighbors.
At age 26, after five years in the U.S. Army (101st Airborne Division) as a Persian linguist, he’s turning back toward the language of nature and discovering a newfound knack for education.
When discussing project ideas for the summer as a University of Minnesota Extension horticulture intern, Burley offered one idea that bridged two pieces of his heart: U.S. military veterans and plants.
The son of a veteran who introduced him to Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Centre, Burley proposed a workshop on plant propagation — reproducing plants through dividing, cuttings and other methods.
“I have found a sort of peace there,” says Burley. “It’s a place where you feel understood; even the guy you don’t know gives you a hug. It was a great avenue for me to start my Extension internship.”
“The veterans had an amazing time,” says Melony Butler, chair and director of Eagle’s Healing Nest. “They found it informative and therapeutic, and they are all taking care of their plants.”
Next stop: Minnesota State Fair
Burley, a senior studying horticulture at Colorado State University, is from Hutchinson and hopes to get back to Minnesota, perhaps as a University of Minnesota graduate student in horticulture.
Interning at the most active time of the year gave Burley a realistic picture of this career option. He addressed a cornucopia of seasonal topics and gained plenty of hands-on experience.
Little did Burley know that “hands-on” would soon turn to “arms around” as he became a caregiver for two very special pumpkins.
The giant pumpkin project, led by Extension horticulture educators Julie Weisenhorn and Annie Klodd, boasted two contenders, including one for the Minnesota State Fair that weighed in at 591.5 pounds.
But the bigger prize is how Burley’s written updates educated gardening audiences on challenges, such as squash vine borers, and techniques for maximum growth.
“Noah has done a tremendous job this summer working on the giant pumpkin project along with the Eagle’s Healing Nest workshop, writing for our Yard and Garden News and developing a strategy for our team’s social media,” says Weisenhorn.
Burley says his internship reaffirmed horticulture as his career path: “I was able to take several of my own ideas and followed them to fruition, which allowed me to feel like I am heard and taken seriously as a colleague."
Extension’s summer agriculture and horticulture interns learn while assisting with research, education, communications, events and technology.
The interns were:
- Noah Burley, Hutchinson, Minn.
- Kaitlyn Czeck, Holdingford, Minn.
- Mancoba (MaQ) Dlamini, Mbabane, Eswatini; Northfield, Minn.
- Becca Marston, Batavia, Ill.; Duluth, Minn.
- Emilie McCormick, Hanford, Calif.
- Samantha Schoenbauer, Hamburg, Minn.
- Meredith Taylor, Randolph, Minn.
- Molly Vagle, Tower, Minn.
- Lauren Verlinde, Tracy, Minn.
- Allison Wright, Hutchinson, Minn.