Jorgie Teaster was destined to become a farmer. After all, her name means “tiller of the soil.” Farming runs deep in Jorgie’s family, too. She spent much of her childhood helping out on her grandparents’ farm and exploring the greenhouses where her mother worked.
“There’s something about being in that environment and mass producing all these flowers and plants,” she said thoughtfully. “It’s such a peaceful atmosphere – it’s my happy place.”
Earlier this month, Jorgie graduated from Ozarks Technical Community College with her Associate of Applied Science in Agriculture. She plans to transfer to Missouri State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the field. Upon graduation, she hopes to open an interactive greenhouse and farm where she can teach people how to grow their own sustainable food and medicine.
“I’m so excited to join an industry and community full of such hardworking, generous people,” she said. The spirit of agriculture is based on serving others – providing food, clothing or housing is what farming is all about.”
While a student at OTC, Jorgie joined the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and served as the president of OTC’s National Association of Landscape Professionals Chapter. She also won the prestigious Breaking Traditions Award in 2019. The award and scholarship, presented by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), honors students for their achievements related to nontraditional careers. DESE considers nontraditional careers to be occupations in which one gender makes up less than 25 percent of the workforce.
“I know being a farmer isn’t what every little girl dreams of. It’s not a glamorous occupation by any means. It’s dirty and physically demanding – you get cuts and sunburns, and you sweat a lot,” she said earnestly. “But the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with being a farmer is worth it all.”
Jorgie was a nontraditional student at OTC in more ways than one. In addition to pursuing a career outside the norm for her gender, she is a wife and a mom to two boys. She also worked part time for the entirety of her college career.
“It was hard at times,” Jorgie said. “I attended class and worked during the day. Then, my boys had their extra-curricular activities in the evening so I wouldn’t get started on my homework until 9 or 10 at night. After that, I’d set my alarm for 5:30 the next day and do it all over again.”
Looking ahead, Jorgie is excited to see where her newfound career takes her in life. She hopes that by opening her greenhouse and farm, she can share her passion for agriculture with others. She says she is thankful to have found a career that gives her a sense of purpose and allows her to give back to her community.
“People are fortunate in life if their career is something they love to do,” Jorgie said. “If they are really lucky, their career helps others – and I’ve found one that does both.”
About OTC’s Agriculture Program
Students in OTC’s Agriculture Program can earn either an associate degree or certificate in Agriculture – Turf and Landscape Management. Students may choose one of four specialties of study including Animal Science, Plant Science, General Agriculture or Motor Sports.
In the fall of 2019, OTC’s Agriculture Program will move from the OTC Springfield Campus to the Richwood Valley campus. The 11,250 square-foot-facility will feature a classroom, greenhouse, soils and animal science lab, small engine lab and construction lab. The new Agriculture Center is situated on 84 sprawling acres at the Richwood Valley campus, so students can put their knowledge and skills to work.