Workin’ 9 to 5: Students’ Summer Jobs


Flower Power: Sparks-Jackson poses behind a beautiful tray of blooming flowers.

As summer approaches, many students are in the midst of planning what they’re going to do over break. For some, that may mean picking vacation spots and signing up for summer sports or clubs. For others that means it’s time to start filling out applications and going to interviews for the jobs they’ve always wanted…or maybe the job they can bear if it means they get some extra spending money.

For sophomore Sycropia Sparks-Jackson, summer means it’s time to head to work at Hill Top Greenhouse and Farms in Dexter, where tasks vary from day to day, but they typically revolve around being outside and caring for the merchandise.

“I do everything from setting up trays that we place plants in, potting plants, and watering them, which is my favorite part,” explained Sparks-Jackson. “It really just depends on what we need in the greenhouse, but the most common job in the summer is switching plants that need shade in and out of the shaded area.”

Although it’s fun to water, switching the shade plants can provide a nice break from the sometimes overbearing conditions inside the greenhouse. Although the heat is nice in the winter, most greenhouses are kept at around 80 degrees during the day, which can be a lot throughout a 6-hour shift.

“I appreciate working the shade plants outside because it’s hot in the greenhouse sometimes,” Sparks-Jackson elaborated. “But I really like the greenhouse during the winter months when it’s cold outside so you can walk in wearing shorts. It’s like my personal heaven.”

Although she works in the toasty greenhouse for most of the year, the weeks leading up to Christmas mean it’s time for Sparks-Jackson to head into the snow and spend the weekends working at Urquhart’s Tree Farm.

“At the Christmas tree farm, I’m more focused on customer service,” explained Sparks-Jackson. “When I’m there, I’m greeting people, welcoming them, and going through the whole spiel: ‘Hi, welcome to Urquhart’s, this is what you’re going to do here, this is where you find the trees, this is how you contact the people,’ but when I work in the greenhouse, I occasionally have people come up to me and ask for a basket or where something’s located, but I’m more focused on the labor-intensive parts of working in a greenhouse.”

Although the work season at Hill Top is from January through May or June, many greenhouses are open from April to August, which lines up well with students’ schedules. Although some students’ jobs have a vigorous and consuming work schedule, the greenhouse is fairly adaptable to their workers’ conflicts and preferences.

“I usually work two or three days a week, and I usually work a three-hour shift with the occasional six-hour shift,” stated Sparks-Jackson. “It’s a lot shorter than most teenage jobs because they don’t want kids to be working in such labor-intensive jobs for a long time. But it’s really not that bad, I just do it on the weekends, and my greenhouse doesn’t open until 10 so I still get to sleep in.”

Although this job isn’t one of Sparks-Jackson’s biggest time commitments, it is still a valuable experience because of the knowledge it provides and the doors it opens for future career goals.

“I love working in a greenhouse and I would love to do something environmental, but I’m not sure that I would keep pursuing the greenhouse field since it just doesn’t interest me as much as the forestry field does,” explained Sparks-Jackson. “However, it’s really nice to learn the biology of plants. I know how to take care of my house plants so much better now that I’ve worked in the greenhouse. It’s incredible.”