May 14, 2009
Michael Cristinzio is one of those rare students that knows exactly what he wants to be when he grows up.
His family’s business, the 21-acre Green Acres Nursery and Garden Center in Colmar, turned 30 this year. He fully intends to keep it going for another 30 and has already been hard at work developing a plan to expand the business and help it thrive for years to come.
“I’ve been working there since I was a little kid. I always wanted to go into the family business and knew I needed to learn more about the industry, which is what brought me to (Temple University) Ambler,” said Cristinzio, of Chalfont, who lived on campus for his first two years while commuting as a junior and senior. “Speaking with other people in the industry, Ambler has a great reputation for its landscape architecture and horticulture programs. With the teacher to student ratio alone, I knew it would be a good place for me to learn and gain experience.”
With a 3.87 grade point average, four years of intensive study in the deeply intermeshed horticulture and landscape architecture programs in addition to a focus on marketing and business courses — not to mention a newly minted degree in Horticulture — Cristinzio is ready to take that next step and he’s already provided a comprehensive glimpse into his vision for expanding Green Acres Nursery.
For Senior Seminar during this fall and spring semesters, Cristinzio focused on a family-owned 57-acre plot of land in Bedminster, Bucks County, with the intention of developing it as a “growing nursery of shade and flowering trees.” His plan also includes a two to three acre wetland park that will be donated to the surrounding community, an important way to maintain a commitment to sustainability outside of classroom theory.
“I designed the layout of the nursery, researched operating techniques, took soil samples, researched general needs and maintenance, and developed a marketing plan and cost analysis,” he said. “We may be able to turn this into reality in the next three to five years.”
Cristinzio’s project won third place in the Business competition at the PLNA (Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association) Symposium this past February. He also presented the project — “Wholesale Nursery Designs – Green Acres Wholesale Nursery — at the 2009 Temple Undergraduate Research Forum - Creative Works Symposium (TURF-CreWS). TURF-CreWs provides “ambitious, intellectually motivated undergraduate students the opportunity to present and defend their original research or creative work among colleagues, faculty, family, and friends.”
While juggling a hectic work schedule and attending school, Cristinzio also found time to become a campus student leader. He was the President of Pi Alpha Xi, the Honor Society in Horticulture, in 2009, also receiving the Pi Alpha Xi National Honor Society Award this year. He was a Viola Anders Merit Award recipient, contributed to Ambler’s Philadelphia Flower Show entries in 2008 and 2009, and is also a hard worker in the campus Arboretum, particularly the Greenhouse.
“I had never had a lot of experience in a greenhouse. Working in the Arboretum afforded me the opportunity to learn management, maintenance, and production,” he said. “It gives you a much more well rounded background when you’re going into the industry.”
Cristinzio also took part in numerous campus events and programs throughout his time at Ambler and was a staple on the students teams that enjoyed a friendly, competitive rivalry with the campus faculty and staff in several students vs. staff sports competitions.
“My parents taught me that it is important to work hard but to also play hard. Getting away from my classes for a bit actually helps me with my studies in the long run,” he said. “It’s all about prioritizing — whatever needs to be done first, you do first and you make sure that you meet your deadlines. You have to work hard and do what you need to do, but you also have to enjoy the four years you’re here — they go by very quickly!”
Cristinzio is now ready to “start the next chapter of my life.”
“My goal is to start a full-time garden center. The great thing about horticulture is there is such a wide variety of professions you can go into with these skills — ornamental horticulture, landscapes, environmental restoration, growing crops,” he said. “It’s an essential profession that can have a great impact on our communities.”