April 10, 2013
Khanh Tran

Horticulture Program Good Preparation for Hydroponics Career

Khanh Tran helps grow organic tomatoes. Thousands of organic tomatoes, all destined for Whole Foods.

Organic Tomatoes, Greenhouse Grown

Khanh is a grower at Trinity Farms in Brighton. He works inside a 43,000-square-foot greenhouse with long rows and rows of Beefsteak and other varieties of tomatoes. All organic, and grown hydroponically. Hydroponics is a system of horticulture that grows plants without soil and uses mineral-nutrient solutions.

The farm takes pains to control the environment to maintain its organic nature – even to the point of having bees living inside greenhouses to pollinate the plants.

Switch to Horticulture and Landscape Technology

For a time after graduating from Eaglecrest High School in Aurora, Khanh thought about becoming an English teacher. He reconsidered and started working at Trinity Farms in 2008, when it was a garden center. The business has been in the Rock family for three generations, starting in the 1950s as a dairy, changing to a nursery and garden center, and its latest output has been tomatoes as part of the Circle Fresh Farms network.

Khanh came to Front Range in 2010 to study Horticulture and Landscape Technology “because Davey Rock knows FRCC faculty member, Ray Daugherty. Davey said Ray was a great instructor and that Front Range was a great program.”

Hydroponics is Cost Effective

“Everything Davey told me about Front Range is true,” Khanh says. “Ray and Dan (Bacheler) have helped me a lot. There are great opportunities in the program. Hydroponics is new, but with water issues, it’s cost-effective. The water gets recycled, and we use less water per plant than in field watering. And we can control the crop better.”

Learn All Facets of Horticulture

Khanh’s work in the greenhouse “really deals with everything in horticulture – design, propagation, irrigation, pest management, and greenhouse heating and cooling. It’s a challenge, but Ray and Dan knew what to teach. When I have a problem here, it’s really not a problem. I just go back to what Ray and Dan taught.”

A Career in Horticulture

Khanh intends to stay in the horticulture industry. He is on track to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Horticulture and Landscape Technology in December 2013. In the meantime, he works and makes contacts in the horticulture industry.

“I’ve been able to network through Dan and Ray and have met a lot of people in the industry,” he says. “I can contribute to this industry. Trinity is building more greenhouses this year, and I’d like to manage one.”

He’s grateful his horticulture roots reach back to Front Range.

“I wouldn’t be here without Dan’s and Ray’s help.”

About the author:

John Feeley is director of public relations at Front Range Community College. He’s a retired soccer referee and newspaper editor whose subscription ran out.