Susie Raker-Zimmerman graduated from Michigan State University with a B.S. in Horticulture in 2003. The university asked her a few questions about her time at MSU and her current industry position.
Why did you choose to study Horticulture and why MSU?
Most people would probably expect me to say that I choose Horticulture because I grew up in the family business. Although I’m sure that growing up in a greenhouse family had some influence on my choice, my fondest memories of plants and horticulture comes from vegetable gardening with my mom and grandmother growing up.
Why MSU? There was never another option for me. It was always MSU.
Where did you go after MSU?
After graduating from MSU, I moved to Minneapolis and did an internship at Bachmans Nursery Wholesale. Working for Bachmans exposed me to a completely different side of the industry that I previously had no exposure to. Eventually, my family convinced me that it was time to come home and go to work in the family business.
What keeps you engaged in your current work?
I’m currently the vice president of Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants [in Litchfield, Michigan]. My job is running a 12-acre greenhouse facility that employees 200+ employees and produces upwards of 180-million plants a year.
What keeps me engaged in my work is the diversity. One day I could be reviewing financials and working on budgets. The next day I could be out on the production floor working with our production manager to determine the best new flow for a work process. Right now, we are dealing with some of the coldest weather we have seen in 20 years. I’ve been pulling our key people together to make sure we are keeping temps where they need to be, while balancing the fiscal needs of the company.
Any thoughts for current students?
Have fun and enjoy your college years. Before you know it you will be "adulting" full time. Make the most of the time you have at MSU. Get to know your classmates and professors. Those relationships will prove to be invaluable in the future.