By Molly Williamson
When she began working at a lawn and garden store, Alexis Amorese Sheffield ’13, ’16 simply wanted to make a little money. What bloomed was a love of horticulture.
It led her to the University of Kentucky, where she studied plant and soil science with a minor in sustainable agriculture as an undergraduate then focused on integrated plant and soil science for her master’s.
“I originally wanted to work in plant breeding, but then I realized that I was not meant for lab work,” the Dry Ridge, Ky., native said. “I wanted to work with people.”
Sheffield spun her fascination with plants into a career, working as an extension agent for UK, serving the needs of Boyle County. She also started a small flower farm, Wild Roots, where she grows and designs wedding flowers, floral jewelry, home décor and floral gifts.
“My specialty in horticulture was enterprise management, which has helped me both with my own small business as well as with helping new farmers starting out in the horticulture industry,” Sheffield said. “Traditional economics classes as well as agriculture economics classes let me get my feet wet in the realm of business planning and management of finances.”
But more than anything, scholarships like the Robert R. Scott, Elmira and LaVerne Scott Endowed Scholarship enabled her to achieve her dream. Throughout college, Sheffield worked nearly full time while carrying a full course load so she could graduating a semester early.
“If it wasn’t for scholarships like the Robert Scott, I would never have made it,” Sheffield said. “I truly believe that. Every scholarship meant fewer hours working for minimum wage and more hours spent on class projects, papers and presentations.”
Robert Scott knew the struggles students face. When he attended UK in the 1930s, he worked for the horticulture department for 25 cents an hour, which did not cover his expenses. After becoming a successful farmer and fruit producer in Northern Kentucky, Scott created the Robert R. Scott, Elmira and LaVerne Scott Charitable Remainder Trust to honor his current and late wife and to help working students. The fund provides scholarships for incoming freshmen and money for the horticulture department to fund undergraduate research fellowships, student work experiences, scholarships, student/faculty field trips and visiting lectureships. Scott died in 2004, but his legacy lives on through his recipients.
“You never know how much someone truly needs a scholarship,” Sheffield said. “This scholarship gave me the opportunity to intern in my own field and the knowledge I learned from working in the greenhouses has been invaluable to my success as both a farmer and in extension.”