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Category Archives: Awards & Recognitions

FFA champion the first recipient of Altman Plants agriculture scholarship

Perris High School class of 2021 graduate Miguel Soto does typical teenager stuff. You know — skateboarding, hanging out with friends, learning everything there is to know about broccoli, showing rabbits, competitively scrutinizing artichokes. OK, so those last three activities may not be the first things that come to mind as customary teen doings. Yet they were instrumental in enabling Miguel to become the inaugural recipient of a $1,000 scholarship newly established by Altman Plants’ Lake Mathews nursery in Southern California.

In his time at Perris High, Miguel was one of 800 students involved in the agriculture science program. The campus is located 12 miles from the Lake Mathews location. If that sounds like a supersized program, indeed it is — around one-third of the student body gets some degree of ag science education experience.

Active in FFA during his time at Perris High School, 2021 graduate Miguel Soto received a $1,000 scholarship to help with university expenses.

Seniors graduating from Perris High and active in FFA who will be attending college in pursuit of a career in horticulture or agriculture are eligible to apply for the scholarship, which is intended to help cover higher education costs. Miguel immersed himself about as much as a student could, exploring both the plant and animal sides and competing in statewide competitions and attending leadership conferences. In 2020, during his junior year, Miguel and his three teammates won the FFA state championship in vegetable crop judging.

“We go to a university or wherever the field day’s going to be, and they have a bunch of, probably 80 different specimens out. It could be a disease, it could be just identifying the vegetable or an insect, and you just have to know what it is. And there’s a judging portion of it where you have to know which (of various vegetable specimens) are best. You have to rank them in order and give reasons on them. It’s like public speaking. That helped me a lot with my public speaking,” Miguel said, Miguel said in an August interview at Perris High.

Traveling for competitions and conferences — Sacramento, Chico, Fresno, and Davis all got named-dropped — was a major highlight. Championship bragging rights didn’t carry much weight in his family, however. Both of Miguel’s older sisters represented Perris High in competitions and won state championships, in horticulture and vegetable crop judging, respectively.

Miguel credits his sisters and their involvement for seeding his interest in ag science and FFA. While he enjoyed the animal side (he had a pig and worked with rabbits too), he was most passionate about vegetable crop judging and the competitions. A key part of that was learning a whole lot about identifying plants, weeds, diseases, and insects.

The next stop on his educational journey is 45 miles northwest at Cal Poly Pomona, where he has just begun his pursuit of an agricultural science degree.

While volunteering that nervousness is part of the emotional mix surrounding college, “I’m just excited to learn more about what I love to do here,” Miguel said, speaking inside the ag science building on campus.

Miguel’s ag science teachers, particularly Douglas Cousins, Aaron Nering, and Chelsye DeBoor, have inspired him, he said, to someday want to give to students what those educators gave to him, his sisters, fellow classmates, and some of his friends. And that wasn’t just about sparking an interest in various plant- or animal-related subjects.

“As a teenager, you do some stupid things. And I, every time I would veer off a little bit, one of my advisors would be there and say, ‘Are you OK?’ They’d be there for me. And in terms of the field, this was a way to keep me distracted, a good type of distraction, keep my head in the right place.”

It seems clear that he was able to do just that, surprising himself along the way — in a good way.

“In terms of agriculture, I didn’t think that I would have been able to memorize the things that I did. I didn’t think that I would have been able to speak face to face with a person (a judge in competition) for that long, with that intensity, because we had to speak pretty loud. I was pretty shy coming into high school, but I feel like this refined my social skills in general.”

Encouraging broader skill sets, such as public speaking, is a vital part of the program, said Cousins, one of its five teachers.

“Almost everything we do there’s a public speaking portion or some kind of leadership portion. For example, the rabbit (showmanship) part, half the battle is presenting it to the judge. Knowing it but how you present it to the judge, and almost everything we do has that portion.”

Cousins said the FFA’s career development events cover around three dozen areas.

“We have a handful here because there’s so much to learn. Miguel was studying that for three years. That’s how much time it takes to get the experience to get to a place where you are competing for that win, that championship, so there’s a lot to them. But they come out with skills that they can actually use on a job. That’s why they’re called career development events. And they get the skills that a lot of kids don’t get, like the speaking skill. Shaking hands, basic stuff that a lot of kids leave high school without.”

Post-high school, Miguel is getting some quality plant science experience at Lake Mathews, where he is working as a Technical Services Assistant. His main responsibilities are height tracking, soil tests, electrical conductivity and pH tests, and chemical inventory.

“The Perris High School FFA program is one of the top programs in the country and helps develop the future leaders of our community. We at Altman Plants are very proud to have the opportunity to work with the FFA program and support future leaders like Miguel Soto through our scholarship program,” said Jim Hessler, the Director of West Coast Operations for Altman Plants.
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Alliant Int’l University: The King of Succulents, Dr. Ken Altman

Original article published by Alliant International University

July 26, 2019

Article by Dr. Debra Kawahara, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs & Distinguished Professor at California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP)

As CSPP celebrates its 50th anniversary, I had the fortunate pleasure of connecting with Dr. Ken Altman. Dr. Altman is a CSPP alumnus from the founding class in Los Angeles. Born in Los Angeles, he went to UC Berkeley and then started at CSPP (pre-Alliant days) in 1970 and continued until 1976 when he received his PhD in Clinical Psychology. While in graduate school, he and his wife, Deena, started collecting and selling plants, eventually filling their backyard with mostly succulents and cacti. Once he graduated, he interviewed for a few jobs, but he soon realized that he really wanted to work for himself in the plant business. So, he focused and spent more time selling succulents through a truck route and a mail order catalog.

From these humble beginnings of selling plants from the back of a truck, Ken and Deena Altman have grown this one-time hobby and avid interest in plants to a wholesale nursery business that has more than 3,800 acres in 6 states. Altman Plants is now the nation’s largest horticultural grower and it specializes in drought-tolerant and water-efficient plants.

DK: What made you choose the field of clinical psychology?

KA: I was always interested in understanding how people think and I have interest in people’s stories.

DK: As CSPP was only in its beginning and you were a graduate in the first class, what made you choose CSPP in those founding years?

KA: I liked the emphasis on clinical studies, so it seemed like a good match.

DK: You then went on to become the largest succulent grower in the world. How did your career path lead you to become “The King of Succulents”?

KA: My wife and I have a tremendous passion for plants. A big work ethic combined with the patience to reinvest everything back into the business led to continuous business growth. We were not trained in the field of horticulture, so some things came with more difficulty. But at the same time, we were in position to create our own solutions, many of which were quite unique and creative and led to success. In addition to being the largest succulent grower in the world, we also grow annuals, perennials, and shrubs. Altman Plants is the largest horticulture business in the US now, with over 30 million square feet of greenhouse and over 6,000 employees.

DK: In reflecting back on your career, what are important qualities in being successful?

KA: Honesty, respect at all times for employees, vendors, and customers, a genuine interest in their success, work ethic, creativity in solving the problems our customers have, and a love of our product.

DK: What advice would you give anyone wanting to “go on their own”?

KA: Make sure you have a product that you stand behind and that has value to others. If you don’t have business experience, it wouldn’t hurt to read up or get mentorship. Make sure you have enough capital to support your life needs and to run your business. It generally takes three years to get a new business or business division to support itself well.

DK: Describe one of the most impactful/significant events in your career.

KA: Target stores was our biggest customer, representing around 35% of our business at the time. They decided to go out of the garden business. Things looked grim, but we were able to keep employees engaged. In the end, we replaced all the business, plus 15% more, and we were able to maintain everybody’s job. This was important because it was during one of the bigger recessions and people were very worried about whether they could find new jobs.

DK: Do you have any other thoughts to share?

KA: My dissertation was on Sexual Satisfaction in Couples. I compared an educational approach to an open free form “encounter group” approach. The educational structured approach showed more effect in helping couples. If I had stayed in the field, my interest in business would have led me to creating educational programs to help in many of the common problems for individuals, couples and families. I think that would have been very successful, but in the end, I am happy that I chose the nursery business and the enjoyment I have had in this field.

In closing, what is amazing to me, as Dr. Altman reminded me, is that when he began in the 1970’s, succulents were not as popular as they are now, but the Altmans stuck with it and they were able to gradually grow the business. Dr. Altman’s journey from clinical psychology graduate student to entrepreneur parallels the pioneering and innovative spirit of CSPP to the perseverance and persistence of excellence in professional psychology.

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Altman Plants’ Lion King rose wins at Biltmore trials

Altman Plants’ Lion King rose honored at 2017 Biltmore International Rose Trials

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Altman Plants breeder wins at Portland’s Best Rose Trials

Altman Plants’ Ping Lim wins Best Shrub 2017 for Champagne Wishes

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Altman Plants’ Double 10 rose makes cover of American Nurseryman

Double 10 rose (now True Passion) designated a 2018 A.R.T.S.® Master Rose by the American Rose Trials for Sustainability®
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Rosarian Ping Lim Receives ‘Best Hybrid Tea’ Award At The Biltmore International Rose Trials 2016

Rosarian Ping Lim Receives ‘Best Hybrid Tea’ Award At The Biltmore International Rose Trials 2016

Ping Lim of Altman Plants awarded at the final round of The Biltmore International Rose Trials for his rose “Double 10” (PPA) after two years of trialing.

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Greenhouse Grower: Altman Plants Saves Millions Of Gallons Of Water Through Recycling Program

Original Article:
Altman Plants is on a mission to prove that, despite California’s drought conditions, it is possible to save water while still maintaining the ability to irrigate your plants sufficiently.

The company, which ranks third on Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top 100 Growers list, hosted a media day on Monday, October 3, to demonstrate the significant water savings it is seeing as a result of an innovative, on-site water-recycling program that captures irrigation runoff for reuse on plants and lower the company’s water use. This month, Altman celebrated more than 100 million gallons of water saved since the reuse program began operation.

Less than two years ago, Altman Plants secured grant funding from Western Municipal Water District and The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to implement a water-reuse system to water the nursery’s 400 acres of plants. The project includes a water recycling program with the ability to capture nursery irrigation runoff in lined ditches and reservoirs. The water is then stored and reused to water the nursery’s plants.

“The partnership between Altman Plants, Western, and Metropolitan is evidence that rebate programs can result in substantial water savings,” says Tim Barr, Western’s Director of Water Resources. “Programs such as this one can be used as examples that demonstrate innovation in a time when water resources are scarce. Additionally, many of the plants sold by the nursery are drought tolerant. Our customers purchase the plants and use them to replace water-thirsty landscaping. The project comes back full circle.”

As one of Western’s larger water volume business customers, Altman Plants reuses approximately 360 acre-feet of water, which is equivalent to more than 117 million gallons in annual potable water savings. The associated water savings actually exceeds the project’s goal by 5.5%.

“As a company, Altman Plants has always taken an interest in water savings. We realize that we can’t create more water, and the cost continues to increase,” says Jim Hessler, Altman Plants’ Director of West Coast Operations. “We understood the reality of limited water resources years ago. Five years earlier, prior to starting the water recycling program, we had already cut our water use in half. Our current water reuse system takes a unique approach to water management and is being used as part of a national study to create best management practices for growers.”



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Rosarian Ping Lim awarded ‘Best Climber’ at the Biltmore International Rose Trials


The Gilded Age Award for Best Climber: “FlyingKiss” bred by Ping Lim.

Biltmore International Rose Trials judges make their way through the varieties on trial that were first planted in the Walled Garden in 2013.

Original Article by Biltmore Rose Society

On [a] Saturday morning, ladies and gents arrived at the historic Rose Garden in fashionable hats, some adorned with likenesses of the flower they were there to honor: roses. The sun hadn’t completely risen when the parade of rose devotees began, and its filtered light created the perfect atmospheric condition for the reviewing and photographing of the morning’s main attraction.

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Altman Plants Contributes to Green Roof Projects

Pictured above: Weston Solutions, Inc. & GreenGrid Green Roofs uses sedum ground cover from Altman Plants on their green roof project in Mission Bay Blvd, San Francisco, CA

Altman Plants grows succulent mats planted with various Sedum mixes for Green Roof and Living Wall projects across the country. Contact for more information.

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GPN – Altman Announces Creation of New Research Center

Originally published at GPN (Greenhouse Product News) ( November, 2008

Altman Specialty Plants Inc., a wholesale nursery business, has completed the construction of a new, state-of-the-art greenhouse dedicated solely to research and improving the field of ornamental plant production. The research center is called the Center for Applied Horticultural Research (CfAHR).

Owners Ken and Deena Altman have long recognized that sound research improves plant production: “The inspiration for the center has come from a number of sources,” said Ken Altman, noting the Center for Applied Research that McCorkle Nursery supported as well as his experience on The American Floral Endowment board.

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