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Local and Sustainable: York College Student Wants to Change How We Farm and Eat

Horticulture student, Patrick Bowman

When the pandemic upended his life, Patrick Bowman ’25 decided to pursue a degree in Environmental Horticulture to better support our food systems. 

It was 2020, and Patrick Bowman ’25 had to make a choice.

He was on tour in March with his band Sun & Rain when the world shut down. He was in his mid-twenties and had spent the beginning of his adult life building a music career. In the blink of an eye, all his plans were canceled. As the months went by and the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on, he had to choose: stick with the plan or pivot.

He pivoted.

One year later, Patrick started a new journey, pursuing a degree in Environmental Horticulture from York College of Pennsylvania.

Changing How We Eat

Patrick was raised in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where his dad grew perennials, such as rhododendrons, roses, orange tiger lilies, and more. Horticulture and a respect for nature were a big part of his upbringing. He developed a passion for sustainable farming and healthful, local food systems, second only to his love of music. When the pandemic hit, he took the opportunity to chase that secondary passion.

“I really want to be a part of a big change in our food systems, the way that we eat and the way that we see this stuff,” he says.

At other colleges that Patrick considered, it would have been years before he was able to work hands-on in his major. At York College, he was immersed immediately.

“It really targets the things that I want to learn to complete my goals,” he says. “Everything we’re learning is incredibly relevant and useful in the real world.”

The Environmental Horticulture program incorporates business, management, and entrepreneurial courses. Patrick is learning skills with universal applications. He keeps music in his life, playing guitar with a few local groups, and has plans to combine his music and sustainability interests at future York College events.

Dreaming Big

Patrick dreams of one day combining his passions: owning a 150-acre property with a large-scale hydroponics and aquaponics facility and a big stage for music and festivals. He wants to focus on keeping nourishment local, and caring for the community, the environment, and our food system.

“I want to have a business that means something and contributes to the greater good, the sustainability of the planet,” he says. “I want to be an example and be a huge part of the change in the way we farm and the way we see things.”

A Focus on Sustainability

Patrick isn’t waiting until he graduates to make an impact. He’s a member of the President’s Task Force for Campus Sustainability (PTFCS) at York College, working with Dr. Gunter-Smith, President of the College, administrators, professors, and other students to move the campus toward sustainable practices. They’re building an educational campaign and creating community gardens that could reduce the amount of food the school outsources and help feed students experiencing food insecurity.

“I want to be a part of the change so that the future can actually have a healthy, clean environment to thrive in,” Patrick says.

Seizing the Moment

As it did for so many people, the pandemic turned Patrick’s world upside down. But being forced to step away from touring gave him the opportunity to shift focus and pursue his other passion. In a time of so many negatives, this was a positive.

“I really think it’s a hugely beneficial decision to my life and my contribution to society and the world,” he says.

His path has not been a straight one, but he hopes he can be a role model for others to follow their dreams, wherever they might lead.

“I would just tell people to follow their heart and do what they love the most,” he says