Horticulture and resource economics major Christian Allyn grew up in his beloved hometown of North Canaan, Connecticut, attending the Housatonic Valley Regional High School and participating in multiple events with the National FFA Organization. A seventh semester senior, Allyn is in the process of developing his own invasive plant consulting business and is heavily involved in the local government of North Canaan and Northwestern Connecticut. Allyn is a part of many organizations and programs here at UConn, and hopes to use his education to better the lives of people in both North Canaan and northwestern Connecticut. Here is what he said about his experiences as a CAHNR student.
What attracted you to UConn? I was first drawn to UConn by Bonnie Burr, an assistant director and department head in UConn Extension, at a legislative dinner I attended in high school. The extension activities that she discussed inspired me, and I reached out to her afterwards. I really wanted to be part of the conversation between Connecticut residents and the researchers that further the field of agriculture. During a campus visit, Patricia Jepson from academic programs solidified my decision to apply to CAHNR.
What is your major, and why did you choose it? I am double majoring in horticulture and resource economics. Horticulture has always been the biggest piece of fascinating agriculture for me. I grew up next to a family farm with a 300-year-old maple tree on the property line. The age and grandeur of the tree, along with process of photosynthesis and water transpiration, fascinated me in my first years. In high school, I found my niche in the horticultural industry of invasive plant removal when I worked with the high school to remove a heavily infested area.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? Participating in the Leadership Legacy Experience has helped me grow as a leader and has changed my definition of what it means to lead. I attend lectures and interact with students, which helps me become more well rounded and teaches me how to work with people better.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. My business, Invasive Plant Solutions, has been my dream for a while. It has been a huge learning experience. We go out onto a property, evaluate the situation based on the kind of invasive plants, the severity and so on, and we create and integrate a plan for customers to manage their invasive problem. The plan outlines different solutions, including organic and integrated pest management methods and livestock techniques. We work with the landowner over time to ensure that the management strategy is effective. I started after planning it over the winter of 2015-16. So far, I have 50 clients. I was awarded an IDEA Grant and was selected to participate in the Innovation Quest program for startup companies, as well.
Being involved politically in my hometown has helped me develop my resources and shape the climate and culture of my hometown. I was really inspired by my grandfather, who worked hard as a business owner and was involved in several town organizations as first selectman. I want to follow his example. Right now, I’m a part of five different town organizations, including the Housatonic River Commission, the Economic Development Committee and others. Next semester, I am taking an internship within the resource economics department to work with the Planning and Zoning Commission and write the town plan of conservation and development.
What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? Being so far from my hometown has been hard on me. The UConn community is different from the tight-knit one I grew up with in North Canaan. I had to create a community of my own once I got here. For example, I’m currently renting an apartment with three other people from the same area to help me adjust.
When do you expect to graduate? What then? I graduate in May 2017. I plan on going back to North Canaan and growing from there. I have immense respect for the people of North Canaan and Connecticut, and I feel it is my duty to stay and help them by running my business there. I may run for selectman as soon as I graduate.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I grew up in an interesting household. My dad worked at a lime plant and served on a few town boards, and my mom was a jazz musician and a teacher. They instilled values in me, like working hard and doing my best for my hometown.