Impact in action:  tyler abel, bloomaker

Career Pathways helps university student’s career blossom 

Tyler Abel’s path from his upbringing in Michigan to his new job Virginia runs through Florida — and through a connector named Jill Overdorf. 

A 2017 graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in agribusiness management, Tyler had some familiarity with the fresh produce and floral business. But his interest in the industry truly blossomed when he attended Career Pathways at PMA’s Fresh Summit Conference & Expo as a MSU junior.   

That’s where he was introduced to Jill Overdorf, Director of Business and Culinary Development at Coosemans LA Shipping and active and passionate PMA member, who Tyler calls an “amazing” mentee. The two met at an opening night dinner, where they were seated at the same table. “We had an immediate connection,” he recalls. “When I asked her to help me during the event, she was amazing. She took me around the convention floor, and she always introduced me as her friend and not just as her mentee. She went out of her way to help me out. I probably would not have explored the industry without her wonderful guidance. She made my career!”   

The following school year, Tyler stayed in touch with Jill and with Barbara Hochman of CGT, who invited him to serve as the organization’s campus ambassador. As a senior keen to make employment connections, Tyler returned to Fresh Summit, where he walked the show floor with Jill, engaged with PMA staff and connected with Mike Thiry of Bloomaker, a Virginia-based grower of tulips and other bulb flowers. When Tyler was ready to graduate, Mike reached out with a job opportunity, and Tyler worked hard to convince the company that a young employee from out of state was a good fit.   

“When I tell people what I’m doing they don’t really believe me,” he says. As assistant grower for Bloomaker, Tyler leads a team that varies by season and handles day-to-day operations. “I handle the planting of around 17 million tulips, half a million hyacinths and around 100,000 daffodils,” he says. The bulbs are grown hydroponically in vases, so customers get the full beauty of the blooms.   

“I didn’t expect to be doing this right out of college,” he says. “I didn’t think my career path would be this involved in horticulture. Because of Career Pathways, I have found an amazing career that I truly love.”