300: UT arborist helps campus orchard blossom

Lisette Oler

Editor’s note: In 300 words or fewer, this series spotlights people in our community whose stories typically go untold.

Clad in dirty pants and sturdy work boots, Jennifer Hrobar picks a green leaf off the ground. The tree next to her is losing its leaves unexpectedly, and she is trying to figure out why.

As one of UT’s arborists, Hrobar takes care of all the trees across 900 acres, from the Pickle Research Campus to Brackenridge Field Laboratory. For the past four years, she has worked to help people and trees coexist on campus.

“The reason why the trees are here is to benefit the students and the campus,” Hrobar said. “[I try] to do what’s best for the tree, but also for the people and it’s a challenge. It’s never the same day twice, which is interesting.”

Hrobar earned a degree in urban forestry at Texas A&M. After graduation, she became the crew leader for the South Suburban Parks and Recreation department in Colorado before moving back to Texas.

One of Hrobar’s favorite places is the orchard at the corner of 24th Street and San Jacinto Street. While it started with just a few saplings, the orchard became her special project and is now home to a variety of fruit trees. Now, people can pick fresh peaches, figs or plums from the orchard.

“It was something people were really getting interested in,” Hrobar said. “And here in Austin, it definitely transfers because of local food and growing your own things.”

Hrobar hopes in the future the orchard will stay undisturbed by the growing campus where it can be enjoyed by faculty and students for the foreseeable future.

“Every time I’m there, I see people sitting just looking at the creek,” Hrobar said. “If you’re having a stressful day you can see the bees and butterflies flitting around and relax.”