Southwest students utilize new greenhouse, prep for sale
April 20, 2016
Southwest greenhouse and agriculture students are preparing for their first plant sale after getting to use the district’s new greenhouse. The plant sale, which begins on April 25, is the final step in a year-long process that the students do from planning to planting to growing to selling.
The Southwest District invested just over $73,000 in the greenhouse last year with $32,320 coming from district funds and the remainder from a vocational-technical grant. The new greenhouse was a much-needed addition for the agriculture department, who has run a greenhouse project for a number of years.
According to ag. teacher Rachel Brown, the new greenhouse was a welcome addition to her Greenhouse Management 1 and 2 classes, which are the primary students caring for the plants. She stated, “The new greenhouse has no comparison to the system we used before the district built a new one. My first year, we grew plants in our shop, which didn’t work well for the plants and didn’t work well for the shop classes, either.”
Now, students get to try their hand at the real experience, start to finish. Brown said, “The greenhouse students have hours devoted to these plants. It all starts from day one. They are required to start by learning the different types of plants, diseases and tools that they could encounter in the greenhouse setting. Then we start planning what plants we want to sell. This includes figuring out what plants we need to order in plugs and which we can seed out.
“Once we make the order, we wait until planting time.”
After the plants begin growing, the students have to decide how to package and sell them. Some are in hanging baskets, others in four packs, six packs or individual pots.
The plants this year include tomatoes, peppers, geraniums, petunias and marigolds. Brown said almost everything they tried this year grew well in their new greenhouse. She stated, “The only thing we have planted that did not grow as of yet were the kids’ cactus plants.” Part of the process for the students is figuring out what the plants need. In the case of the cactus plants, they think the humidity might have been too high.
Troubleshooting during the process as well as working out scenarios that they may encounter during the season is part of the process that helps students learn how to grow healthy plants. Brown said, “Students have gained a newfound respect for foreign plants. They have been involved in every aspect of the greenhouse project this year from ordering to selling. Many of them enjoy learning how to handle the plants and how important everything is for the plants.
“For example, some plants like less water than others. Overwatering those said plants can cause sickness or death for them. The hands-on experience is what helps the students learn the most.”
The biggest hurdle for students this year was learning how different plants would respond to the greenhouse environment. However, Brown said the students took all of the challenges in stride and came out all the better for it. She stated, “Overall, the most rewarding part is seeing how much the students take pride in their plants. Whether they are the ones that picked and grew or the ones that started from plugs, they are so proud when they walk into the greenhouse and someone compliments their plants. The students learning and being involved in their own learning concepts make all of the handwork so worthwhile.”
All of the funds raised during the plant sale put on by the students will first go to reimburse for the supplies like pots, plants and supplies. Anything raised beyond that will go to the FFA chapter at the school for their dedication to the project.
Students have no problems getting support once it comes time to sell the plants. Brown said, “The community seems very excited about the students holding a plant sale. We have already been getting calls with questions. The community loves to support our students whenever they can.”
The Southwest plant sale begins Monday, April 25, and runs until Monday, May 9, or until the plants are sold out. The sale is from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. each weekday. Students will also be visiting the community on the weekends selling plants, as well.